Travel Insurance – Should You Get It? and How We Massively Overspent

As I’ve mentioned before, I still can’t get over the fact that we spent almost $700 on travel insurance, a major part of our budget for SE Asia and still a significant portion of our larger budget for New Zealand. After many hours of research, questions to friends and relatives, and even a poll here on the blog, I’ve come to the disappointing conclusion that we paid WAY too much for our travel insurance. How, you ask? It went something like this:

  1. Travel insurance is complicated.
  2. It’s hard to tell if it’s necessary, but the decision is emotional with respect to peace of mind, for you and possibly your family at home.
  3. It can be quite expensive, especially if you’re not smart about it for cheap trips.
  4. Points 1-3 led me to waste HUNDREDS of dollars purchasing too much insurance.

Here’s what I should’ve done instead and how I’ll buy insurance in the future.

Continue reading Travel Insurance – Should You Get It? and How We Massively Overspent

OGRES Scoring National Parks – Round 2 – Outside the US

Let me just admit it, ranking things and picking bests and worsts is challenging, and addictive, plus it starts some great discussions. After visiting 15 US National Parks last summer, Adam and I came up with the OGRES Score to rank the national parks on the criteria that made for our best experiences and most recommended parks.
Now that we’ve visited and blogged about three more national parks: Mulu National Park in Malaysia and then Tongariro and Abel Tasman National Parks in New Zealand, I thought it would be appropriate to rate those parks against what we saw in the US and see how they stacked up.

You can jump to the recap of the methodology and summary of the old results, and the scores for the new contenders and the final ranking. If you’ve visited some or any of these parks, let me know how you think they compare!

Random note: Just in case anyone is still anxiously awaiting more on travel insurance, I’m expecting to talk about that next week.

Continue reading OGRES Scoring National Parks – Round 2 – Outside the US

Random Question – Do you buy Travel Insurance?

Ever since I looked at our budget for SE Asia, I’ve been mulling over the fact that insurance was a hefty 12% of our expenses, and specifically that we paid World Nomads almost $700 for four months of travel insurance.

I realize it is very possible that this is the least exciting topic I’ve ever mentioned on the blog.  However, I have a very strong suspicion that we majorly overpaid for travel insurance, mostly because I purchased a bundle of services that we didn’t need. I’ve been reading more and more about travel insurance in general, and realized I still barely understand how it works.

I probably should’ve figured this out before we took off.

So now I want to try something crazy and try a reader poll to see if anyone else reading this blog has travel insurance figured out. As long as I’m not the only confused wanderer out here, I will try to explain everything I’ve learned about travel insurance and why we spent too much on insurance for our trip in an upcoming post.

Continue reading Random Question – Do you buy Travel Insurance?

Backpacking SE Asia – What We Spent in 3.5 Months

And now, it’s time for that end of trip post about the budget. I hope that writing about how much it costs to live our life of moderate luxury and high adventure inspires someone to get out and travel or helps them plan their next trip. I’ve said it before, but writing about budgets always reminds me that Adam and I are incredibly lucky to be able to wander the world and I’m thankful for that every day.

So anyway, here’s what we spent in total during 81 days in SE Asia:


Our total expense were of $152 per day. Surprisingly, this was in line with our daily spending on our US Road Trip, which was $145.  Like the US trip, there were a lot of times where we spent more than was absolutely necessary. However, SE Asia was much more luxurious since we slept in hotels and ate out nearly every meal, excepting the meditation retreat.

Jump to the spending breakdown on Flights, Insurance, Gear and Other, Spending by Country, and Country Level Hotel and Beer Costs, which are a good metric for the relative costs across countries.

Continue reading Backpacking SE Asia – What We Spent in 3.5 Months

Minimalist Packing Results after 4 Months in SE Asia and New Zealand

After nine months of traveling, I realize that I always want to pack more than I need. I get hung up on “just in case”. I’m sure my bag will always be bigger than Adam’s and this trip was no exception. I did pack light, when Adam and I left on our four month backpacking adventure, his bag was half the size and weight of mine. (Adam’s bag was 15L and 7 pounds, while mine was 33L and closer to 20 pounds.) Surprisingly, even with such a small and carefully curated bag, I had clear must-haves and also quite a few leave-at-homes.

I was originally skeptical that I’d be able to live happily with only a small backpack. I was worried I would be cold, wet, dirty, underdressed or over-exposed for our various adventures. I knew I could purchase more clothes or get a bigger bag, but the process was still stressful. Fortunately, as you’ve probably picked up, packing light worked out perfectly. You can see exactly what’s in my bag and Adam’s bag in these previous posts.

But still, there were quite a few things that I should’ve left at home. Adam’s still largely happy with his packing, except for one unnecessary extra pair of socks. Here’s the full list of things I didn’t need in my bag:  Continue reading Minimalist Packing Results after 4 Months in SE Asia and New Zealand

SE Asia – Roundup and Faves

Thinking back to the past few months, I am still surprised by all the things we experienced on our whirlwind SE Asia tour. We visited 5 countries in about 3 months, starting with Vietnam, and moving on through Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia. Mulu National Park in Malaysia was the late add that really drove our roundabout travel pattern.

Our route was not the most efficient...
Our route into Vietnam, around the bend, and out through Bali was not the most efficient…

Here’s some of my favorite highlights, notable negatives, and favorite adventures from each country. I couldn’t recommend our itinerary in it’s entirety to anyone with a straight face, but I wanted to give a few recommendations for each place.

Jump to: Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia or overall trip favorites.

You can expect a separate post soon about our spending by country, so you can start budgeting for your own SE Asia adventure!
Continue reading SE Asia – Roundup and Faves

Surf’s Up! Beginner Lessons in Bali

When we started out on our Southeast Asia adventure, I didn’t have a lot of specific must dos, but I hoped we’d find a spot somewhere to learn to surf. Fortunately, we made it to Bali, and stumbled across Kuta Beach, a fantastic spot to learn.

I was originally nervous that surfing would be too expensive for our high-value taste. Google surf lessons Bali and you’ll see that many options are $40+ a day for rentals and lessons. Worse, check surf camps in Bali, which is exactly what it sounds like, and you’ll pay hundreds of dollars a day for an all-inclusive experience. I am sure there would be times this expense would be worth it, but we couldn’t do it, especially when we were only paying $25 a night to sleep and $10 for a meal for us both. Continue reading Surf’s Up! Beginner Lessons in Bali

My Favorite Travel Things

Minimalism sometimes seems like it’s about living or traveling without things, but I prefer to think of it as finding those few items that are absolutely amazing. Here’s four I won’t leave home without. They weren’t necessarily the items I expected, and they all fit easily in a minimalist backpack, so maybe pick one up before your next trip!

My Schwab Debit Card

Schwab wins the gold star for being my favorite travel accessory. What? Did you think this post was going to be about fashion?  On our US road trip, I loved that I could use any ATM and get any fees refunded, even though we didn’t use that much cash. What I learned on our SE Asia trip is that Schwab also refunds ATM fees for cash drawn outside the US. Even better, there’s no additional fees on their end and I get an intraday exchange rate on local currency. This is much better than the sketchy guys with a shack in the market or even the official stands at the airport. The fee refund alone saved me $50-80 a month over the 3 months of our trip. The exchange rates also saved us a few hundred dollars since we paid for everything in cash. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that US dollars are also at recent highs compared with almost every other currency, making it a great time to spend them. Continue reading My Favorite Travel Things

Experiencing the Expat Life in Phnom Penh

One of my favorite parts of our US road trip was visiting friends and family. At each and every stop, we got a real look into their homes, lives, friends, and local favorites. It should be no surprise that we’ve really, really enjoyed hanging out in Phnom Penh with our friends Jenny and Mike. Not only have they welcomed us into their day to day experience, but they introduced us to a new set of friends, mostly from Crossfit Amatak, who were just as welcoming. Continue reading Experiencing the Expat Life in Phnom Penh

Trip Update – From Bali to New Zealand

After two and a half months in SE Asia, Adam and I arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand a few days ago, zipped around the South Island in search of sauvignon blanc and adventure, and are now waiting patiently in Auckland for ogres-in-training Sarah and Dylan. Here’s a quick rundown of some of our recent adventures and a few spoilers about future blog posts.

Amazingly, the distance from Phnom Penh to Christchurch is 5,685 miles, or about 22% of the way around the world.
Amazingly, the distance from Phnom Penh to Christchurch is 5,685 miles, or about 22% of the way around the world. In my head they were pretty close…

Continue reading Trip Update – From Bali to New Zealand