Tag Archives: Vacation

5 Tips for the Aspiring Traveler.

Whether you’re an aspiring or seasoned traveler, the fact is, travel planning takes a lot of work.  For me it’s something that I really enjoy doing, but it is work none the less.  Though it does take a lot of time, I actually get excited about the process; exploring different activities, researching the cheapest flights, finding the best places to stay, exhausting every resource searching for the best price on everything.   

Here I have listed a few pieces of advice for the person who is serious about wanting to travel but doesn’t know where to start.  These are just a few of the resources that I use, and ways that I always manage to have a trip on the books, even on a tight budget.  My 5 tips for the Aspiring Traveler can help you stop thinking about your next adventure, and be on your way to making it happen.

Bathway Beach, Grenada, West Indies

 1.  Be Flexible, But Don’t be Easy.

Almost every trip that I’ve ever taken has started with a great deal on a flight.  Now don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that you should go just anywhere because the price is right; no. This means keeping an eye out for airline specials departing from your closest airports and then doing your research on the destinations.  Instead of looking for a place to go and then planning your vacation around that, keep your options open and let the place find you.  You will be surprised at the beautiful places that you can discover when you step out of your comfort zone and go somewhere that you’ve never heard of before.  I knew absolutely nothing about Grenada, West Indies until last year when it came up on one of my travel alerts.  I did a little research (e.g. Is it safe?  What is the average cost of lodging?  What language do they speak? What is the weather like?  Where the hell is it!?), and a half an hour later I purchased my tickets.   Three months later I was on a secluded beach watching a 6 foot leatherback turtle give birth by moonlight. If you do your homework and keep an open mind you will be surprised at the things that you can discover. These are the memories that I am most thankful for.

Giant Leatherback Turtle, Levera Beach, Grenada, West Indies

2.  Sign up for Travel Alerts.

No one has the time to check every website for travel deals 24/7.  With the amount of travel sites nowadays you could spend every day-all day sorting through endless amounts of information and never even set foot outside of your own home.  The key is to find the resources that will narrow down your search and bring the information to you.  Signing up for travel alerts on a few different websites will save you time and can make an otherwise endless search much more productive.  My favorite site to use when signing up for flight specials is Airfarewatchdog.com.  This site lets you set up your specific search criteria and customize your e-mail alerts to your own needs. I like to have mine set up to alert me daily of every flight-deal departing from my home airport, and those within a 50 mile radius.  This way if I’m not sure about where I want to go next (which I’m usually not), I can get inspiration simply from the list of destinations that are on sale.  You can also set up your alert for specific destinations, dates, airlines; whatever you want.  Just keep in mind that the more you narrow down your options, the less options that you will have (duh).  Another great site that you can tailor to your own preferences is Travelzoo.com.  This site not only shows you great deals on flights, but also great deals on hotels and resorts, car rentals, activities and entertainment.    A few other sites that I feel are worth signing up for are Carrentals.com for deals on car rentals, Trivago.com for accommodations and Kayak.com for their flexible search options.

Grenada, West Indies

3.  Keep a travel stash, and don’t be afraid to use it!

Just like having children, you might find that there is never a right time to travel.  The two main excuses that I hear for why it is a bad time to travel are: (1) I’m too busy; and (2) I don’t have the money. These are both legitimate obstacles, but if you are diligent about saving and doing your research, they should not have to prevent you from doing what you love.  About 6 years ago I began keeping a travel fund, a separate savings account dedicated solely to funding my adventures.  Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that not everyone is in a position to do this.  But if you are able to put $50 per month away for travel, and maybe throw in a little bit extra from time to time (skip a latte once a week), then you should have no problem taking a small trip every year or a larger one every two years.  In addition to having a separate savings account, I also have a designated credit card that I use only for traveling.  This is a card that I earn airline points on, that way I am also earning points toward future travel while spending money on the trip at hand.   Most airline credit cards also give you double points when purchasing flights on their airline, which is also perfect if you see a great deal on a flight but don’t quite have enough saved yet.  This method should only be used if you are very responsible about paying your credit card bill each month and if you have a low-interest rate, it can be easy to get in over your head.  Two cards that I use and recommend are Citi/AAdvantage for American Airlines miles and the United Mileage Plus card for miles with United Airlines.  Both start you out with a good amount of bonus miles and they also save you money by getting you free checked baggage and priority boarding (when you are flying with their airline). The American Airlines card seems to have more opportunities to earn bonus miles and the United Airlines card doesn’t charge for foreign transactions.

Isla Marisol, Belize
Isla Marisol, Belize

4.  Pull the trigger.

This one goes back to excuse number one mentioned above “I don’t have time.”  While there is no real solution to this problem, I have found that if I don’t make time for the things that I love, then I will spend my entire life busy with other people’s moments.  I can’t tell you how many weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, etc., that I’ve missed while I was away on vacation.  But one thing I can say is that I don’t regret missing any of those things.  The really great deals, the ones that seem too good to be true; they are few and far between, and when they are around it’s not for long.  Four years ago I got round trip tickets for my friend and I from Chicago to Maui, HI for $450.  I saw the deal on Travelzoo.com, I called my friend to see if she was up for camping on the beach, and 15 minutes later we had two roundtrip tickets to Hawaii for about the price of one.  If you see a great deal, you need to snatch it up fast, so make sure that you have a travel stash saved up for just such occasions.  Just one thing to check before you pull the trigger, make sure that flights aren’t cheap because it’s a bad time to visit (e.g. monsoon season, or it’s known for having ungodly high or low temperatures that time of year).  Just be smart, hop on the interwebs for a second to check your “facts,” and then go for it, it’s now or never.

One Ali'i Beach Park, Molokai, Hawaii
One Ali’i Beach Park, Molokai, Hawaii

5.  Do your Homework.

Some of the most amazing things that I have seen in this world did not cost me a penny, and most of those places weren’t easy to find either.  The fact is that the best kept secrets are secrets for a reason.  The travel industry doesn’t want you to know that you can have fun without spending money, and the locals don’t want you knowing where they go to get away from the tourists.  This is why it’s important to do your homework when you are planning what to do and see on your trip.  Of coarse, look on all of the big guys like Tripadvisor and  LonelyPlanet, but also try digging a little deeper.  Look through blog posts and travel forums for topics on your location and talk to people who have been there recently.  Try to find books, blogs or articles written by someone who lives there and try to find a local newspaper on the web.  You will be surprised how much fun you can have when you really go off the beaten path and immerse yourself in a different culture, (it’s usually cheaper that way too).  Just remember when you’re in a different country to be courteous and respectful of other people’s beliefs.  I’ve been to over 12 countries in the past 6 years and one thing that I can say is that the people have all been very different.  Embrace it and learn from it, this is all part of the experience.

Grenada, West Indies
Grenada, West Indies

I am often asked how I am able to travel so much, and how I decide where I will go next.  My answer is usually met with the response “ooo…you’re sooo lucky!”  —sigh— While I certainly don’t find the term “lucky” to be offensive, I just don’t feel that it’s very accurate.  While I will admit that I do have great luck (that time I found a hundred-dollar bill before I left for Vegas, the fact that I was able to get tickets to that Foo Fighters show at Cubby Bear, nbd), I just don’t feel like my great vacations have anything to with good fortune.  I do realize that most of what I’ve mentioned is easier said than done, but when is there reward without a little hard work?  I feel that travel is so important in making this world a better place and molding who we are as human beings.   I hope that these 5 tips for the Aspiring Traveler can help you stop dreaming about a life of travel and start making it a reality.  Lets get lost.

-Team Lost

Grenada, West Indies
Grenada, West Indies



“Just a basic swimming test?”  I said looking at E with a face that said “GOD HELP ME.”  This is what the man at the complex had told us when he signed us up to do the activities.  “I want some adrenaline, not just a scenic float,” I had told the man.  I wanted to do a class IV or V because the only other time I had rafted was a class III in West Virginia and it was boring as shit.  “Okay, that trip just requires a swimming test,”  he said not even looking at me as he scribbled with his pen.  “Like what kind of swimming test?” I asked. “Oh, just like to make sure you can swim.  You know, just a basic swimming test,”  he said, finally looking up and sliding the forms across the table for me to sign.  “That’s fine, I’ve been in swimming lessons since I was 2,” I said looking over at E smugly. I signed my life away and slid the papers back across the table.

Now, as I looked at this churning river that I had just been asked to voluntarily jump into, I was beginning to wish I had paid more attention in those swimming classes.  And in my C.P.R. classes.  And to the fine print on those forms.  But whatever, E and I had only been dating about a year at this point and I’ll be damned if that river was going to make me look like a pussy.  “This run is usually about a IV/V but today it’s a hard V, maybe higher.  Are you guys sure you want to go today?”  The guides had been walking up and down the river bank muttering to each other and pointing at random objects in the water.  All my senses were telling me that this was a bad idea. E and I looked at each other with a smirk that said neither of us were backing down.  “Yeah, let’s do it!”  I could barely hear my own voice over the roaring of the river.

“Okay so you’re just going to jump in here,” he pointed to a spot in the river directly in front of us.  “Float down to about where those ropes are and then swim to shore.”  he said pointing down the river to where his girlfriend was now waving at us and smiling.  We were there in between seasons so we were the only two people on the tour that day and we had picked up Romaine’s girlfriend on the way to the river.  Romaine and her were going to take pictures and survey the river ahead of us while our guide, “Tico Rambo,” would be in the raft with us.  I’m not going to lie, having my life in the hands of a guy named Rambo did make me feel slightly better about the situation.  “Okay, I can do this,” I thought to myself recounting the instructions they had given me. “Feet first at all times, hands crossed on my chest and NEVER take a breath when going into a rapid.  Take a deep breath before and then hold it until your through the rapids.”

I began wading forward into the river “I want to go first” I said looking back at E and the guides.  I knew that if I didn’t go right at this moment I might lose my nerve.  The river was strong, like REALLY strong.  It felt like a 300 pound man was hanging over a cliff by my ankles.  I inched forward until I was standing in the spot that Romaine had pointed to before, looked down the river to where the lady was standing next to the rope, and I sat down.  No sooner did my ass touch that water than my legs swept out from under me and I was speeding down the river.  “Okay,”  I thought, “my legs are in front of me, my arms are crossed, now I just make sure that I don’t take a breath before GULP…..fuck.”  The rapids were unpredictable.  So much so, that what looked to be just a tiny ripple in front of me turned into a tidal wave and washed over my head just as I was taking my first deep breath.  I could not breathe.  It was like that scary sensation that you have when you get the wind knocked out of you, except I couldn’t even gasp for air because I was mostly under water.  I didn’t get a breath in and now I was in the thick of it.  My feet were hitting boulders, my life-vest was up around my chin, and that lady with the rope still looked ages away.  “Fuck-it I’m swimming now,” I thought.  I literally had no air in my lungs, only water.  Every time my head popped up and I tried to take a breath it was like trying to turn over the engine of a car with a dead battery, nothing. I saw a small gap up ahead where there weren’t too many rocks and made the quick decision to go for it.  Here’s where all of those swimming lessons better pay off goddamnit.  It was now or never, I rolled onto my stomach and paddled for dear life toward the river bank.  I was trying to swim freestyle but between the current and the life-vest I’m sure I looked more like one of those dogs that you saw on the news getting rescued from the floods during Hurricane Katrina.  I still couldn’t breathe and my body was starting to go into fight or flight mode, but the harder I swam the more I needed to breath.  The next set of boulders was seconds away and I started flopping around like a fish, paddling and kicking and basically using my whole body to propel me forward.  I wasn’t going to make it all the way to shore, and I definitely wasn’t going to make it through those upcoming rapids while floating sideways on my stomach.  Just then, a boulder, the most beautiful and glorious boulder, appeared just before me out of nowhere.  I’m fairly certain that it was made of solid gold and had a halo around it. It was right next to shore and I knew if I could make it to that rock that I would be able to make it the rest of the way. I reached out just in time to grab it before being shot through the next set of rapids.  I clawed and clutched to the boulder for dear life, finally I was able to gasp.  I choked and spit and my chest made a raspy gurgling sound that I had only heard in old episodes of E.R.   All of the water in  my lungs was coming up and out of my throat, eyes and nose and I couldn’t tell if I was crying or just draining.  I looked up, still clinging to the boulder, to see everyone on shore cheering and giving me the thumbs up.  “Great job!”  they said, “that was perfect!”  E was doubled over laughing.  I’m pretty sure that he was the only one who had seen the look of terror in my eyes.  “Good job?!”  I said in between gasps of air. “Yeah, you passed!  Your turn E!”  “What the hell do you have to do to fail, DIE?!”

E passed his test with flying colors (he is one of those annoying people who is just inherently good at EVERYTHING)  and the rest of the trip went on to be one of the (if not THE) most terrifying and exhilarating things that I have ever done in my life.  There are rapids with names like “Dragons Tail,”  “El Chorro,” and “Devil’s Butthole.” (Okay, so I made that last one up, but you get the point).  It’s intense, and you have to stop and survey most of the rapids before you can even go through them.  This means maneuvering boulders on foot and trying to keep your balance in the current.  I was so focused on staying alive that I didn’t even notice how beautiful the scenery was until the end, nor did I notice Romaine and his girlfriend taking our pictures the entire way down the river.

Here we go!


And then, just as it had begun, it was over.  The river, almost in an instant, went from angry and spiteful to docile and beautiful.  It opened up to a calm, wide area with a waterfall to our left and the tree-lined shore to our right.  Tico Rambo led us in putting our paddles up, “PURA VIDA!!” we all yelled laughing (and crying a little) hysterically.

“oh look, a waterfall!”


Once on shore we all shared our favorite and scariest moments, even the guides had a couple scares which made me feel slightly better about the fact that I was still shaking like a leaf.  We went through all of the pictures that they had taken.  Romaine had a laptop so we were able to view all of the pictures before we decided to buy them and they burned them for us on the spot. Because our photographers had gone unnoticed the pictures were fantastic.  It’s interesting to see the faces you make when your life is flashing before your eyes, never before has the look of sheer terror been captured on film.



H20 Adventures is a local based company near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica that operates white water rafting and tubing tours down the nearby rivers.  Although the tour that we did was intense, they also offer several family friendly options and tours for the less adventurous.  The guides are knowledgeable, fun, and make you feel right at home from the time that you arrive, until the time that you leave.  They will tell you all about the land and history of the area along the way to the river and they will explain about the plants and animals that you see while you are there.  They even picked fresh fruit from a tree and we had it for lunch!

I wrote this story not to discourage anyone from doing a tour with H20 Adventures, but to encourage those who are up to the challenge.  I did this tour almost 6 years ago while in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, and it remains to be one of the most fun things that I have ever done.  I still get that feeling of adrenaline when I look through the pictures and even as I tell this story.  Costa Rica was one of the first trips that I ever took, and it holds a special place in my heart.  If you are in the area, take a tour with H20 Adventures and ask for Tico Rambo, just make sure that your life-vest is on tight.  PURA VIDA!!

-Team Lost

H20 Adventures

Downtown Quepos, Costa Rica

On the road to Manuel Antonio…

Toll Free: 1(888) 532-3298

Email: info@h20cr.com

Check out their great reviews on YELP!