Ko Lipe: The Greatest Month in All my Travels

a serene beach scene in Ko Lipe, Thailand
In November 2006, I was 5 months into my (supposed) year long trip around the world. While emailing my parents to let them know I was still OK, I saw a message in my inbox:

a�?Matt, Ia��m stuck in this placed called Ko Lipe. Ia��m not going to meet you as planned, but you should come down here. Ita��s paradise! Ia��ve been here a week already. Find me on Sunset Beach. a�� Oliviaa�?

Olivia, a friend from MySpace, was supposed to meet me in Krabi, a tourist destination famed for its limestone karsts, rock climbing, and kayaking.

I looked up Ko Lipe on a map. There was only a small mention of it in my guidebook. It was really out of the way and would require a solid day of travel to get to.

As I looked around the crowded Internet cafA� and onto the busy street, it was clear that Phi Phi was not the tropical island paradise I had envisioned. The crowds were coming back, the beach was filled with dead coral, boats seemed to ring the island, and the water was polluted with a thin film ofa��well, I dona��t want to know. A quieter, calmer paradise held great appeal.

a�?Ia��ll be there in two days,a�? I replied. a�?Just let me know where you are staying.a�?

Two days later, I took the ferry to mainland, a long bus to the port city of Pak Bara, and then the ferry to Ko Lipe. As we passed deserted, jungle-covered islands, I wandered to the top deck where a guy was playing guitar for the few people going to Lipe.

After he finished, we struck up a conversation.

Paul was tall, muscular, and thin, with a shaved head and slight stubble. His girlfriend Jane was equally tall and athletic, with curly brownish-red hair and ocean-blue eyes. Both British, they were meandering around Asia with until they were ready to move to New Zealand, where they planned to work, buy a house, and eventually get married.

a�?Where are you guys staying?a�? I asked as we lounged in the sun.

a�?We found a resort on the far end of the island. Ita��s supposed to be cheap. You?a�?

a�?Not sure. Ia��m supposed to stay with my friend, but I havena��t heard back yet. I dona��t have a place.a�?

view from the bow of the boat arriving in Ko Lipe

The ferry neared the island and came to a stop. There was no dock on Ko Lipe. Years before, a developer tried to build one, but the project was canceled after protests from the local fishermen who take passengers to the island for a small fee, and the developer mysteriously disappeared.

As I got in one of the longtail boats, I dropped my flip-flops into the ocean.

Watching them sink, I yelled, a�?Shit! That was my only pair! I hope I can get some on the island.a�?

Paul, Jane, and I went to their hotel, joined by Pat, an older Irish guy, who also lacked a place to stay. The hotel overlooked a little reef and the small Sunrise Beach, which would become our main hangout spots during our time on the island.

I decided to bunk with Pat since I hadna��t heard from my friend Olivia and splitting a room was a more budget friendly. Back then saving a few hundred baht was the difference of one more or less day on the road. Paul and Jane took a bungalow overlooking the ocean. (Their terrace would be another of our little groupa��s most popular hangouts.)

We headed out to find my friend, who had said she could be found on Sunset Beach at the Monkey Bar.

local fishing boats in Ko Lipe

As we walked to the other side of the island, I could see Olivia was right: Ko Lipe was paradise. It was all gorgeous jungles, deserted beaches, warm, crystal-clear blue water, and friendly locals. Electricity was only available for a few hours at night, there were few hotels or tourists, and the streets were simple dirt paths. Ko Lipe was the place I had dreamed of.

We found Olivia pretty quickly. Sunset Beach was not big, and Monkey Bar, a small thatch-covered shack with a cooler for drinks cold and a few chairs, was the only bar on the beach. After quick introductions, we ordered beers, asked the typical traveler questions, and sat around chatting about nothing.

Pat turned out to be a snorer so, after two nights, I moved into a bungalow in the middle of the island for 100 baht ($3 USD) a night. Nestled behind a restaurant that served the best squid around, this hardwood structure painted red, with a white roof, small porch, and near-barren interior a�� a bed, a fan, and mosquito net a�� seemed to be built by the family for a wave of tourism that had never come.

I viagra rs. gave up trying to find new flip-flops. There was nothing I liked or fit. Ia��d wait until the mainland and just go barefoot in the meantime.

The five of us formed a core group that grew and shrank with the arrival and departure of other travelers. Other than Dave, a young Frenchman, and Sam, a weathered British expat who had been on the island every season for a decade (having once been trapped there after the last boat left), we were the only Cleocin without a prescription permanent Western fixtures on the island.

the group playing soccer on the beach in Ko Lipe

Our days were spent playing backgammon, reading, and swimming. We rotated beaches, though we mostly hung out at the beach by Paul and Janea��s. Within swimming distance was a mini-rock with a sheer drop that provided excellent snorkeling. Wea��d occasionally leave the Ko Lipe to explore the deserted islands in the nearby national park, fish, and dive. Therea��s nothing quite as lovely as having a whole tropical island to yourself.

one of the uninhabited islands around Ko Lipe

At night, we would rotate restaurants: my guesthouse ownera��s restaurant, Mamaa��s for fresh squid and spicy curry, Castaway on Sunset Beach for massaman curry, and Coco for everything else. Afterwards, wea��d move to Monkey Bar for beach games, beer, the occasional joint, and more backgammon. When the power generators were switched off, we would drink by flashlight before going to bed.

The days seemed to pass by endlessly. My original three-day visit came and went. I lost any concept of time.

a�?Ia��ll leave tomorrowa�? became my mantra. I had no reason to leave. I was in paradise.

new friends in Ko Lipe

Paul, Jane, and I became close friends as time went by. We formed a mini-group within the group.

a�?What are you guys going to do when you get to New Zealand?a�? I asked.

a�?Wea��re going to work for a few years and build a life there. We have nothing thata��s pulling us back the UK,a�? said Paul.

a�?Ia��m going there on this trip so Ia��ll visit. Ita��s my last stop on the way home,a�? I replied.

a�?You can stay with us. Wherever we are,a�? said Jane as she passed the joint to me.

Sitting on the beach one day, I had an idea.

a�?You know what would be cool? An eco-friendly hostel. New Zealand would be the perfect place. Wouldna��t it be cool to own a hostel?a�?

a�?Yeah, that would be fun,a�? said Paul.

a�?We could call it The Greenhouse,a�? replied Jane.

a�?Thata��s a great name.a�?

a�?Yeah, seriously.a�?

Paul said, a�?I bet we could do it pretty easily. Eco-friendly places are all the rage, and therea��s a lot of space there. Wea��ll have a garden, solar panels, and all the other bells and whistles.a�?

We were half-serious about our hostel, discussing the details every day: what it would look like, how we would get funding, the number of beds. It was a pipe dream a�� but dreams like this helped us pass the days on the beach.

We became aware of time again when, one day, our bill at Mamaa��s was suddenly double.

a�?Whata��s going on? This fish was half the price yesterday!a�?

a�?Ita��s Christmas! More Europeans this time of the year, so we raised our prices.a�?

Ahhh, capitalism at its best.

sunset in Ko Lipe

Christmas also meant something else: I would have to leave soon.

My visa ran only until just before New Yeara��s, so I would have to leave to renew it before heading to Ko Phangan for the holiday.

I didna��t want to leave.

We were in paradise. Paul, Jane, Pat, and Olivia were staying and I felt like I was being ripped apart from my family, never knowing when I would see them again.

But the visa forced my hand.

Paul, Jane, and I decided to have own our Christmas together. It was only fitting. We wore our best clean shirts and wandered over to Cocoa��s for its luxury Western dinner.

a�?I got you guys a gift.a�?

I handed Jane a necklace I saw her eyeing a few days before and Paul a ring he had admired.

a�?Wow. Thata��s amazing, mate! Thanks!a�? said Paul.

a�?But this is funny,a�? he continued. a�?We got you something too.a�?

It was a hand-carved necklace with a Maori fishhook on it. It was their symbol for traveler. I wore it for years afterward, a symbol of our friendship, my time on the island, and of who I was.

Christmas dinner in Ko Lipe

Traveling quickens the bonds of friendship. When you are on the road, therea��s no past. None of the baggage of home is with you or anyone you met. Therea��s only who you are right now. Therea��s nothing to get in the way of the now. No meetings to attend, errands to run, bills to pay, or responsibilities.

I once heard that the average couple spends four waking hours a day together. If that is true, then we had just spent the equivalent of four months together, but it felt like triple that since there was nothing to keep our minds off the a�?now.a�?

Ia��ve never been back to Ko Lipe. The development thata��s sprouted would burst my image of perfect. I’ve seen the photos of the concrete streets, the huge resorts, and the mass of people. I can’t bear to see that. Ko Lipe was my beach. The perfect traveler community. I want it to remain that way.

I would run into Paul and Jane again years later in New Zealand, but I would never see the rest of the group again. They are out there in the world doing their thing. Yet for that month, we were the best of friends.

the abandoned teddy bear in Ko Lipe

As I packed my bags and put on my shoes for the first time in a month, I said good bye to Plick Bear, the raggedy teddy bear I found on my porch that became our mascot, and I hoped that the journey ahead would be as good as the one I was leaving behind.

The RTW Trip Giveaway: A Winner’s Update (Part 1)

Heather hanging out in South America
What would you do with a free trip around the world? Last year, I gave away a trip around the world. After going through thousands of entries, in the end, Heather was the winner. Her story was powerful. She’s been on the road a little over a month now and it’s time to catch up with her and find out about her trip, how the budgeting is going (is she doing $50 a day?), and the lessons learned.

Nomadic Matt: Heather, congrats on winning! Youa��ve been on your trip for about a month. First, how did you feel about winning?
Heather: Thanks, Matt! Winning was, in a word, surreal. Ia��ve never felt so dazed in my life. Ia��ve never won so much as a raffle prize before, so I didna��t actually believe you for at least a solid week. I kept thinking it was a dream, and I was scared to tell people in case it was. My little sister asked me if I was sure it wasna��t a human-trafficking scheme!

Overall, I feel so loved and supported by my friends and family and extremely, extremely lucky.

Ia��ve been trying to imagine what my mom would say if she were here to see this. I dona��t have much of a frame of reference, since I only really started traveling after she passed. However, Ia��m sure she would be shaking her damn head at this trip! She would definitely think Ia��m crazy. And I know she definitely wouldna��t understand leaving my stable job to do this. In the end, though, I know she wouldna��t try to stop me or dissuade me. She would be happy for me; it just might not have been her first reaction. a�?Stop talking crazya�? might have been the first thing!

Where are you going on this trip?
Ia��m spending the next few months in South America. I originally planned to stay in Peru for three weeks, but I might end up staying for six because there is so much I want to see here! I chose to spend a lot of time in South America because ita��s been my dream to backpack here for so long.

I also just love the huge diversity of life and cultures here, and the interaction between indigenous cultures and Spanish colonialism. There are also so many amazing sites (such as the GalA?pagos, the Amazon, Machu Picchu, etc.). There is so much to learn and soak in.

Heather lounging in a pool in Ecuador

I leave for Lisbon on May 2nd, and then I want to see Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Kenya, and Tanzania before heading on to Southeast Asia. It was really hard to choose which countries to visit a�� my list was originally about 36 countries long! But my friends talked me down and convinced me that it was better to go in depth than to keep hopping around and tire myself out. I have the rest of my life to go and see the rest of the world.

I actually put my whole (hopeful) itinerary up on my new blog.

Where have you been so far?
I spent a few weeks in Ecuador, including the GalA?pagos, before I moved on to Peru. Ia��m working my way south and east, eventually to Brazil.

The first week I spent in Quito being hosted by friends of my family. I mainly rested and planned the trip, including getting my visa to Brazil at the consulate there. I was so focused on closing up my life in LA and getting out quickly that I had put barely any thought into my trip. I just left. Taking the time to plan really calmed me. My hosts were really gracious and took great care of me.

After that, my sister came down and we spent a few days in BaA�os, Ecuador, which was fantastic! I jumped off a bridge and we went canyoning down some waterfalls. We also did a day tour of the Amazon. I had mixed feelings about the tour a�� I tend to hate planned excursions like that, and there was a part of the day that included an indigenous show that felt forced and disingenuous. It made me a little uncomfortable.

Heather bungy jumping off a bridge

I also spent 10 days in the GalA?pagos, which was insanely beautiful. It was hard on the budget for sure, but the islands are so well protected. Now Ia��m in Cajamarca in the north of Peru enjoying the Carnaval celebrations. Ita��s madness. Ia��m really not much of a partier. My host is so generous and accommodating, so Ia��m really enjoying my time here.

Howa��s your daily budget going? Any big surprises?
Ia��m definitely running a deficit right now, because of the trip to the GalA?pagos, but I knew that going in. (Some other expenses too, such as paying for the visa to Brazil ($160), contributed to that as well.) Everything is super expensive on the island. Last-minute cruises for four days are about $1,000, and eight-day cruises start at about $1,700. I opted out of a cruise and decided to do the self-tour, which was a bit more challenging but still an amazing experience. Hostels on the island are basically $20 everywhere, which is about twice as much as on the mainland. But I did find some ways to save money. For instance, I found a restaurant on Santa Cruz Island that served a great $5 lunch.

Ia��m feeling OK Iv decadron cost about the splurge, though, because Ia��m saving in other ways. For instance, I bought my flight out of South America to Europe on points. That saved me about $700. I plan on buying most of my flights on points. Ia��m also doing a lot of Couchsurfing in Peru (and Peru is cheap overall).

Heather snorkeling in the Galapagos

Not counting the GalA?pagos, in the first month, I spent about $600, including my hostels, food, activities. Hostels are generally costing me $10 a night, and meals are rarely more than $10 each; lunch is usually much less. In BaA�os, for instance, we met the owner of an arepas restaurant and just ate lunch there every day. Now, in Cajamarca, between Couchsurfing and the cheap cost of living, I would be surprised if Ia��ve spent more than $30 in the past five days. Breakfast is $1-2, and we took a 30-minute ride bus outside of the city, which cost 5 soles, or about $1.50, each.

Also, looking back on my journal of expenses, I would say Ia��m spending too much on transportation. I would attribute this to taxis. When Ia��m out and about, sometimes people tell me ita��s unsafe to walk and I should take a taxi. Or, for instance, when I was staying with my family friends in Quito, their house is pretty far from the city, so I would find myself taking a taxi rather than walk the 40 minutes to the bus stop. If Ia��m feeling unsure about the situation Ia��m in (at night or buy reductil online. if I dona��t see many solo walkers around), I take a taxi. So I think I could cut back or find other ways to avoid feeling unsafe.

Speaking of safety, how do you feel about your safety as a solo female traveler? Is South America safe?
Yes, I generally feel safe. I’ve only had a few problems. The caveat is that I really don’t go out at night that often (I’m more of a morning person) and tend to stick to the ‘safe’ areas. I get a lot of people warning me to be extra safe and that always freaks me out. I would like to be more adventurous and I’m trying to balance that desire with the practicality of being safe.

The first month is always an adjustment. How are you going to stay on budget in the future?
Ia��m a huge planner, and taking the time to think through my a�?must havesa�? really helps. Ia��ve also found that not rushing and going slow helps cut down expenses. Ia��m trying to take my time and stick to the activities I will really enjoy. For instance, paying an admission to see a cathedral almost never makes my list. A lot of guides online mention churches as the must sees. I ignore them completely, unless there is something different about them. For example, I paid for a tour in Lima to see the catacombs but, other than that, I’d rather use the money elsewhere.

Heather at the equatorWhat are some of the lessons you’ve learned so far?
I am learning how to not stress about plans or money, which was something my mom was always trying to teach me. Ia��m literally living my dream, and ita��s foreign to me not to have something or someone to worry about. a�?If youa��re gonna worry, dona��t pray. If youa��re gonna pray, dona��t worry,a�? is what she would always say. I was never very good at it (to her dismay), but I think she would be happy with how I currently am. My belly is always full and Ia��m seeing something new every few days. What more could I ask for? Next up, to work on my patiencea��

Whata��s the worst thing thata��s happened? Do you think it could have been prevented?
Yes! My phone got pickpocketed! It was completely preventable. I was in BaA�os and I needed a rain jacket because it rains every other second there. I wasna��t used to the pockets and my phone was hanging out slightly. I was just completely comfortable a�� ita��s very safe there, so I didna��t think I had to worry. I noticed it was gone almost immediately. I was pissed because I just paid off that phone so that I could take it on the trip! Sigh…

Finally, whata��s been your favorite moment so far?
My favorite moment is a tie between jumping off the bridge in BaA�os and snorkeling with sea lions and turtles in the GalA?pagos. Both moments were surreal. I loved jumping from the bridge because I’ve always loved heights. When I watched the video of my jump, it seemed to happen so quickly. But in the moment, the fall felt like it took forever. It felt so long that I forgot I was tethered and almost felt like I was flying. I would do it a thousand more times.

The water in the Galapagos was so clear and beautiful and the animals were so unafraid and curious. The chance to observe up close and interact with them was so beautiful. I loved feeling as though I was part of a different world. I just want a million more moments like that.

In the following months, Heather will be navigating South America, Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. As she keeps going, we’re going to follow along to get more details about her trip, experiences, roadblocks, budgeting, and everything in between! You can follow her journeys on her blog, Confidently Lost, as well as on Instagram. She will also be sharing some of her experiences here!

I Still F*ing Hate Koh Phi Phi

tourist boats at koh phi phi
Yeah, I used the F word. Thata��s how much I hate Ko Phi Phi.

I was supposed to visit Ko Phi Phi in 2005, but the deadly 2004 tsunami destroyed the island. Thousands were killed and injured on the island. The entire coast was devastated, with Phi Phi one of the hardest it. It was one of the biggest natural disasters to ever hit the country. Determined to get there and wanting to contribute to the rebuilding, I made it my first stop in Thailand when I quit my job to travel the world in 2006.

Construction was all over the place, tourists were returning a�� some also helping rebuild a�� and the government was promising to make the island more sustainable. Spirits were high. Naturally, it wasn’t like the postcards. The inner beach was littered with coral swept in by the sea, but just outside town was beautiful Long Beach, an undeveloped stretch of white sand and turquoise water. I didn’t fall in love Ko Phi Phi, but I thought that if they limited development as they said, this place wouldn’t be half bad.

Fast forward two years.

I returned (twice) while living in Bangkok to discover that they hadna��t kept their promise: the island had become overdeveloped (again). Hotels were everywhere. Boats seemed to endlessly ring the island, ferrying an endless queue of tourists. There were bars on the beach; the little street stall food court near the dock was gone; and resorts, tourists, and loud music were inescapable. Ko Phi Phi had become an overpriced party island. Long Beach was still the only haven, but tiny guesthouses had popped up, chipping away at paradise. You could tell it wasn’t going to be too long before it was wholly consumed by the development sprawl creeping out from town.

Fast forward another two years.

Everything that was bad about the island had multiplied 10 times. Maya Bay, a location made famous by the movie The Beach, was bursting at the seams. The island tours were filled with swim spots where you only saw dead coral. Long Beach, though still beautiful, now had resorts, and a thin layer of boat fuel coated the water.

I left disgusted.

It was crowded, dirty, filled with drunk tourists, terrible food, unfriendly locals*, and an environment destroyed by development.

a busy beach on koh phi phi

Fast forward to last month, when I went back to the island once again.

a�?I thought you hated this place,a�? a reader I ran into said to me. a�?Why are you here?a�?

a�?Ia��m here to update my guide. I need to see this place with fresh eyes.a�?

He laughed. “Mate, nothing has changed.”

He was right. Ita��s safe to say that the next time the guide needs updating, I wona��t be checking up on Ko Phi Phi. I hated it more than ever.

Maya Bay has been destroyed even more, partially cleared to put in little huts, a snack bar, bathrooms, and even a smoking area. Trash is everywhere.

Ko Phi Phi charges 20 baht to visit (a conservation fee, they claim, though ita��s obvious they are just conserving their bank balance), Long Beach has been fully developed with large resorts and hotels, music blasts throughout the island day and night, prices are high for no reason other than people will pay up, and the inner beach, still littered with coral, is now filled with bars, end to end. In the morning, there’s more trash than beach. The water is super polluted with a thin film of…well, I don’t want to know…on top if it. Trash and sewage are dumped right into the water. There were booze cruises, pricey boat trips, a McDonalda��s, and more restaurants serving Western food than Thai food. The town’s buildings are so tightly packed that one loses any sense of being on an island.
They literally paved over paradise:

an empty street on koh phi phi in thailand
(That is me standing at one end of the island looking out to the beach across the way.)

As far as I’m concerned, Ko Phi Phi has lost what little soul it had left. It is an ugly, overpriced destination living off the fact people go there because….well, I guess youa��re supposed to go there?

I’ve been living in or visiting Thailand for thirteen years. I’ve been all over the country. Ko Phi Phi is one of those places that takes the worst of Thailand tourism and puts it all in one overpriced location. This place has nothing to offer you cana��t get on another island. Thailand is full of beautiful, picturesque tropical islands like Ko Mak, Ko Jum, Ko Chang, Ko Adang, and Ko Lanta. Those are the ones you see on postcards, the ones that spur the imagination and entice adventure. And if you want to party, you will find parties equally as good a�� at cheaper prices a�� on Ko Chang, Ko Samui, Ko Phanang, and Ko Tao.

I can’t really figure why people go there. I asked people I met. “I hear the parties are good and I wanted to see Maya Bay. I dunno. It’s famous for a reason, right?”

If youa��re looking for a Cheap ditropan xl beach paradise, there are better islands. If you’re looking for a party, there are better islands. If you’re looking to scuba dive, there are better islands. If you want great seafood, there are better islands. If you’re looking for an inexpensive place to go, well, this place is definitely not it.

Phi Phi has no redeeming qualities.

And I dona��t see myself ever returning.

The island cana��t support the number of people it gets anyway. Give nature a break. Save your bank account. Find a nicer place. Go elsewhere.

Please avoid this hellhole.

*I don’t fault the locals. If you dealt with the obnoxious party tourists I saw on that island every risperdal without prescription. day of your life, you wouldn’t give a f*ck either!

Note: I know they have recently decided to close Maya Bay in the off season to give it a break. It’s the step in the right direction but I don’t think it will change much. They already developed the island. They need to remove all the structures there, limit the number of people who go, and give nature a time to heal. Given the government’s track record on following through with environmental promises, I won’t be holding my breath.

Photo Credit: 1

37 Places to Eat in Tokyo

people sharing plates of sushi
On a whim, I went to Tokyo for a week. My friends and I had been talking about a food-themed trip to the city for years, and after convincing them that now was the time to cash in all our miles, we found ourselves at the airport on a cold November day with one goal: to eat as much as humanly possible.

Like me, theya��d been to Tokyo before and each had a list of places to eat at. Along with our combined lists, I had received suggestions from friends, readers, and one of my favorite foodies, Mark Weins of Migrationology.

Even eating four to six meals a day, I was barely able to scratch the surface of the Cheap betapace drug list of recommendations. Nevertheless, I wanted to share the combined suggestions of the community and my own investigations with you. (Those I ate at are denoted by a star.)

Afuri Yebisu (1 Chome-1-7 Ebisu, 117 Bldg. 1F, Shibuya 150-0013, +81 3-5795-0750, afuri.com) a�� Tom (@tjdj311 on Instagram) recommended this for yuzu-flavored ramen.

*Bifteck Kawamura Ginza (6 Chome-5-1 Ginza, Ginza MST Bldg. 8F, Chuo, 104-0061, +81 3-6252-5011, bifteck.co.jp) a�� At the suggestion of our hotela��s concierge, we went there in our quest for Wagyu beef. The steak basically melted in my mouth and exploded with flavor. However, I dona��t think Ia��d go back, as I found it a bit too high-end and overpriced for me. The dA�cor is incredible, the service over the top, and the wine list world-class a�� but all that is more than I needed. That said, if you want to spend money on delicious steak with out-of-this-world service, you cana��t go wrong here.

BrewDog Roppongi (5 Chome-3-2 Roppongi, Minato, 106-0032, +81 3-6447-4160, brewdogbar.jp) a�� Recommended by Matt Chandler (@mchandler07 on Twitter), this bar has 20 craft beers on tap, 10 of which are brewed on site. So if youa��re tired of sake and want some fancy beer, you probably cana��t go wrong here!

CoCo Ichibanya (1 Chome-2-12 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, 160-0023, +81 3-3345-0775) a�� Recommended by Char (@charmatcha on Twitter), this ramen restaurant is supposed to offer hearty and filling curry as well as good chicken and pork curry in a fast service environment. I havena��t been here, but Ia��ve been to similar places in the past.

*Genki Sushi (24-8 Udagawacho, Shibuya, 150-0042, +81 3-3461-1281, genkisushi.co.jp) a�� Yummy sushi, recommended by Jeremiah Cooper (@jeremiahcooperphotography on Instagram). There wasna��t anything fancy about the place a�� it just had solid, satisfying sushi. Very attentive service too!

Ginza Kagari (4 Chome-1-2 Ginza, Chuo, 104-0061, +81 3-3561-0717) a�� Bethany (@bjbitler on Instagram) suggests coming here for incredible chicken broth ramen.

Japanese ramen dish

*Ginza Sushi-Dokoro Shin (7 Chome-12-4 Ginza, Way Fair Bldg. 1F, Chuo, 104-0061, +03-3543-9339) a�� A spectacular sushi spot in Ginza. It was one of the best I ate at. The portions are huge. Go for lunch, when you get more bang for your buck. And definitely get the uni a�� yummy! (Suggested by Mark Weins)

*Ichiran Shibuya (1 Chome-22-7 Jinnan, Shibuya, 150-0041, +81 3-3463-3667, en.ichiran.com/index.php) a�� Recommended by many people, this ramen spot served one of the best meals I had my entire trip. The thick, flavorful broth is to die for. I also like how you eat in your own little private booth. Funky. Expect a wait during peak lunch and dinner times.

*Isakaya Juban (2 Chome-1-2 Azabujuban, Minato, 106-0045, +81 3-3451-6873, izakayajuban.com) a�� A little hole-in-the-wall izakaya restaurant (think Japanese tapas) with locals getting drunk on sake and eating tasty small plates. I was big fan of their salmon and grilled squid. They have a small English menu, but judging how my friend ordered for me, I think it doesna��t list everything, so if you see something, point at it and get it!

JBS Bar (Jazz, Blues, Soul) (1 Chome-17-10 Dogenzaka, Shibuya, 150-0043, +81 3-3461-7788) a�� A cool bar (recommended by Anna Klebine on Facebook) that is basically a one-man shop filled with records, whiskey, and smoke. Ita��s tucked away on the second level of an office/shopping plaza.

*Kakimaru (6 Chome-1-6 Roppongi, Minato, 106-0032, +81-3-5413-3689) a�� While catching up with my friend, we found this awesome place. There was an older couple next to us and a wedding party getting drunk across from us. As the night went on, the couple helped us pick food (try the speciality crab dish, it’s served in the shell and to die for), and the wedding party kept asking how we loved Japan and refilling our sake glasses, sang songs, and talked baseball. It was an amazing experience. The food is also outstanding. Be sure to get the oysters. Note: While Google Maps will list the restaurant as Kakimaru, when you go there the restaurant will be called Uohama.

Kanda Matsuya (1 Chome-13 Kanda Sudacho, Chiyoda, 101-0041, +81 3-3251-1556, kanda-matsuya.jp) a�� Bethany (@bjbitler on Instagram) also recommended this for authentic soba noodle dishes.

fresh sushi

*Kyubey (8 Chome-7-6 Ginza, Chuo, 104-0061, +81 3-3571-6523) a�� Suggested by my friends, this restaurant (which has a couple of locations) offered the fanciest sushi I had in Tokyo. You sit at the bar and are served whatever the chef decides to bring (this is called omakase). It was expensive (at $150 USD) but worth every penny. Check out this video where the shrimp they served me is still moving.

Masaru (1 Chome-32-2 Asakusa, Taito, 111-0032, +81 3-3841-8356) a�� Daina (@headedanywhere on Instagram) recommended this as an excellent option for tempura dishes.

*Memory Lane (Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, +81 3-3342-1589, shinjuku-omoide.com) a�� On this tiny alley of yakitori joints, some require an entrance fee, but they are all worth it. I ate at about three of them, but I dona��t remember any of the specific restaurant names.

Mutekiya (1 Chome-17-1, Minami Ikebukuro, 1F Sakimoto Bldg., Toshima 171-0022, +81 3-3982-7656, mutekiya.com) a�� Carly Sabo (@carly_sabo on Instagram) recommended this spot for its amazing ramen. Honmarumen is its most popular dish.

Narisawa (2 Chome-6-15 Minami Aoyama, Minato, 107-0062, +81 3-5785-0799, narisawa-yoshihiro.com) a�� One of the highest rated sushi restaurants in Tokyo. This was suggested to me by many people and, very sadly, I did not make it here but you probably should! I doubt it is cheap though!

*Ostrea Oyster Bar and Restaurant (8 Chome-9-15 Ginza, 8F Jewelboxginza, Chuo, 104-0061, +81 3-3573-0711, ostrea.jp) a�� I found this while wandering Ginza, and being an oyster lover, went in for some giant oysters. Japanese oysters are big and meaty, and the ones here were no different. They also lacked a very briny, oceany taste to them (I prefer my oysters to be more sweet than salty). The restaurant doesna��t get too busy, so you wona��t have a wait.

chopsticks and a bowl of noodles

Robot Restaurant (1 Chrome-7-1 Kabukicho B2f, Shinjuku, 160-0021, +81 3-3200-5500, shinjuku-robot.com) a�� There are a lot of weird restaurants in Tokyo, and I was sad I didna��t get to this one. Dinner comes with a show featuring robots, lasers, monsters, and dancers. It was recommended by just about everyone.

Rokurinsha (1 Chome-9-1 Marunouchi, Tokyo Station Ichibangai B1F, Chiyoda, 100-0005, +81 3-3286-0166, rokurinsha.com) a�� Located on Tokyo Stationa��s a�?ramen road,a�? this tasty ramen restaurant is easily to spot: it has the longest line. I didna��t eat here as I didna��t want to wait; I went to one further down the a�?roada�? and it wasna��t super good. I mean it wasna��t bad, but it made me wish I had waited here!

Shin Udon (2 Chome-20-16 Yoyogi, 1F Soma Bldg., Shibuya, 151-0053, +81 3-6276-7816, udonshin.com) a�� Recommended by Macaera (@macaera on Twitter), this is supposed to be great for tasty udon noodles at an affordable price.

Sometaro Okonomiyaki (2 Chome-2-2 Nishiasakusa, Taito, 111-0035, +81 3-3844-9502) a�� Housed inside an antique building, it is well known for its okonomiyaki (a Japanese savory pancake). Recommended by Mark Wiens.

*Standing Sushi Bar (1 Chome-12-12 Nishishinjuku, Kasai Bldg. 1F, Shinjuku, 160-0023, +81 3-3349-1739, uogashi-nihonichi.com) a�� Recommended by my other food guru Jodi, this standing sushi location is one of many in town. Ita��s great for a quick bite: you stand, eat sushi, and get out. It has a robust menu, so you can get anything you want, and a meal here will only set you back around 1,000 yen ($9 USD).

Sushi Yuu (1 Chome-4-15 Nishiazabu, Minato, 106-0031, +81 3-3403-6467, sushiyuu.com) a�� Lauren Michelle Stow (@lstoweaway on Instagram) raved, a�?Sushi Yuu was possibly the best culinary experience Ia��ve ever had. Expensive, but worth it. Make a reservation and ask to sit at the bar. Shimazaki-san makes the meal extremely personal and answers all your fish-related questions.a�?

fancy sushi

*Sushi Zanmai (11 Chome-9-4 Tsukiji, Chuo, 104-0045, +03-3541-1117) a�� This sushi restaurant has locations over the city. I ended up eating at the one in the fish market on one of my last days there. The fish was fresh, the servings were large, and the staff was attentive. I cana��t speak for the other locations, but this one gets very crowded around lunchtime (expect a 30-minute wait).

*Tenmatsu Tempura (1 Chome-8-2 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chuo, 103-0022, +81 3-3241-5840, tenmatsu.com/english.html) a�� The tempura here is well known for its lightness. Ita��s a small establishment with set tempura menus. The staff doesna��t speak great English (the clientele was mostly Japanese businessmen), but they were super friendly and accommodating, and the food is outstanding.

Tonkatsu Maisen Aoyama Honten (4 Chome-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya, 150-0001, +81 120-428-485, mai-sen.com/restaurant) a�� A legendary tonkatsu place. Allyson (@wanderwithheart on Instagram) recommended this one.

Tonkatsu Tonki (1 Chome-1-2 Shimomeguro, Meguro, 153-0064, +81 3-3491-9928) a�� Recommended by Kimberly Ann (@kimberly_ann113 on Instagram), this restaurant specializes in pork tonkatsu.

Tonkatsu Wako (1 Chome-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda, 100-0005, +81 3-3214-6987, wako-group.co.jp/shop/detail/3147) a�� This restaurant reputedly makes the best tonkatsu in town. Megan (@megameg71 on Instagram) suggested it; put her recommendation to the test.

busy merchants at the Tokyo fish market

*Tsukiji Fish Market (5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo, 104-0045, +81 3-3542-1111, tsukiji-market.or.jp) a�� This world-famous fish market, whose auction powers much of the worlda��s sushi supply, is truly breathtaking. You cana��t get in before 10am these days, and when you do, most of the vendors are already breaking down, but ita��s beautiful to walk through. All around you are fish with colors and shapes you didna��t know existed. I have never had seen more seafood I couldna��t identify. Most of the restaurants nearby source their food right from the market. Some must-eats in and around the market:

  • *Nakaya (5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Tsukiji Ichiba Jonai 8, Chuo 104-0045, +81 3-3541-0211, tsukijigourmet.or.jp/46_nakaya/index.htm) a�� Located in the Fish Market itself, ita��s a great place to go for a sashimi rice bowl breakfast. I loved the uni salmon bowl. (Another Migrationology suggestion)
  • Sushi Dai (5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Tsukiji Fish Market 6th Bldg., Chuo, 104-0045, +81 3-3547-6797, tsukiji-sushidai.com/shop/honkan.html) a�� As it is the most famous sushi spot in the market, people line up at 4am for when it opens, and wait times can last up to three hours. I hear ita��s good, but frankly, in a city with so much good fish, I wouldna��t wait three hours for a meal.
  • *Sushi restaurant with no English name (6 Chome-25-4 Tsukiji, Ch??-ku, T?ky?-to 104-0045) a�� One of the best value meals I had the whole trip, it included a delicious 15-piece sushi lunch (1,200 yen, or $10.76 USD), with huge cuts of fish and a tasty miso soup. The restaurant is small, so try to avoid peak eating times. Therea��s no real good signage, but ita��s the only restaurant-looking place on the street. (Another Migrationology suggestion)
  • *Tsjukiki Dontaku (5 Chome-2-1 Tsukiji, Bldg. No. 6, Chuo, 104-0045, +81 3-3541-9408) a�� A few doors down from Sushi Dai, this restaurant has a great omakase (though slightly expensive at 2,500 yen ($22.40 USD)), but the service and fish were impeccable a�� the uni and mackerel were some of the best I had all week. And therea��s hardly a wait.

Tsuta Japanese Soba Noodles (1 Chome-14-1 Sugamo, Toshima, 170-0002, +81 3-3943-1007, ameblo.jp/yuki-onishi) a�� Another recommendation from Tom (@tjdj311 on Instagram); it has a Michelin star so the noodles are probably pretty out of this world. They also use truffle-infused ramen oil.

Yakitori Ton Ton (2 Chome-1-10 Yurakucho, Chiyoda, 100-0006, +81 3-3508-9454) a�� This tiny stall near the railroad in Yurakucho specializes in skewered pork and chicken. Suggested by Mark Wiens.

***
While I cana��t vouch for every suggestion on this list, I never ate a terrible meal in Tokyo (although there were some a�?meha�? restaurants that didna��t make the list). I suspect that ita��s hard to eat a bad meal in Tokyo, where even the worst thing is ten times better than what you find back home!

So the next time you find yourself in Tokyo, you wona��t be short of food options! Half the fun of travel is trying something new. (If ita��s someplace I didna��t make it to, let me know prezzi del viagra. how it is!)

Thanks to everyone who gave me recommendations. And special thanks to Mark for being my Tokyo food ninja. You can check his blog for more posts on Tokyo and food in general.

How to Use Your Social Network to Travel the World

Celinne da Costa posing at a temple
One of my favorite websites is Couchsurfing. This website allows you to connect with locals abroad and get a place to stay, a friend to show you around, and local information. I remember I used it when I was first traveling and stayed at this lovely home in Athens. I’ve grown to love it even more since they have a “who’s nearby” feature on their app, which I heavily used in France last year.

Celinne, on the other hand, created – and used – her own personal social network. She traveled the world only staying with friends and friends of friends. She reached out on the web and found strangers willing to open their home to her. Not only did this help her lower her travel costs, it allowed her to meet wonderful, fascinating, and kind-hearted people. To me, travel is about the human connections we make – and she found a way to make some great ones. Here’s her sharing her story, what inspired her to do this, and what she learned along the way.

Nomadic Matt: Tell us about yourself. Who are you? What drives you?
CelinneA�Da Costa: My love story with travel dates as far back as I can remember: I was born in the heart of Rome, Italy, to an immigrant Brazilian mother and a German-raised Italian father. Since leaving Italy, Ia��ve gone from living in the quintessential suburbia neighborhoods that American dreams are made of, to frenziedly exploring Philadelphia while balancing my studies at University of Pennsylvania, to adventuring my way through every nook and cranny of New York City. Last year, I left behind my corporate advertising job in the city to design my dream life from scratch. I began with a journey around the world, in which I harnessed the power of human connection and kindness to stay with 70+ strangers in 17 countries across four continents.

Eighteen months later, Ia��m still traveling full-time and writing a book about my experience circumnavigating the globe by couchsurfing through my social network.

What fuels your passion for travel?
Travel accelerates my personal growth and challenges me to become the best version of myself. There are so many beautiful places in the world, but after a while, they begin to blend into one another. What truly makes travel valuable is the lessons it can teach you, if you are willing to be present and pay attention to your environment.

Travel has helped me develop the humility and goodwill to learn from people that I meet along the way. It has pushed me to understand my insignificance on this planet, yet still take actions that will positively impact others. Most importantly, it has challenged me to open my heart to others and live in the moment. Ultimately, travel is not a matter of what I see, but who I become along the way. I don’t need to see the entire world. I just want to feel it run through my veins.

Tell us about this long adventure you were just on. How did you think of it? How long did it last? Where did you go? What did you do?
I didna��t want to just quit my corporate 9-5 job on a whim and travel the world without a plan. I wanted to make travel into a lifestyle, not a sabbatical, so I decided to design a project that would 1. incorporate my main passions (travel, writing, and making connections with interesting humans) and 2. create opportunities for a lifestyle change once I was done. I challenged myself to design my dream life, attempt to live it out for six monthsA�and re-evaluate once I got there.

Thata��s where the idea of my social experiment came from: I circumnavigated the globe by couchsurfing through my network. I wanted to reincorporate real human connection back into my life. I never used the Couchsurfing website since everyone who hosted me was connected to me somehow (friends, friends of friends, people I met on the road).

I ended up being on the road for nine months for this project, and having 73 hosts in 17 countries across 4 continents: I passed through Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Oceania, and the US.

Celinne da Costa skydiving in New Zealand

How did you actually find hosts to host you? How far ahead did you know where you were going to sleep?A�
There were no websites involved! Only sheer human connection. All the interactions were initiated by meA�and were enabled by my phone (texting, voice notes, calling) and social media (mostly Instagram and Facebook).

I reached out to everyone I knew telling them about my project and asking whether they knew someone they could connect me with. I kept moving from one connection to the next until I found someone willing to host me. As my project grew and people started finding out about it, hosts started to Cost of fluoxetine reach out to me through Instagram.

I only had a one-way ticket erection medicines for diabetics. to Italy (where Ia��m originally from) booked a�� everything else was on a whim. I had a general trajectory of where I was going, and I would add or subtract places depending on my hosting situation. There were places I wanted to visit no matter what, so there were often times when I was down to the wire and didna��t find a host until super last minute. Other times, I had hosts lined up months ahead. It always worked out a�� I was only left without a host once, in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I ended up renting a cheap room last minute, but luckily, I did make some local friends on that trip so Ia��ll have a place to stay if I return!

What was the furthest connection with a host that you stayed with? How did that happen?
My furthest connection was seven degrees in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was: my moma��s frienda��s girlfrienda��s clienta��s clienta��s co-workera��s friend. It was crazy how it happened. I kept struggling to find a place, and each person would pass me along to someone else they knewA�until eventually, someone was available and willing to host. This happened several times during my travels a�� I also had plenty of five- and six-degree connections. I was taken aback by how dedicated people were to finding me a place to stay.

Did you ever meet someone on the road and stay with them? Or did you strictly stay with friends of friends?
Yes, all the time! There was never a point when I had all my hosts lined up a�� I usually had my next couple of destinations planned, and everything else up in the air. I was constantly meeting and befriending travelers on the road, and upon hearing about my project, a vast majority would offer to host me without me even asking.

Celinne da Costa posing with some locals

For example, I met an older gentleman for all of 30 minutes as I was leaving a meditation retreat in Nepal (which, funny enough, was also part of my project: my Kathmandua��s cousin worked so I was his guest). Despite knowing me so briefly, he offered to host me in Tasmania. I ended up visiting his and his wifea��s farm (located in the middle of nowhere) six months later with another host, and it was amazing. Four complete strangers ended up spending an entire evening sharing stories about our travels and philosophies on life over a feast of freshly caught crayfish and vegetables picked from their garden.

Tell us a few host stories that completely surprised you when you were on the road.
If there is anything I learned from meeting hundreds of people during my travels, ita��s that there is so much more than we could ever fathom going on below the surface of a human being. It is our nature to categorize things. With people, it tends to be by culture, race, geography, religion, etc. If you make an active effort to put these categories aside, sit down with locals, and demonstrate some basic interest in their lives and stories, youa��ll find that each person is their own universe. In fact, the most incredible nuggets of wisdom Ia��ve gotten came from people who didna��t even realize their own brilliance.

One of my favorite encounters was with Maung, an older gentleman that I met who was a hotel manager in Myanmar. After some conversation, I found out he smuggled cows to Thailand for a living when he was younger, and was a commander in the guerilla fighting movement against the oppressive regime alongside a monk who later became famous for his humanitarian efforts towards orphaned children. What a story!

Then, there is Adam, the Italian-American host I fell head-over-heels in love with (spoiler: we broke up). We grew up less than an hour away from each other in the US yet I found him while he was living in Australia.

Lastly, Ia��ll never forget asking my host Anna in Bali whether she knew of a spiritual healer and her telling me that she lived with one. That week, I spent most of my evenings sitting on their porch in an Ubud village, discussing the meaning of love and happiness as they proceeded to school me on life with their wise Balinese philosophy.

What challenges did you have couchsurfing around the world? How did you deal with them?
I could never predict the comfort or location convenience of my accommodation, so I really had to learn to go with the flow and not set any expectations. Ia��ve stayed in penthouses with my own private room, bathroom, and maid, and Ia��ve also stayed in cots on the floor of a village with a hole for a toilet. Ita��s funny because some of my most a�?uncomfortablea�? hosting accommodations ended up being my richest and best experiences, and vice versa.

Celinne da Costa and one of her hosts

Also, a�?readinga�? my hosts was a challenge. Their reasons for hosting me were so different: some wanted to pay it forward, others wanted to actively show me their city and pick my brain, others were only offering a place to stay but didna��t necessarily want to socialize. I had to sharpen my people skills so I could stay respectful and intuitive to peoplea��s boundaries (or lack thereof).

What are your tips for people who are inspired by your story and want to do this on their own? What are some great resources you suggest to use?
Identify what you are passionate about, and try to build your travels around what works for you. My project was successful because I tapped into my strengths and passions. If youa��d like to create a project around your travels, I suggest you customize it around your preferences: if you are an introvert and hate talking to people, for example, spending hours a day chatting with people and asking them to host you may not be the best idea. Make your journey fun by catering to what you realistically feel comfortable and happy doing, and make sure you do some planning ahead of time.

My best resource was fellow travelers who had also done round-the-world trips. When I was thinking about doing this trip, I reached out to full-time travelers on Instagram, asked friends if they knew people who went on long travel trips, and did a lot of a�?blog surfing.a�? I had so many Skype calls with strangers who had just finished round-the-world trips before I left for my own. Talking through my doubts, fears, and confusions a�� and being reassured that I would be okay a�� made me so much more comfortable with leaving.

Specifically, my trip was inspired by one of my mentors Leon Logothetis, who is the author of book (and now TV show) The Kindness Diaries. He traveled the world on a yellow motorbike relying on people to offer him gas, food, or shelter, to prove to himself and to others that humanity was kind. Other books I also read that prepared me for the trip were Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton, and A New Earth: Awakening To Your Lifea��s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle.

Celinne da Costa and two of her male hosts

How do you make your money last on the road? What are some of your best tips?
My top tips for people trying to make it work financially on the road:

  • Know your weaknesses, and plan for them. Ia��m terrible at numbers and never budgeted before, but I knew I would have to if I wanted to make this work financially. I created an excel sheet and for the past 18 months, have been documenting and categorizing every single expense so I can track where I need to cut down if necessary. I also knew Ia��d go crazy if I didna��t occasionally treat myself to something I liked but wasna��t necessary, so I gave myself a monthly a�?frivolous stuffa�? allowance.
  • Always remember that you can barter or negotiate. Traveling and negotiating on the road taught me that currency is not only monetary a�� it is social as well. I did not have abundant funds, but I did have a skillset: I am a brand strategist by trade, as well as a writer, social media influencer, and content creator. When negotiating with dollars didna��t get me anywhere, I would offer my services in exchange for goods or services of similar perceived value. In many areas of the world, people respond favorably to a favor-exchange. If marketing isna��t your skillset, thata��s totally ok too! Ia��ve seen people barter all kinds of skills for experiences of places to stay: for example, exchanging farm work or teaching English for room and board, helping a small business with coding a website in exchange for free tours, etc. The possibilities are endless!
  • Embrace the minimalist lifestyle. When Ia��m on the road, I live a very minimalist lifestyle. I only travel with a carry-on to keep my belongings to a minimum, I hardly buy souvenirs or clothes, I walk or take public transportation whenever possible, and I buy most of my food at the grocery store. I normally dona��t pay for culture and history-related activities or tours; I email places ahead of time, tell them about my project and that Ia��m a writer (in addition to having my own social media following, I also write for some major publicationsa�� both which I achieved by creating this social experiment). Since I stay with locals, I dona��t pay for accommodation, which helps tremendously.

Were your family and friends supportive of your traveling adventure?
Surprisingly, yes. I was originally nervous to tell my family and friends about my plan to quit my job to travel around the world by sleeping in random peoplea��s homes a�� I really expected them to try to talk me out of it. Although a handful of them did, the vast majority had a response along the lines of a�?Yes! You need to do this!a�?

I was overwhelmed by the support, how much they believed in me, and how they supported me along the way, emotionally as well as by connecting me to potential hosts. I couldna��t have made it without them!

Celinne da Costa and a new friend

What’s on your bucket list?
Oof, am I allowed to say every country in the world? If had to narrow down to five places that I’m itching to see, they are: Peru, Bolvia, Antarctica, Japan, and the Philippines. Now I just need to find hosts there!

Do you have any advice for people that feel like Couchsurfing is something dangerous that they could never do?
Yes! The first rule is probably the hardest to internalize: you have to trust people. We live in a world that is constantly inundating us with news of what terrible humans we are, but that is not the case at all. I found all over the world that most people are good, and want to help. I have enough stories about people who went out of their way in kindness for me to fill a book (and thata��s why Ia��m writing one!).

Of course, there are exceptions, and thata��s where my second piece of advice comes in: trust your intuition. Western society particularly values mind over heart, and thata��s something I learned to question during my time in Southeast Asia. Ita��s important to use rationality and logic when moving through life, but there is something about intuition that just cannot be quantified. Listen to what your gut tells you a�� if something is off, remove yourself from the situation, no questions asked.

Overall, Ia��ve surfed over 100 couches in the past couple of years and Ia��ve only had one bad experience which I quickly removed myself from before it escalated. Statistically, thata��s a 1% weirdo rate. Believe that people are good, and thata��s the world that will manifest for you!

CelinneA�Da Costa left behind her corporate advertising job in the city to design her dream life from scratch. She began with a journey around the world, in which she harnessed the power of human connection and kindness to stay with 70+ strangers in 17 countries across four continents. Follow her journey at Celinne Da Costa as well as Instagram and Facebook or pick up her book of short stories, The Art of Being Human.A�

Become the Next Success Story

One of my favorite parts about this job is hearing people’s travel stories. They inspire me, but more importantly, they also inspire you. I travel a certain way but there are many ways to fund your trips and travel the world.A�I hope these stories show you that there is more than one way to travel and that it is within your grasp to reach your travel goals. Here are more examples of people who overcame obstacles and made their travel dreams a reality:

  • Reader Story: How Angela Travels the World as an Au Pair
  • How Oneika Gets Teaching Jobs Around the World
  • Reader Story: How Helen Successfully Traveled and Volunteered Around Africa
  • Success Stories: Why Trish Sold Everything She Owned to Travel
  • An Interview with Lee Abbamonte, the Youngest American to Visit Every Country in the World

P.S. – I’m having a meet up on January 23rd in Queenstown. You can sign for that by clicking here! Come join the fun! Location TBD!

The Secret Sauce Behind Scott’s Cheap Flights

Scott Keyes posing with his dog
“Have you heard of Scott’s Cheap Flights? Should I use them?”

When friends and family far removed from the travel hacking/cheap flights space ask me about a website, I know its mainstream. While Delivery levlen there are many good deal websites out there (The Flight Deal, Secret Flying, and Holiday Pirates are three of my favorites), Scott’s Cheap Flights seems to have broken through where others have not. Over 1 million people get his daily flight deals email. I’m a big fan of the website and their ability to often break airfare deals (I used one of their alerts to fly to South Africa). It turns out Scott is a fan of my website too so we sat down for an interview where I got him to spill the secret behind his website:

Nomadic Matt: Tell everyone about yourself. How did you get into this?
Scott: When I graduated college in 2009, I knew two things: (1) I wanted to travel the world and (2) I was never going to be wealthy. So if I wasn’t going to let #2 prevent #1, I knew I would have to figure out some creative ways to travel without spending my life savings. I began reading up on flight pricing economics, spending hours on various flight search engines, and learning various airfare patterns. Before long, I found an online community of fellow travel hackers and cheap-flight aficionados who enjoy not just travel but also the thrill of getting a great deal on flights.

Where did the idea of this website come from?
Scotta��s Cheap Flights has a weird origin story. In 2013, I got the best deal of my life: nonstop from NYC to Milan for $130 round-trip. Milan hadna��t even been on my radar as a place to visit, but for $130 round-trip, therea��s no way I wouldna��t go. And it turned out to be amazing! I went skiing in the Alps, caught an AC Milan match, hiked Cinque Terre, hung out on Lake Como. It was divine.

When I got back, word spread among friends and coworkers about the deal I got, and dozens of them began asking me to let them know next time I found a fare like that so they could get in on it, too. So rather than try to remember to tell George and Esther and Aviva when a great deal popped up, I decided to start a simple canadapharmacy24hr. little email list instead so I could alert everyone at once. Scotta��s Cheap Flights was born.

For the first 18 months, though, it was just a little, fun hobby I did for my friends. It wasna��t until August 2015 that it had generated enough organic growth that it made sense to think about turning it into a business.

Scott posing in front of a hilly landscape

You’ve sort of blown up in the last year or so. What do you think have been the two biggest factors into your success?
First off, thanks! We just hit one million subscribers a�� still hard for me to believe. The credit goes to two primary factors:

First, therea��s an incredible team who runs Scotta��s Cheap Flights. Ita��s not just me; wea��re up to 25 folks on the team now. We have a team of flight searchers finding great deals around the world, and also a team of amazing customer support folks. On an average day we get well over 700 emails in our inbox, and most people get a response within a few hours, if not a few minutes. I think this is a major reason why more than 50% of people who sign up for Scotta��s Cheap Flights found out about it via word of mouth.

Second, the startup itself had very serendipitous timing. Right around when Scotta��s Cheap Flights became a business, international flight prices began to plummet, fueled by low oil prices and a bevy of new low-cost airlines like Norwegian and WOW jumping into the transatlantic market. Whereas in 2010 it was rare to see flights from the US to Europe under $900 round-trip, in 2015 (and through to today), ita��s relatively common to see those same flights around $400 round-trip, if not less. We cana��t force airlines to offer cheap flights, but wea��ve been there to ride the wave these past few years and help subscribers pay half of what they used to to travel abroad.

Were there any media hits or high-profile features that really changed your trajectory? I remember hearing about you a few years ago, but now it seems everyone I know, even outside of travel, has heard of your newsletter.
There was one in particular: a Business Insider article and I were taking in the summer of 2015. It helped take Scotta��s Cheap Flights from a hobby to a full-fledged business by bringing in thousands of new subscribers. Wea��ve had hundreds of media hits in the two years since then, but as wea��ve grown, each individual one has necessarily had a diminishing impact. Perhaps a Nomadic Matt interview will give a big new boost though!

Scott doing a television interview

How does your website work? How do you find these deals? Do you have team of people searching for deals? Is it an algorithm?
One thing that surprises a lot of people is that we dona��t have a bunch of computers running secret algorithms to find cheap flights. All of our fares are searched by hand. The secret sauce is hard work. Airfare changes by the hour, if not by the minute, and the best deals dona��t tend to last very long, so finding out about them early is the key to booking them before theya��re gone. Most people dona��t want to spend all their free time searching for cheap flights; we love doing it and being subscribersa�� early detection radar.

Another way to think of it is like this: Almost everybody is capable of cooking dinner at home, but that doesna��t prevent the existence of the restaurant industry. People dona��t always want to put in the time and effort required to find cheap flights, so wea��re happy to do it for them.

That seems super time-consuming. How do you decide what and where to search? Do you just randomly plugging in places and dates, or is there more of a method to the madness?
Therea��s a bit of proprietary knowledge that goes into the process, but 95% of it is just the sheer legwork, day after day, searching various routes and seeing what pops up. Therea��s more of a skill aspect to the process than I woulda��ve guessed four years ago, whether thata��s remembering certain esoteric routes that periodically go on sale, or knowing that a fare war out of one city likely indicates fare drops in other similar cities. For the most part, though, ita��s just a small team of incredibly talented and dedicated flight searchers scouring through fares all day every day, disregarding 99% of them and skimming off the juiciest 1% to send to subscribers.

What are some of the biggest trends in flights you are seeing right now?
In the last year or two wea��ve seen far cheaper flights than in the past to India (before: $1,000+, now: ~$600), Italy and the Netherlands (before: $900, now: ~$350), and Hawaii (before: $800, now $350 from the West Coast, $550 from further east).

Unfortunately (though perhaps not surprisingly), wea��re seeing a continued drought of cheap flights to popular destinations like Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand.

In addition, wea��re seeing a continued unbundling of airfare: more low-cost carriers and a�?budget economya�? fares offered by full-service carriers that dona��t include checked bags, seat selection, or meals.

Scott in the Cinque Terre

Do you use your own deals or are you more of a points/miles-in-business-class kind of guy?
Sure do! Ia��m personally not a business-class type of guy. Ia��m still young enough to be fine in coach for as long and far as a plane can fly. Ask me again in 20 years a�� but in general Ia��m uncomfortable being doted on in the premium section of the plane. Ia��m a simple guy. I dona��t need much.

Will we see more business-class deals?
Dona��t wanna overpromise and underdeliver. Stay tuned!

Do you plan to go global and feature more non-US deals?
Yes! We have a team of flight searchers finding cheap fares departing not just from the US but also Canada, the UK and mainland Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East (Sub-Saharan Africa coming soon!).

You get all these flight deals, but tell me some of your favorite travel experiences. Whata��s one of your favorite recent travel memories?
Last year my wife and I took a trip to Belarus to visit her family. One of the days we took a trip to a a�?parka�? that consisted of a big open field filled with old discarded and retired Cold Wara��era Soviet weapons. Think machine guns, missiles, and tanks.

Mostly people would walk around and pose for selfies in front of these massive weapons, but at one point I saw a small group of tourists from Asia hand a park operator some cash and then start to climb on top of a WWII-era tank. I thought they were just going to take photos, but a few seconds later the tank started lurching forward before hitting a cool 25 miles per hour, zipping around the park. These tourists were having the time of their effing lives, and it gave me so much joy just to watch them.

Scott sitting in front of some salt flats

Your deal website is great of course, but what about just everyday flights people need to see Grandma. What advice do you have based on your experience learning how airline pricing works?
The single best trick to getting cheap airfare is flexibility. Being flexible not just with your dates but also your locations. For example, that NYC-Milan nonstop round-trip deal for $130 I mentioned at the top. I wasna��t living in NYC; I was living in DC. But for that fare it was well worth the short $20 bus ride up. I spent the weekend with friends in NYC and saved myself $650 off what fares woulda��ve been from DC to Milan.

The way most people approach getting a flight is this: (1) pick where they want to go; (2) pick their dates; and (3) see what prices are available. By prioritizing the fare lowest, they often end up with expensive tickets.

Instead, if getting a cheap flight is your priority, flip the order: (1) see what prices are available to various places are around the world; (2) decide which of the cheap destinations appeal to you; and (3) select the dates you like that have the cheap fares available.

What’s the craziest deal you ever got?
In addition to that $130 nonstop NYC-Milan deal, my wife and I recently scored $169 round-trip flights to Japan a�� flippina�� love mistake fares. And team members have gotten similarly good deals to Hawaii, New Zealand, etc.

Finally, whata��s one non-airfare-related travel piece of advice youa��d give someone?
Read more magazine articles and listen to more smart, informative podcasts. Ia��m a firm believer in the liberal arts approach of knowing a bit about everything (as opposed to everything about just one subject), not only as a way to be a well-rounded person but also as a social lubricant. If you can hold a conversation about anything from architecture to the stock market to Asian budget airlines, youa��re far more likely to meet interesting people and develop deeper relationships.

Scott founded Scotta��s Cheap Flights in a Denver coffeeshop. Scott is the flight searcher-in-chief, spending 8-12 hours a day on Google Flights as well as overseeing daily operations. If you’re looking for flight deals, it’s one of the best.

Cyber Monday: All Books and Courses Up to 50% Off!

A man looking at a mountain
Are you looking to get into the travel industry? Well, youa��re in luck. Though I dona��t talk about it often (well, at least compared to my books), I have a travel media school called Superstar Blogging, with courses on blogging, photography, vlogging/YouTube, and travel writing.

Today, wea��re releasing a couple massive updates to the courses. Based on reader feedback, changes in the industry, and updated best practices, we update the courses every year to ensure that they have the best and most current information possible on how to succeed in the travel industry.

And, because ita��s also Cyber Monday, wea��re heavily discounting the courses too! Ita��s a double win! Also, all my ebooks will be on sale too! Triple win!

First, you can get all my e-books and guides 50% off for the next 24 hours. You’ll get all my destination guides plus my guide to travel hacking and teaching English overseas. My guides take what you love about this site and supercharge it. The destination guides include all my favorite hostels, restaurants, and bars a�� spots you probably wona��t find listed elsewhere – as things to see in ado in each place. They go into a level of depth not found on the website and help you be the best traveler in any destination! They are written for budget travelers and those wanting to get off the beaten track when they travel.

As Edward said about my Thailand guide, “One of the best things about Matta��s book is that it avoids all the frivolous details that so many travel guides have nowadays. This book gets straight to the point a�� and helps you avoid all the tourist traps. I went to Thailand not knowing what to expect and reading this guide eased my fears. It was like a cheat sheet to best the country had to show me. There was never a moment I felt a�?lost.a�? This was a great guide and I definitely plan to buy more.”

My travel hacking guide will help you unlock the mystery of points and miles and have traveling first class for free in no time. Travel hacking is what makes constant travel affordable. As Rusty said, “Matta��s guide has unlocked a whole new way to travel. His book was an eye-opener a�� it explained the concept and language of travel hacking in a way that is easy to read and understand. Since buying his book six months ago, I have accumulated nearly 300,000 points. Now, Ia��m repeating the steps for my wife so we can have double the miles for our future trips!”

And the teaching English book will help you get a job, teach overseas, pay off your debt, and have a life changing experience. Teaching overseas was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

Now, to the courses:

The Business of Blogging

Therea��s a seemingly endless pool of travel blogs out there. Every day hundreds of people think, a�?Hey, I travel, so Ia��m going to start a blog and try to make a living out of this like all these people I see online.a�?

While there are plenty of blogs, therea��s not a lot of well-run blogs, which gives you plenty of opportunity to succeed. You need to be like the cook who says, a�?This place is good, but I can do bettera�? and then opens up a successful restaurant!

Imagine being able to share your experience with the world. Imagine setting your own schedule, traveling wherever a�� and whenever a�� you want, inspiring others to travel a�� and getting paid to do it. Wouldna��t it be great if you could turn your love of travel into a paying gig while helping others at the same time?

In this course, I am here to be your mentor and walk you through the entire process of establishing How much is cefixime in the philippines a successful blog. Think of me as your training wheels.

Ia��ll take you behind the curtain: youa��ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how I run my website; never-before-seen screenshots of my systems; and my tips, tricks, and blogging advice.

With this update version of the course, youa��ll also get:

  • Expanded advice on choosing a blog name, picking a niche, and developing your brand. Since many students got tripped up on this part of the process, we added some tips and checklists so you can do this quicker and better.
  • An expanded section on setting up a newsletter, with added screenshots and guides so you can install your newsletter easily
  • An updated and expanded section on making e-books, including how to come up with an idea, write and edit your book, and set the price
  • A new way to design and write your product pages to increase the number of people who purchase your book
  • An added section on influencer marketing and how to succeed at it
  • An added section on setting up a shopping cart
  • An added section on how to network at conferences
  • Added sections on basic HTML and CSS coding (wea��ll help you master tech)
  • Added sections on how you can adjust your theme

Wea��ve updated all our videos and screenshots; created new walk-throughs, charts, and visual aids; and reorganized the content so the course is structured in a more logical order.

Additionally, we now have monthly office hours during which Ia��ll answer your questions and give feedback over the phone.

This update continues to make our order effexor xr without prescription. program the most robust and informative out there. It will teach you how to run a sustainable business and succeed in the world of travel media for the long haul.

The course is normally $299 but, as part of our Cyber Monday deal, this course is 33% off for the next 24 hours.

Buy now for one payment of $199 OR Buy now for 3 payments of $66

OR learn more about the course: https://superstarblogging.nomadicmatt.com/the-business-of-blogging-course/

The Art of Travel Vlogging

People love video. Ita��s engaging and exciting. Video makes everything seem more real and alive. Humans are visual creatures, and video gives us a special connection to what and who we are watching.

If youa��ve been thinking about getting into the travel video world, NOW is the time to kick-start your career making travel videos. Video is the wave of the future in the travel industry.

The course is taught in conjuction with two travel vlogging superstars: Nadine from Hey Nadine and Kristin from Hopscotch the Globe.They will give you a behind-the-scenes look at how they make and edit incredible content on YouTube (and explain why they included certain footage and why some ended up on the cutting room floor), and learn how they have masterfully connected with bigger stars, brands, and their readers, monetizing their channel while getting paid to travel the world.

Through video instruction, step-by-step guides, photo and video examples, and at-home exercises, this course will give you a complete understanding of how to succeed with video online.

In this course, wea��ll teach you everything you need to know:

  • What gear to use and why, so you dona��t spend unnecessary money
  • What to do to keep your gear safe
  • How to be on the right side of the law by understanding permits
  • How to scout locations, plan shots, and film videos, as Nadine and Kristin take you behind the scenes of their show
  • How to paint a visual story that others want to watch
  • How to get over shyness and become a captivating host with proven tips and advice
  • The secrets to growing your channel faster with interviews
  • How to edit your videos, as Kristin and Nadine walk you through how they edit theirs in Adobe Premier and Final Cut Pro
  • How to increase viewership through networking, marketing, and social media. Learn where to spend your time and where NOT to spend your time.
  • What to do and what not to do when connecting with influencers (a vital part of any YouTubera��s career)
  • Successful ways to make money a�� collaborating with brands and tourism boards, and creating your own products a�� including videos on monetization

The course is normally $297 but, as part of our Cyber Monday deal, this course is 33% off for the next 24 hours.

Buy now for $199 OR Buy now for 3 payments of $66

OR learn more about the course: https://superstarblogging.nomadicmatt.com/travel-video-course/

Our Photography and Writing Courses

Additionally, our photography course is 30% off (only $69) and our writing course is 40% off (only $299). Just click on the links to take advantage of those deals too!

***

Therea��s never going to be a moment when you have enough time. If you wait for the perfect moment to start your blog, youa��ll be waiting forever. And youa��ll always be wondering a�?what if…a�?

But with lifetime access to these courses, youa��ll have plenty of time to turn what you love into something more.

I know when you are new to blogging, spending a couple hundred dollars on a course is not the easiest thing in the world. I remember when I started blogging and was making zero money. But what is your time worth? Would you rather waste it trying to figure it out yourself a�� and probably getting it wrong a�� or pay to get the right information right away so you can save time, work smarter, and start earning quicker?

Many people think all they need is information. They say things like, a�?I could find that information for free!a�? or a�?I found this other free mini-course. Thata��s all I need.a�?

Sure, therea��s tons of free information on the web.

But if all someone needed was information, wouldna��t everyone be a wild success? Why would we need doctors when we have WebMD? Mechanics when we have YouTube? Universities when you have a podcast? I could read a book on gardening, but that doesna��t mean Ia��d be a world-class gardener.

No, you need more than information. You need someone who can make sense of it. Someone who can guide you, answer your questions, give advice, help you problem-solve and distill all that information, and speed up your success.

Thata��s what we do with these courses. We are your mentors. We take your through the vast amount of information out there, show you what works and what doesna��t so you save time, avoid making mistakes, and supercharge your journey to success.

So take advantage of my Cyber Monday sale and get started! The sale end tomorrow at 10am EST.

Win a Trip Around The World!

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30 Epic Photos From My Trip to Madagascar

Nomadic Matt standing on a hill
Madagascar. It has an exotic hold over the imagination, conjuring up a land of wild nature: plains of baobab trees, armies of lemurs, unique animals, and lush rainforests.

Since so few people visit (roughly 350,000 per year), our imagination runs wild when we hear its name. It’s some otherworldly region, a lush rainforest teeming with wildlife and white sand beaches from end to end. It would be like Avatar.

Most people I talked to thought the same. calais pills from canada pharmacy. After all, with so few visitors there, the chances of knowing someone who has been is tiny.

But the Madagascar most of us envision is not the one that exists. The country is quite arid thanks to mining, deforestation, and climate change. These days, the landscape is a lot less lush than it once was. It’s not as wild and exotic as we think.

Yet there’s a lot of beauty here. From Westworld-like deserts and tiny tropical rainforests to valleys filled with rice fields and giant mountains, Madagascar is still outrageously magical and raw. While Ia��ll be posting many articles on what to see and do, how to visit the country, and my experience there in the upcoming weeks, I thought I’d start with some photographs from my visit to set the scene:

A large lemur in a treeLemurs, lemurs, and more lemurs. There’s over 60 species in the country.

A large valley with rolling hillsOne of the beautiful and lush valleys on the island.

A small colorful bird in MadagascarThe Paradise bird. Just one of the many colorful birds I saw.

Two lemurs sitting in a tree“King Julien” lemurs (so called because this is the kind that was the character in the movie).

A collapsed bridgeThe poor infrastructure in Madagascar makes the country hard to get around.

A green lizard in MadagascarThere’s a lot of chameleons here too.

Nomadic Matt eating street food in MadagascarMadagascar has this samosa tasting spring roll. I ate them all the time. They made me very happy. Delicious and at three cents each, budget friendly.

A lemur and its babyBaby lemurs!

A brown lemur hiding in a treeThis lemur is actually asleep. It sleeps with its eyes open to deter predators.

A large tree in MadagascarSome of the famous baobab trees.

A sunset over a town in MadagascarA beautiful pastel sunset over the capital, Antananarivo!

People crossing a narrow bridgeA narrow bridge made even more crowded by a weekly market.

Two lemurs stealing my thingsAlways be on the lookout for thieves!

A lemur in a treeA candid shot!

A lemur hiding in the forestSo many lemurs, so little time.

Nomadic Matt crouching on a cliffHiking in Isalo national park, a very Westworld like place.

A huge spider in a webThis spider was frighteningly huge.

Nomadic Matt standing in an arid valleyTaking in the amazing view!

A tour with Intrepid TravelLearning about the country with my awesome guide, Patrick.

Hiking in MadagascarOut for a hike with the Intrepid group.

A busy villageThe zebu (a type of cow) market, where people buy and sell cattle.

An empty valleyThe hills and valleys of Madagascar fill up the long, slow driving days. And they are a wonderful sight.

An dry valleyThis is what most of Madagascar looks like.

A black lemur in a treeJust another Lemur doing his thing!

Nomadic Matt with his guideChatting with my awesome guide Patrick.

A large lizardThis big fella was just relaxing in the sun.

A lemur hiding in a treeHome sweet home!

Nomadic Matt hiking near a cliffTaking the classic Instagram picture!

A lemur in a treeOk, one last lemur picture.

Nomadic Matt with a lemurI found my new best friend while in Madagascar!

***
Sixteen days was not nearly enough time to visit a country the size of France, especially since Madagascar severely lacks decent infrastructure. roads are filled with potholes and therea��s no regular train service (a common theme in my upcoming posts).

So, while there was much I missed, Ia��m grateful for everything I did see.

I guess, as always, ita��s just another reason to Keftab online bible go back, right?

Note: I went to Madagascar with Intrepid Travel as part of our ongoing partnership. They paid for the tour and my expenses during the trip. I paid for my flights to and from Madagascar. They offer 10% off their tours to readers so click the link and save on your next trip.

P.S. a�� We are hosting a Q&A with professional travel photographer Laurence Norah on October 29th, so be sure to attend if you want to step up your photo game!

11 Incredible LGBT Travel Movies

An old cinema sign
Earlier this year, I added an LGBT column for the website to make the site more inclusive and talk about issues that affect some members of our community. We hear from LGBT voices about their experiences on the road, safety tips, events, and overall advice for other LGBT travelers! Returning this month is our column leader, Adam from Travels of Adam to share some of his favorite LGBT travel films!

Of the many things that motivate me to travel and explore the world, movies are definitely one of the strongest influences. Cinematography helps us search rhine pharmacy. experience different worlds, stories take us to new places.

And as the experience of coming out feels like a journey for so many LGBT people, it makes sense that therea��d be many LGBT movies that cover the emotional journey of discovery alongside the physical adventure of travel.

From Oscar-winning classics like Brokeback Mountain to cult favorites like To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar to arthouse cinema by AlmodA?var and John Waters, many films inspire us to travel.

This is my list of all-time favorite LGBT-themed movies that include traveling, and they come in all genres, from silly comedies to thoughtful dramas, from Hollywood masterpieces to indie productions.

Brokeback Mountain

A two main characters from Brokeback Mountain standing beside their truck
Brokeback Mountain is (rightfully) at the top of any LGBT movie list. This 2005 movie tells the story of two cowboys and their annual trip from Wyoming to Texas. The beautiful scenery of the mountains and the mena��s camping trip is the perfect background for this painful drama, which depicts how many gay relationships, however theya��re defined, frequently start as friendship, but how therea��s also often a struggle with society and onea��s personal boundaries. Despite the tragic outcome, the story reminds us that love triumphs over hate a�� and over physical distance.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

A scene from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
From the mountains we travel to the desert. Two of my favorite movies are inspired by sand and hot winds. The first one is a classic and has become a gay cult movie. Set in Australiaa��s Simpson Desert, 1994a��s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is actually the name of a bus used by two drag queens and a trans woman to cross Australia on their way to a casino in Alice Springs. Along the journey, the characters interact with rural populations, aboriginal Australians, and homophobic gangs. A young Guy Pearce and award-winning costume design make the film especially memorable. The filma��s combination of humor and drama is essential to any road trip movie, because traveling gives you exactly that: laughs and tears.

C.R.A.Z.Y.

A scene from the film C.R.A.Z.Y.
The second desert movie on this list is a more recent (2005) Canadian production, and the desert depicted is that of the beautiful city of Essaouira, Morocco (though the setting of the movie is actually Jerusalem). C.R.A.Z.Y. is a story about acceptance and family life, but it includes an honest portrayal of traveling as a way of silencing the voices in our heads, only to return home completely empowered and strong. It follows Zac during his journey of coming out, which includes an escape to the Middle East before he reunites with his friends and family back home. Moreover, the soundtrack includes many iconic gay anthems, including Patsy Cline (a�?Crazya�?), Giorgio Moroder (a�?Here to Eternitya�?), and David Bowie (a�?Space Odditya�?).

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

Men dressed in drag sittin in a car
This 1995 film seems to be inspired by Priscilla, but the producers insist that production started before the Australian film was released. To Wong Foo follows the lives of three New York drag queens (Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo) on a road trip from NYC to Los Angeles for a drag competition. Naturally, their car breaks down and they end up stranded in small-town America, where they have several comedic and dramatic encounters with the local police and other stereotypical Southern characters. The movie shows both the welcoming and homophobic attitudes of the American South, but for me, the best part is the combination of black, Latino and a�?whitea�? narratives during the road trip. By overcoming stereotypes and hate a�� mostly depicted in the figure of a police officer a�� the drag queens change the lives of many people and rediscover the value of friendship.

Transamerica

A mother and her son standing beside their truck
Another great story, Transamerica features an outstanding performance by Felicity Huffman as a trans woman, Bree, on a road trip. Her therapist insists that she must make amends with her estranged son, who doesna��t know of her transition, before signing off on her final surgery. Bree drives her son from NYC to Los Angeles under the pretense of being a Christian missionary helping him out of jail and breaking his bad habits. As they travel together and learn about one another, the movie explores the meaning of words like a�?fathera�? and a�?mother,a�? a�?boya�? and a�?girl,a�? all the while revealing the charactersa�� complicated and emotional journey. Ita��s a story about family life, tolerance, and self-respect.

Weekend

Two men sitting in bed
This 2011 British drama was director Andrew Haigha��s breakout film (before he went on to direct Looking and 45 Years). Two men who meet in a gay club looking for a casual hookup before one of them is to move away. They have a passionate weekend together, sharing intimate details and experiences: their coming out, past relationships, and thoughts on sexuality. Ita��s the story of that emotional, in-between moment before leaving something behind and starting anew: passionate, intense, and fleeting but unforgettable.

Y Tu MamA? TambiA�n

Three friends smoking in a car
While some people are hesitant to consider it an LGBT movie, I believe Y Tu MamA? TambiA�n is clearly about the stigma against bisexuality (or about the freedom to overcome any labels). While on a road trip around Mexico, two teenage boys and an attractive older woman head to the beach, only to discover the secrets of their own passions against the backdrop of Mexicoa��s political and social realities. The movie deftly combines comedy and drama, and it shows how traveling opens us up to new experiences by fighting societal and interal worries or doubts.

Seashore (Beira-Mar)

Two men talking in an empty field
This lovely film from Brazil tells the story of two young men on a road trip trying to recover legal documents from relatives, with a detour to the beach. The journey gives them the opportunity to reconnect while solving their own internal struggles. One of the boys is gay, and the story follows his internal dilemma of sharing that fact with his friend. Part of the magic of this movie is that ita��s a sweet and positive depiction of gay youth. The pain of coming out is mostly absent, and the whole experience is presented as natural and easy, with very little tension. Therea��s a sweetness to the story, a youthfulnessa��and, importantly, also a realness. Not everyone has a bad experience coming out. And those stories are just as worth sharing as the others.

Todo Sobre Mi Madre

A woman standing in front of a large poster
Ita��s impossible to talk about LGBT movies and travel without making a reference to the work of Pedro AlmodA?var. Many of his movies reflect gender, politics, and pain. Todo Sobre Mi Madre tells the story of a tragicomic drag queen and prostitute, Amparo, surrounded by a couple of lesbian theater actresses, a pregnant nun, and a mother (portrayed by Argentinian actress Cecilia Roth), all while searching for a trans woman who is the biological father of her son. The tragic story is set in two beautiful Spanish cities, Madrid and Barcelona, and through the protagonist, we learn that every trip has a different meaning at different points in our lives.

Happy Together

Two men dancing in a kitchen
As for Asian cinema, the must-see film is this 1997 classic by Wong Kar-Wai. A gay couple from Hong Kong travel to Argentina, with the objective of visiting the IguazA? waterfalls and resetting their relationship. Their physical trip abroad is a metaphor for their spiritual trip, and includes episodes of depression, emotional pain, and abuse. The story is tumultuous but reveals the power of resilience and shows us how traveling can affect both past and present relationships.

August

A bartender standing behind the bar
August is another gay-themed movie about separation and reunification. After living for many years in Spain, Troy travels back to Los Angeles and begins a journey that explores the boundaries of relationships and the ugly difference between reality and expectations. For me, travel here is a symbolic way to break old habits and learn more about ourselves and others. Returning from a long trip always has its complications, especially when old relationships show up again. But ita��s our journeys abroad that add to our own personal stories, and things always change before, during, and after a big trip.

***

We often travel Cost of bupropion xl 300 mg to different places in other to imagine how life would be for us there, to discover new cultures and social contexts and to explore unknown parts of our own being. Many LGBT-inspired films do exactly the same. Today, ita��s easy to explore both the real or fictional worlds of gay lives in many films from different cultures, cities, and social contexts as more and more LGBT films make it to mainstream screens. But even if you dona��t identify as LGBT, I encourage you to seek out these films that follow unique and personal stories, themes we can all relate to no matter our sexuality or gender.

Maybe the more LGBT movies you watch, the easier it is to interact with others who are different or have a background thata��s hard to assess. The same goes for travel. The more international friends and acquaintances you have and the more diversity in your life, the easier to understand and empathize with other cultures.

Note: Some of these films arena��t 100% accurate in their depictions of LGBT people and may seem dated, but many of them have had a positive impact on LGBT culture and continue to be important.

Adam Groffman is a former graphic designer who left a publishing job in Boston to settling in Berlin, Germany. Hea��s a gay travel expert, writer, and blogger and publishes a series of LGBT-friendlyA�Hipster City GuidesA�from around the world on his gay travel blog,A�Travels of Adam. When hea��s not out exploring the coolest bars and clubs, hea��s usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene. Find more of his travel tips (and embarrassing stories) on Twitter @travelsofadam.

Photo Credit: 1