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Drumroll please – introducing my shiny, new site!

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing….. ZoomGoes.com!

WordPress, you have been wonderful and I shall continue to use you on my own site…but we will no longer be needing your services as a subdomain.

To my readers:

I’ve decided to make the jump to my own domain because of your warm and loving support! If I didn’t feel my voice was being heard, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I want to be more empowered to bring you excellent content, learn how you are using my site and how I can become a better blogger.

Don’t worry, if you’ve subscribed to my site here, I have made sure that your subscription was moved to the new site – we’re still in this together!! All old posts and pictures have lovingly been moved as well.

Check out the shiny new site and let me know what you think!

See you on the flip-side!

xoxo ❤

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Featured

Why you should bathe baby elephants instead of riding adult ones.

Who would say no to the chance of a lifetime: playing with baby elephants.

There are many opportunities regarding elephants Thailand. You can do everything from simply looking at them to riding them. Elephants have been the national symbol for Thailand for ages. Holding great significance to the Thai people, elephants have long been used during battle, for various jobs (such as hauling logs), and as a type of tourism.

I opted to spend the day at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for my elephant fix. There is no riding at this facility, only mud baths!

Why, you ask, did I not go somewhere where I could ride them?

Riding on the backs of Giants

When picturing elephants in Asia, the mind immediately goes to an image of people riding elephants through the jungle, the natural habitat of the Asian Elephant.

With tourism demands increasing, the need for more domesticated elephants grew and grew. To support the never ending need for Elfies (selfies with elephants), elephants quickly became a commodity. An elephants gestation period sitting around almost two years (21 months), breeding domesticated elephants was too slow going. Where else could one acquire elephants?

You guessed it – from the wild. You’re most likely familiar with the concept of poaching elephants for their ivory, with over 100,00 elephants being killed in just three years. A less known issue is the capturing of wild elephants to support the growing tourism industry. This has lead to a severe endangerment of wild Asian Elephants.

Elephants, like all wild animals, are not just going to be like “oh yeah, hey human, let me do whatever you want and just forget my eons of evolution and instincts!”. Elephants especially, never forget.

The most desired wild elephants are babies, having been taken from their mother as soon as possible and then confined to a cage or a hole in the ground to reduce movement.

The baby elephants are then starved, deprived of sleep, beaten with clubs, and pierced & tortured with bull-hooks (also known as ‘elephant-goads’) to break their spirit. This process is called Phajaan or “the crush”. If you’re feeling morbid, here is a video of the process. I could not finish it. However, I did look at a picture.

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What type of person could hurt this little guy? The kind I want to kill with my bare hands.
As the elephants grow older, they continue to live their lives in slavery and fear. Even if the organization you are looking at claims to be ethical and treat the elephants well now, the domestication process was still the same. Bull-hooks are often still used behind the scenes to assert dominance, and as a control mechanism throughout the day.

Additionally, and I know it’s hard to believe because of their size, but the elephant spine is not meant to support the weight of humans, much less a bench with multiple people seated on it. Same goes for Zebras – just because they look like horses doesn’t mean they are for riding.

EVEN IF elephants had evolved to be ridden, many organizations make the elephants work long hours without breaks so that they can make more money. Humans nor animals should ever be subject to this.

What makes Elephant Jungle Sanctuary different?

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a family run business that prides themselves on acquiring elephants from organizations that previously used elephants for riding. Often times, the elephants have served decades as riding elephants (elephants can live to be 100+!), and are no longer able to work. This is usually the only way to free the elephants from their slavery. Every now and then though, a compassionate success story does shine through – but this is hardly a normal occurrence.

About an hour and a half from Chiang Mai, the sanctuary has 6 different camps with different groups of elephants. I was picked up from my hostel and driven out to our camp – camp number 6 (the best, obviously).

During my day at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, (which cost me 50 USD) I was educated about the history of the elephants, in addition to information about why the activities that we will be doing are different – they are not only ethical, but helpful to the elephants.

My day with the elephants included meeting the babies, feeding bananas to the adults, and giving everybody mud baths! Did you know that elephants can only sweat through their toes? This can make it very hard to cool off, which is where mud baths come in. The mud assists with wicking away excess moisture and provides a cooling element.

After bathing the elephants in mud, we moved to the rinsing pool where they are rinsed off with natural running water. This further aids the cooling process and makes sure that any remains of possible elephant feces have been washed off. Yes, the elephants sometimes poop in the mud pool. Everybody poops, guys.

I have to say, I had some concerns about the elephants being forced to take these baths and get in the mud, but the goofs were playing it in before the group ever got to that part of the itinerary. It is obvious that elephants have emotions, just like us.

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Bashful elephant.
I also had concerns about the same group being forced to bath multiple times a day.When I worked in the service industry, my hands would become chapped from washing them so much. It seems logical elephants would suffer from similar conditions. After speaking the the volunteers, I learned that each group only has one bath per day. Boasting a herd of over 50 elephants, there is plenty of dry skin to go around!

After the feeding, playing and rinsing we were served a delicious Thai lunch and the chance to talk to the volunteers. I asked them all kinds of questions about their time here, the elephants, what other industries are like in Thailand and how I can help. I’m considering coming back here for a week later in my trip to volunteer.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary supports a happy and healthy lifestyle for the elephants. Think of it as a retirement community. The elephants are gently guided, respected and loved. I had a wonderful experience here – and the photos were free!

Despite the upbeat and happy environment of the sanctuary, and the playful nature of the elephants, if you look into their eyes closely, you can see that they will never forget the previous pain and anguish they suffered.

How can I help?

Weighing in at multiple tons (around  200 lbs at birth), adult elephants can consume up to 300 lbs of food per day! That’s like one of me plus an average sized adult!

You know what I’m about to say don’t you? Money makes the world go round. Donations will make the highest impact.

I encourage you to donate to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary since I can personally vouch for their intentions. However, there are many other organizations that are just as legit that could use your dollars.

I want to help, but I can’t make a donation!

As someone who always seems to be on a budget, I totally understand! Don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways you can help these beautiful and intelligent animals. ❤

  • Share this post!!!! Please for the love of God, sharing is caring. You never know who might have a special place for elephants in their heart, or who might be feeling generous for the day.
  • Spread the word about elephant mistreatment. If you know someone who is going to travel to Thailand, mention your newfound knowledge. If you ever hear someone say “I’d love to ride an elephant!” gently try to educate them. Most of the time, they simply do not know much of the information I’ve shared with you today. Hell, I almost rode an elephant myself because I saw pictures of a friend doing it when he visited Vietnam. I admit, it looked fun!
  • Do not ride elephants if you ever have the opportunity. Back home in the states, this goes for the circus, festivals and various carnival attractions. I will try to have an open mind and not judge you if you do it everyone has their own ethics I guess.
  • Volunteer to help animals in your hometown. Elephants aren’t the only ones who need our help!

I know this was a bit of a bitter-sweet post folks. Before you go, I have one last note about animal tourism, specifically tigers because they are still very under represented.

Want to follow me on my travels and learn about being a responsible tourist?

Join me on social media:

Or, sign up for my email list using the subscription button on the sidebar or below – glad to have you behind me! 

xoxo ❤

An American Christmas & a happy new year!

It’s all over?!?!

I’m not sure if I’m happy, sad, relieved or distraught. I’ll be honest here, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. Like, ever. EVVVERRR. I start listening to Christmas music as soon as the wind gets a bite to it (and sometimes even in Summer!). This year though, Christmas felt a little funky.

Since I got back from Asia, a few things have felt a little funky. For better or worse, I find myself looking at my life and the world around me through a different set of glasses than before. Everything from laundry to scrambling eggs to city infrastructure to dating, and yes, even Christmas.

This year, my Christmas was just out of a fairy tale. A beautiful tree, surrounded by family, presents galore and cherry waffles. I got an array of amazing gifts that I’m more grateful for than I have been for any gift I’ve received in the last 27 years.

I kept thinking about what it would be like in Asia – not just weather wise either. Do they have a tree to decorate? What about presents? As Americans, chocolate is a pretty common gift for us to give. What about in Asia – do they give mangoes or sticky rice? What is an Asian Christmas like?

One of the most glaring differences between Americans and Asian cultures is our consumerism. Needing to buy more, bigger and better all the time – I didn’t get a glimpse of this anywhere except Japan. Even then, most products either had “this” or “that” (vs. just “this”) as a choice. Not this, this, this, this, this OR that. Some of  you might remember  the wall of ranch I found in Krogers (overkill guys, waaaay overkill).

Some of you might wonder: “Isn’t Asia a heavily Buddhist country? Do they even celebrate Christmas?” Naturally as a huge Christmas nerd, I had the same question! While I was in Japan, I asked my Japanese host about this. She said “the country is mainly Buddhist, but we’re flexible, so we’re Christian in December! Japanese like presents.” (haha, her words!) The family I stayed with in Vietnam also has a beautiful Christmas tradition. So, just like America, not everyone celebrates Christmas, but most people do in one way or another.

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Children with Santa from the school I worked with in Vietnam

 

If  you’ve ever seen Family Guy (an adult cartoon) there is an episode where a child from Mexico receives a “ball in a cup” as a gift – and he is just so excited about it! The joke being that his family can’t afford anything better than that, and that the ball in a cup is one of the best things he’s gotten in his life so far. For me, that joke used to be stereotyping-racist, but funny. Now, it’s ‘oh-shit-just-got-real’ not so funny anymore.

When I looked at all my presents I got this year, I thought of families in Asia. By American standards, the southeast Asian countries are poor. The children that I taught at the school in Thailand would have probably killed to have a Christmas like I did- this made me feel guilty. Like I was unworthy.

Why should I get all this stuff while there are people out there who aren’t getting anything? People who would ask Santa for medicine, clean water, or bread instead of Furbys, Pokemon games, and designer jeans.

Even in America, there are plenty of people asking for the same things. The homeless, the mentally ill, elderly people, orphans and so many more. While I always knew this, it was just a concept or a fact. Having now seen extreme poverty first hand, it’s become much more real to me.

So, instead of sitting around feeling guilty about my status, I’m putting that feeling to work! For my new years resolution, I’m going to take an active role this year to help those less fortunate in any way I can. Monetary donations, volunteering, donating food, supplies – or something – every month for the next year. I challenge you to do the same!

If you’re not able to (or ready to) contribute in a physical capacity, at least challenge yourself to have a conscious appreciation for what you have in your life. The fact that you have a device to read this post on and an internet connection is a good place to start 🙂

Happy New Years everyone – welcome to 2017, the year of appreciation.

 

 

 

6 things you’ll want to know about working in a food truck.

Food trucks, those grubby ol’ things?

Yes, food trucks. It’s been a hot topic for me lately, one I wanted to share with you!

BUT FIRST!

We’ve got a lot to catch up on guys! I can’t believe it’s already been over two months since I got home. It seems like just yesterday I was eating breakfast at cat cafes.

After arriving home, I fell into the deep hole of post-trip depression. Not to say I’m entirely out of the rut, but I’m making the climb. I found myself back living at my parent’s house, unemployed, and poor.

After having so many amazing ‘checks’ on my record – a great job in the heart of Chicago, traveling through Asia, breaking through barriers I never thought I’d be able to break through – it felt like suuuuuch a step back to be where I was. In a basement. At my parents house. In Ohio. Surrounded by Trump-Pence signs, lots of white people, and McDonalds.

I had to start getting back on my own two feet. The best way to start would be to find a job.

We all know working sucks. I bet only 1 out of 100 of you reading this (ha, I wish there were 100 of you reading this lol) truly love their job. Isn’t that unfortunate? So many people across the world spend their lives working somewhere they hate, or worse, somewhere they are just going through the motions with no feelings at all.

I didn’t want that to me be.

Starting the job hunt, I was picking from the top of the tree. I only applied to jobs that I thought I’d enjoy doing. Hopefully I’d get one of these before I found myself in the position of applying to everything and been desperately forced to accept a job I would hate.

Scrolling through hundreds of job listings across various fields, I was focused on certain aspects of a role before I applied to it. No uniform. Not a corporation. A small team of less than 50 employees. Accepting of dreadlocks and tattoos. Offered the chance to have new experiences – maybe travel a bit. Somewhere I could learn new skills. And, last but not least, somewhere that aligned with my personal hobbies and goals.

I finally found it – Mohawk Freestyle Grill!

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Working on a food truck

Food trucks sometimes get a bad rap. There’s a lot of mystery around them. People might think they’re dirty, or worse, that the food isn’t as good as if it was from a restaurant. While each of these might be true for some food trucks, it isn’t true for all of them and it certainly isn’t true for us at Mohawk Freestyle Grill.

Most misconceptions (not just about food trucks) are conceived and birthed from a lack of knowledge and experience. I’m here to help shed some light on the mystery of food trucks!. 🙂

1. The food is better than restaurant quality – love really is an ingredient.

Okay guys let’s think about this.

Restaurants: Often times a chain corporation, usually employ about 50 employees. In restaurant kitchens, there’s usually a manager but often times it’s not the owner of the business. I can tell you that the kids in the kitchen are as invested in your meals up to as much as they are getting paid.

VS

Food trucks: Only employ a handful of people. This means that these few select employees are always on the job, becoming experts at what they do. Additionally, the owner is almost always on the truck – either cooking the food or taking your order.

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Aaron Hanover, a classically trained chef, is the proud owner of Mohawk Freestyle Grill – but he’s not the only food truck owner who takes pride in his truck and aims to REPRESENT! at every event. Having the head honcho on board all the time raises the standards of the truck, making sure that delicious food is coming out just the way it was meant to.

2. The food truck-ers are a strong community.

Most food trucks have teams of 2-8 people. In terms of company size, this industry is one of the smallest I’ve encountered across my 20+ jobs in my lifetime. While in a big corporation it’s easy to just become a numbered machine, food truck employees don’t have that luxury. Most of them are honest people just like you and me, trying to make a living doing what they’re passionate about.

Working in a food truck, you’re in the front lines. Being there in the grit of it allows you to see how your success is the truck’s success. You really can’t help but to feel a sense of pride and ownership. They look out for each other and help where they can.

3. You’re going to touch butts.

Yeeppppp, there’s definitely going to be some of that. A food truck is not a big space and sometimes it can get real personal when you’re doing the dance of “it’s 8 pm at a high school football game, why are we getting slaughtered right now?”

There are brushes, grazes and excuse me’s sometimes, and that’s just part of it.

4. It’s not always like that Bob’s Burgers episode (but sometimes)

I looooove Bob’s Burgers. As in, it’s pretty much always playing in the background at my house.

One episode, Bob buys a food truck and they take the show on the road. While getting the truck ship shape, they accidentally blow it up because they turned the grill on while the engine was running – a big no no because of how they had to wire it!

ouA6U

When I met Aaron for the first time he told me that he did a lot of the work in the truck himself. I immediately pictured this scene in my head. While we haven’t had any explosions, we’ve had to get creative with our problem solving. Yes, that door latch is made of Velcro. You gotta do what you gotta do!

5. We’re all in this together – buy local!

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from my experience so far is that we’re all in this together.

When we come to an event to serve good food, we’re serving it to our neighbors, our friends, our family. When you get a meal from a food truck, your supporting the people you see there – not some guy in a big chair, or on a golf course.

While the world is a small place, we can make it a little smaller by helping each other out. Here comes the hippie: buy local and help support your community!

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6. It can be incredibly inspiring

I talked earlier about how I felt that I had fallen, or taken a step back when I got home and set up shop in Ohio.

While working on a food truck may not have the same glamour that a “big-girl-downtown-Chicago” job does, the last few months working under Aaron has been incredibly inspiring. He and his wife put in long hours, extraordinary effort, and are fierce in their passion to make this dream come true.

I’m learning new skills that I’m able to practice at work or at home, like how to properly cut onions or clean a pineapple, making my personal hobby of cooking more satisfying. In a way, I feel like I’m doing an apprenticeship to learn a great, long-forgotten, craft. Maybe I’ll even open my own food truck someday!

Closing meditation exercise –

Now, before we part ways we’re going to do a little meditation exercise together. Read carefully!

You want to go online and look for food trucks in your area.

You want to eat out of the food trucks and support your community.

You are getting very hungry…….

Happy munching!

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Who won the giveaway?

Congratulations Bitsy! You’re the winner of our adventure clutches giveaway!

A few weeks ago, Zoom Goes held it’s first giveaway. Thank you Bitsy for entering, being a Zoom Goes supporter – and congratulations on your win! Send us a picture of you sporting your shiny new clutches!

ZoomGoes Giveaway

In keeping with my full transparency policy, the giveaway was an activity designed to help build my email subscription list. I’d say it was successful at bringing my list up to 32 subscribers! Thank you everyone who participated, don’t worry we’ll be having another giveaway soon (and because you’re on the list, you’re automatically entered, ba-zing!). In the meantime, welcome to the Zoom Goes tribe!

Traffic and Social Media Report

As part of our mission to grow Zoom Goes, we’d also like to share with you some numbers for where we are right now regarding traffic and social media followings. For us, this is a good record of a baseline. For you, I hope you’ll find it insightful if you’ve ever wondered about starting a blog of your own!

Without further adieu (all numbers represent the month of September):

Email list subscribers

We started the month of September at 9 email subscribers. Today, we’re at 32! While the giveaway definitely worked, it wasn’t entirely self-serving.  We’re so happy to hook someone up with something they love! Congrats again Bitsy!!! 😀

Blog Traffic

Unique visitors (individual people who visit the site): 351

Views (if you click on the home page, and then another page, that’s 2 views): 1,170

This is a great baseline. I look forward to seeing what our numbers will be for October! Grow baby, grow!

Facebook

Facebook is my primary referrer for traffic and sharing content – I think it’s a generational thing. Simply put, all the other platforms are complicated. Hashtag this, hashtag that….we all know who I’m talking about.

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Instagram

Oh hey Instagram, we were just – uh….So, how’s it going lately with those hashtags and the giant world of an internet filing system?

Hashtags are a giant part of how Instagram operates and how your content gets found by the people you want to find it. And there’s no real manual on how to do it! During my research into hashtags and Instagram, I found that it was actually a little bit of a mind game.

When trying to get your posts viewed, you have to think “if I were looking for this exact thing, what would I search for?”

Sounds simple right?

 

ZoomGoes | Instagram

Pinterest

Surprised to see Pinterest at the party? Okay, maybe I’m just projecting my own surprise on to you. When I found out that people were using Pinterest to promote their blogs I was bloggled (see what I did there?)! Wasn’t Pinterest just for recipes and awesome dreadlock beads?

Turns out that’s not the case – I get pretty decent traffic from Pinterest referrals. If you’re not following me there, you should! If you’re trying to promote your own business, etsy store, recipes or anything else online make sure that you put Pinterest to work for you.

Zoom Goes | Pinterest

Twitter

 

Twitter, can you talk right now? Do you have enough characters? Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter is more about conversation than information. Still though, it’s great for little announcements, reminders and pics!

There’s a lot of “twitter talks” that happen regularly. Users tweet about travel, hobbies, awards and more. Similar to Instagram, these talks are all categorized with hashtags. #TravelTalks for example. I’d love to get more involved in these!

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Income report

Last, but not least, is what everyone is interested to know about – income! How much money did my blog make in the month of September?

Google Adsense: $0.51

Amazon Affiliates: $0.00

In the Amazon Affiliates program, I get a commission for any items that sell using a referral link that I place in my site. So far, I’ve only done three of these – The Rose Cup, Bandelettes (the biggest seller) and Packing Cubes. Usually, there is a spike in this number when do a product review, but I only do those when I’m truly moved by a product. I don’t want to do it just for the money, ya know?

I’m laughing a little! I know, I know – it’s pennies, but that’s okay! There’s more in it for me than the money – you guys!

Thank you again everyone for helping me have a wonderful first giveaway!

Do you have any questions about blogging? Leave me a comment 🙂

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The Best Of: Vietnam

Oh Vietnam..we’ve had some interesting experiences together.

Cities visited: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Bac Ninh, Hue, Hoi An

I had a rough time in Vietnam. From puking my way out of an abduction to being kissed by strangers for photos, I ended up leaving Vietnam early because I couldn’t take all the attention.

Despite that (or maybe because of that?), my time in Vietnam was one of the most unique experiences I had on my trip. I was lucky enough to stay with a host family during my time in Hanoi – talk about immersive education. I learned to prepare snails, squid, and other unique foods. I ate Pho for breakfast and enjoyed homemade wine at night while we played cards.

My host family took me to her sister’s house in a rural town that obviously doesn’t see many tourists. Her sister has a school there where she teaches. I taught a lesson during my visit and it was a much better experience than when I taught in Thailand.

After the lesson we went back to her house for a family feast. While I didn’t completely follow the conversation, I still felt like I was part of the family. We spent the afternoon napping, eating lychee and talking.

Her sister asked me if I had any ideas for names of her school. We brainstormed a bit and I suggested incorporating “Blooming” into the name. You know, since the kids are growing and ‘blooming’ like little flowers. She loved the idea and the school is now named “Blooming Kids”. If you’re interested, you can check out their Facebook page! I’m so proud to have been a part of that.

It’s memories like those I won’t find anywhere else!

Vietnam also had some of the craziest traffic I’ve ever seen. When you go to cross the street, you just gotta go – they’ll swerve around you. If you try to wait for an opening, you’ll be waiting forever. I almost found out what it was like to be run over by a scooter!

Vietnam, I’d like us to try again and get off on the right foot! In the meantime – keep that traffic moving!

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Everything you need to know about travel insurance.

Have questions about travel insurance? You’re in the right place.

Travel insurance can, like any insurance, feel intimidating or confusing when shopping for it. Fear not, I’m here to help walk you through all of the most popular questions about travel insurance.

What if I already have health insurance? Do I really need it? Where do I get travel insurance? What does it cover? What’s the process like if I need to use it? Is it expensive? 

All of these questions were things I asked myself when I first considered getting a travel insurance policy. You might think I took one out for my trip to Asia (which I did), but I’d actually purchased travel insurance two times before that, with no regrets! Without further adieu, let’s dive in.

Why would I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance is a beautiful blend of health insurance and renter’s insurance. Unlike other policies, travel insurance will cover both you and your belongings while you’re on the go.

If you accidentally smash your tablet, drop your camera, or break your leg while traveling, travel insurance covers all of those. What I like most though is the fact that you’re location independent. Renter’s insurance might not cover my valuables if I’m in Timbuktu, but travel insurance would. The same goes for health coverage.

What if I already have health insurance?

When I was first looking into travel insurance, I was planning my first trip to Burning Man. At the time, my job offered a great health insurance program that I was a part of. Because of this, I wasn’t sure that I needed travel insurance. What was it going to cover that my regular health insurance wouldn’t?

DISCLAIMER: All information in this post is based on personal experience, and I am not a professional insurance broker.

As it turns out, there was quite a bit that my travel insurance policy would cover that wouldn’t be covered by my regular health insurance policy. Since I was heading to Burning Man, I was particularly keen on the benefit of a medical evacuation.

If something had happened to me, my travel insurance policy would have covered a helicopter evacuation – up to $500,000 USD! While I didn’t think anything like that would happen, I didn’t want to be a 3 hour drive from the nearest hospital and find out the hard way.

While the medical evacuation was the big selling point for me, there were other benefits for me too. Travel insurance would help offset any costs I might have incurred beyond what my regular health insurance would have covered. There was also the peace of mind that I wouldn’t have to worry about my health insurance not covering me at Burning Man because it is an “extreme event”. Whereas with travel insurance, they’re used to people doing the extreme!

Do I really need it?

Now this question is a bit tough because, frankly, that’s a choice you’ll have to make for yourself. My stance will always be “better safe than sorry” when it comes to your health, well being, and the risk of your valuables getting stolen or broke.

I recommend comparing any current coverage to that of your potential travel insurance provider. This will give you a clearer picture of the potential benefits.

Where do I get travel insurance?

Just like regular health insurance, there are plenty of insurance providers out there to chose from. Your best bet would be to Google “travel insurance policies”. Most likely, the first result you’ll see is a company called World Nomads.

World Nomads is my provider of choice, I love them. They had me right off the bat by offering a no-strings-attached quote. I hate it when you apply for a “free quote” and it turns into 100 emails a day, never ending phone calls, and weird people at my doorstep. Okay might not people at my doorstep, but you know what I mean!

They have great customer service, a quick response time, and were very helpful to me when I needed to file a claim. They also offer different “levels” of coverage. This way, you can choose the right amount of coverage for your needs.

Is it expensive?

I’m happy to say that, no, it’s not that expensive! Cost depends on where you’ll be traveling, for how long, and what type of coverage you want.

Here’s what I’ve paid with World Nomads:

  • Two weeks traveling in the US: $36
  • One month traveling in the US: $73
  • Five months traveling in Asia: $110

I’ve only had to file a claim once, and that was for an urgent care visit in Hong Kong. The insurance policy was $110, and my claim was for ~$90 – and I got every penny of that! It almost paid for itself!

What if I need to use it? How does that work?

Medical

In most cases (double check with your provider), you’ll need to pay for all medical costs upfront. You’ll then file a claim with your provider to be reimbursed. I admit, I was a little leery of this at first, but World Nomads was great about getting my claim filed and approved quickly.

When you file a medical claim, you’ll typically need to present all of the following:

  • Receipt from your payment method, with the cost clearly printed
  • Diagnosis / Description of the expense (broken leg etc)
  • Signed agreement form that comes with your insurance paperwork
  • Copies of your arranged travel to and from your home country. I sent in screenshots of my flight confirmation emails to and from the US

I sent all of these things to World Nomads and they got back with me in a few days saying my claim in the amount of $88.98 was approved. If you decide to go with a different provider, simply ask them which documents are required for a claim. Make sure to ask them when you take out the policy so you get everything you need during the incident. It would suck to have to track down a clinic in Bosnia just for a piece of paper!

Items

Luckily, I’ve never had to file a claim for a lost item – but I did talk to my World Nomads rep about it when I filed my medical claim. If, for example, an elephant had smashed my cell phone I would have had to provide the following:

  • Proof of current ownership
  • Proof of purchase listing the cost of the item
  • Proof that I was traveling with the item
  • A description of how the item got damaged
  • Signed agreement form

Item coverage is another benefit of travel insurance for me. When I had my near-kidnapping in Vietnam, I didn’t think twice about throwing my backpack over the highway guardrail because I knew anything in there would be covered and replaced.

Any other questions?

I hope you’re feeling more educated and empowered now! If you have any other questions about travel insurance, I’d love to hear them.. Leave me a comment, and share this article with your friends so they can benefit too!

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Everything you need to know about travel insurance | Travel | Health | Insurance | Cheap Travel Insurance | Zoom Goes

The Best Of: Laos

Laos, the country of personal growth.

Cities Visited: Luang Prabang, Phonsavan, Xiangkhoang, Vientiane

For me, the “Best of” series has been about reflection. Having been home for a bit, I’ve been processing my experiences a bit more. These pictures have been a crucial part of the process ❤

While sorting photos for this series, Laos stood out for a very distinct reason. During my time there, I had a lot of experiences that were new for me. Things that pushed me in new directions, and expanded my horizons.

Normally, I travel alone. Entering Laos, I met an amazing group of people on the 2 day slow boat ride from Thailand. We discussed culture, education, Hitler and Dumbledore. Having so many cultures represented at once was it’s own little adventure. It was a delight seeing what references would be caught, what trends carry across the world (Seth Rogan, World of Warcraft), and hearing how people perceive America.

My persona of who I was as an American got reflected back to me often in Laos. Beyond the perspective from my fellow travelers, I visited my first historical museum. The COPE center educated me about the ongoing violence in Laos caused by undetonated bombs left by American bombers. I felt embarrassed, ashamed of the American involvement – an interesting feeling.

While my time in Laos was short, it was powerful… like juice concentrate! An experience I’d be happy to drink up again.

 

 

Laos, I’ll never forget our time together, especially the waterfalls and playing mermaid. Until next time….

Don’t forget, ZoomGoes is having a giveaway! Here’s your chance to enter – the deadline is October 6th, 2016. You can totally win!

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Budget Report: how much does it cost to travel for 5 months?

How much does it cost to travel

“How much does it cost to travel?”

This is by far the most common question that I get asked about travel. I had always read that “you don’t have to be rich to travel” but how true was that really? Let’s find out!

About this report

I decided to break this down by country. Since most of the countries I visited don’t accept American cards, I payed cash for almost everything. I tallied these numbers by looking back on my bank statements and adding up the cash withdrawals according to the dates I was in each country. On my next trip, I’ll keep better track of expenses by category for you guys so we can find out how much they were individually. 🙂

The numbers below include everything you might pay for back home. Food, lodging, entertainment, midnight snacks, transportation, toiletries, clothes etc.

Before I left for my trip, there were a few purchases I had to make that will be included in the total, but aren’t associated with any particular country.

Flight to Bangkok: $414

Flight home from Tokyo: $861.66 (if I had planned better, I could have bought this further in advance and lowered the cost big time!)

Travel insurance: $110

Keep Costs Low

There was also a considerable amount of prep-work that I did before I left, in an attempt to keep costs down. If you’re ever planning some long term travel, I recommend you do the following to keep costs low:

  • Open an account with a company that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. I use Capitol One 360 – this saved me a few bucks every time I used an ATM OR made an online purchase in another currency.
  • Open an account with a company that will reimburse you for your ATM fees. Since I come from a military family, I use USAA. If you’re non-military, take a look at online banks such as Charles Schwab for this perk.
  • Buy one way tickets. My ticket to Bangkok was actually round-trip, even though I didn’t catch my flight to come home. Buying a one way ticket keeps you from having to pay ticket change fees, and from eating the cost of paying for a seat you might choose not to be in once you get on the road.
  • Give up the booze. I started doing this before I left and once I was on the road. Not buying alcohol can literally save you hundreds of dollars!

The final numbers

6 flights, 9 buses and 10 trains later, I present to you: the final costs! How much do you think it will be?

Cost Breakdown by Country

  • USA, San Francisco: $1,329.37
  • Thailand: $666
  • Laos: $641.24
  • Vietnam: $714.37
  • Cambodia: $323.92
  • Malaysia: $136.57
  • Singapore: $527.18
  • Hong Kong: $323.44
  • Japan: $1,978.49

Total Cost: $7,498.40

Is that higher or lower than what you expected?

When I looked at this number, I felt a bit shocked. It seems high (thanks Japan)…but when I think about how much my cost of living was in America – it was actually cheaper to travel!

In Chicago, my apartment expenses started at $600/mo. Once you add in groceries, transportation, entertainment, girls night out, a Netflix subscription, and impulsive video game purchases, life on the road was more affordable – and so much more satisfying!

Looking back on the trip, there’s a lot of things I would do differently to save even more. All in all though, this was still the trip of a lifetime and absolutely priceless!

If you have any questions about the costs, or ideas on how to save even more – leave me a comment!

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The Best Of: Thailand

Oh, Thailand, how I miss thee.

Cities visited: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Saen, Random Jungle Roads on a Motorcycle

Thailand will always be special to me unlike any other country can be. It was the first country I visited outside of the US (I’m not counting Canada because it’s like “America lite”- sorry Canada). Landing in Bangkok, Thailand immediately rocked my world.

Out of everywhere I visited, I spent the most time in Thailand. I literally left the day that my entrance stamp expired. The customs officer even commented on it – I told her that I wanted to stay as long as I could! I love Thailand! She smiled.

Thailand and I had a lot of firsts together. I visited my first cat cafe, taught English even though I didn’t have a college degree (and hated it), tried all kinds of interesting foods, took a cooking class, bathed baby elephants, saw more temples than I needed to, took my first sleeping train, rode a motorbike through the jungle, and ate crazy amounts of Pad Thai.

I also sweat my ass off EVERY. DAY….. WORTH IT!

Thailand was the perfect way to enter my travels into Asia, making Thailand one of the best of the best!

Photo viewing recommendations: If you’d like to view the story behind each photo, click on the photos and look through them like a slideshow. The story is in the captions!

I know in my heart that someday I’ll return to Thailand – I would even consider living there. Next time, I’ll appreciate it even more. In contrast to the other countries I visited, the Thai people were the nicest, the food the most delicious, and the fruit the freshest.

In the meantime, I’m trying to live as Asia-like as possible! Even at this moment, I’m wearing my ‘Aladdin’ pants I got from Thailand. Now, off to make some Pad Thai….I don’t care that it’s three in the morning!

I’m so excited to be bringing you the “Best Of:” series. I love looking through these photos, re-living all these experiences, then sharing them with you. Next week, we’ll be seeing the Best Of: Laos!

REMINDER!

Don’t forget we’re running a giveaway right now for an adorable set of what I’m calling “adventure clutches”. Aren’t they cute?!

ZoomGoes Giveaway

To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is fill out this form. Winners will be announced on October 6th! If you are the winner, I’ll contact you via email for your address. Godspeed, contestants!

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Any context I can include to make these posts better for you? Leave me a comment!

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FREE Giveaway! World Map themed 3-set of clutches by Allen Edward.

Welcome to the very first giveaway on ZoomGoes!

Step right up, step right up for your chance to win this beautiful set of clutches!

Anyone who has ever received a gift from me knows that I suck at waiting to give them. Whenever I have something I know someone will love, I want to give it to them RIGHT NOW!

Oh, I know Christmas isn’t for 8 months, but I got you this awesome Christmas present! Don’t you love it?! Crap… now I need to buy them a Christmas present!

This post was supposed to be released tomorrow (Thursday) but I was just so excited I couldn’t wait that long! I know you guys are going to love these!

Illustrating a world map, and designed by Allen Edward, these clutches are perfect for helping your organize your travel bag or to make an “I love adventure” statement during a night out on the town!

Here’s a funny homemade infomercial:

Why am I having a Giveaway?

On Sunday, I unveiled my plans to turn ZoomGoes into a brand. This requires a change in marketing, content strategy and focus on building an audience. Real bloggers have giveaways, so here we are!

I know you’re not going to want to increase the competition for these little beauties, but why don’t you share this post with your friend? If either of you won, maybe each of  you could have a clutch and rotate Sundays for the third one.

How to Win

To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is fill out this form:

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This will enter you into the giveaway, and subscribe you to my email list. Don’t worry – my Momma taught me the only good spam comes in a can! I’ll never sell your email address or do anything malicious with it, I just want to know how to contact you with kick-ass adventure inspiration!

Email list members (aka ‘my tribe’) receive the following benefits:

  • Automatic entry into all future giveaways
  • The first to receive value items such as eBooks, discount coupons on my services, and How-To guides not posted on ZoomGoes
  • Notifications of new blog entries (posted on Sundays and Thursdays)
  • Private invitations to my webinars
  • and more!

You can unsubscribe at any time if you’re not digging it (but I bet you will!)

Winners will be contacted via email, and announced on ZoomGoes.com on October 6th. If you are selected as the winner, I’ll ask you for your mailing address at that time.

Good luck contestants! Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing ZoomGoes!

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Making my intentions clear to you, my readers.

I thought I wanted to be a travel blogger, but I don’t. I want to be an inspirational blogger!

When I started ZoomGoes several months ago, it was because I was having a bit of an internal crisis. A mini-meltdown. I needed to get away, re-center myself. Swept up in a small wave of depression, I had lost my path in the woods sometime over the last couple of years. More accurately, I wasn’t who I thought I was. After building up the new me, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go.

My life was feeling so static. I felt like I’d been pushing, pulling, spinning my wheels, busting my ass – and hadn’t moved a step forward. WTF?! What was I doing? Where did I want to go? How should I get there? I couldn’t keep going on like I had been.

Finding my way by getting lost.

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About a year before I snapped, I had applied for a passport.

When searching for an escape from my rut, travel seemed like the best option. It gave me the highest chance of getting an outside, fresh, perspective. I wanted to go out and discover how people in other parts of the world do things. I wanted to develop a deeper appreciation of things that, maybe, I was actually taking for granted.

Should I be appreciating my job more? My family? My possessions? My socioeconomic status? I was putting a lot of pressure on this trip to bring things into perspective for me (more on that in another post, because I’m not quite sure where I am yet).

The transformation of ZoomGoes

As a tool to share this journey with friends and family, I created ZoomGoes. Originally, it was just that – for friends and family to know I was alive. There was no goal beyond that. Through my journey of not only traveling, but blogging, it’s grown to be something bigger.

Zoom Goes has allowed me to develop a sense of community. There are times I feel tired, burnt out, lonely, or like I’m just at the top of a mountain shouting while no one listens – that my words are going unread. That I’m not making a difference.

But then, someone leaves a comment. Someone shares my post, or I get a message telling me that I’ve inspired one of my readers to have an adventure. In that moment, my fire is reignited. It is one of the best feelings I have ever felt. To me, this is more rewarding than any paycheck could be.

I want more.

I want to take the blog to the next level.

I want to deepen my community.

I want to extend my reach and inspire more people.

I want to help others accomplish what they think they can’t.

I want to empower people to adventure and live their life fully – on whatever scale that might be.

Before I get into the ‘the plan’, I want to say thank you to each of you reading this ❤

If you didn’t read, didn’t comment, didn’t like or share, I’m not sure I would have the motivation to continue. It would be like talking to wall. Yes, this is something that I love, but if I have no one to share it with, what’s the point? Thank you for sharing your support and love with me!

Goals for the next year.

So, why am I telling you all of this rather than just doing it? I’ve learned over the years that communication and openness is important in any relationship! Since the one we have is so special to me, I wanted to be upfront with you about the drive behind any changes to the site 🙂

Okay, here we go! It’s about to get real. *rubs hands together*

#1 Build my audience through a social media marketing plan.

GOAL: Every month, I want my traffic to be higher than that of the previous month.

ZoomGoes

This year, I want to grow my community. Develop my tribe. Extend my family. I want to increase traffic to the blog. Not just people visiting the site – I want to attract lifers.

Lifers: People I can have a connection with who will be readers for life. 

How will this be measured? Through engagement (comments/likes/shares), page views (how many pages someone views per session), and unique visitors (individual people coming to the site).

 

#2 Become a brand.

GOAL: Develop a product or service.

Zoom Goes will be undergoing the transformation of becoming a brand – a unique identity. As such, I’d like to develop a product, or a service, that I can begin to offer my readers. My eBook, “10+ Free Things You Can Do Anywhere”, is undergoing the final editing process. It’s almost finished!

10_free_things_you_can_do_anywhere_cover by ZoomGoes

 

With my mission being to inspire others to take action on their dreams, specifically relating to adventure and travel, I hope that this book will be a good resource for my cult. As someone who loves free things (could you tell by the title?), the book will of course be free for my audience!

I’ve also toyed with the idea of offering trip-planning consultations. Possibly giving webinars or creating a podcast – something of value to you.

As someone who is reading this now, I would love to hear from you regarding any ideas you have or needs you might want met. What is holding you back from pursuing your adventure dreams? How can I help you overcome your fear? Leave me a comment and tell me your struggles – I’d like to find a solution.

With this overhaul there will be some changes happening to the site over the next few months. I’m going to beg my graphic designer BFF to make me a logo, I’m going to polish up my “about me” page and toy around with the layout of the site.

If you ever see a change you like, or hate, let me know! Feedback and constructive criticism is always welcome!

#3 Build an email list.

GOAL: Have a reliable way to communicate with my community.

Over the last few months, I’ve invested a lot of time into learning about how to have a successful brand. One of the most common reoccurring themes is “get an email list”. This lets me stay in touch with my community, share extra tidbits and resources with them, and gives them a good way to keep in connection with me too.

A feeling of trust, community and genuine connection is important to me – that’s really what I find rewarding from all of this. I will never sell your email, send you spam, forward stupid things to you, or blow your inbox up. Personally, I get enough emails and I’m sure you do too.

You’ll only ever receive notification of new posts, and other things that I’m confident will be of value to you. I’ve currently got 10 email subscribers (counting my mother) and would like to grow this by 10x over the next year.

To jump start my email list campaign, next week we’re going to have our first GIVEAWAY!

If you’d like to get a headstart, you can join my mailing list using the form below. Members of the mailing list will automatically be entered into all giveaways, receive a copy of my book “10+ Free Things You can Do Anywhere”, and be the first to get notified about service discounts along with new posts and adventure tips! Don’t worry: my Momma taught me the only good spam comes in a can. I’ll never sell your email or use it maliciously in any way.

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#4 Stay focused on adventure

GOAL: Continue to have new experiences, share them here, and inspire my audience.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – adventure is an attitude. You can experience adventure on a day to day basis!

While this blog started off with a ‘big adventure’ of me traveling through Asia, it will continue with the adventure theme even while I’m stationary(ish) in the states. I commit to continue to bring you inspirational stories, terrible puns, along with tips and tricks to add some adventure spice to your own life. Just because we’re going to be domestic for the next few months doesn’t mean the party is stopping. I’m an adventure addict, it must continue.

#5 Increase professionalism.

GOAL: Generate high quality, polished marketing graphics and blog images with edited content.

As stated, up until this point the blog has mainly been for my friends and family. Since it was so casual, it was okay if I had some spelling issues (spelling HAS NEVER been my strong point, embarrassingly so) or the pictures were cut off.

NO LONGER!

We’re going full pro now. Slick, professional marketing graphics. High resolution, thoughtful photos. Writing that’s undergone an extreme, ruthless editing process. Bold titles. In fact, bring in the dragons – we’re going big!

I got the mojo! 

I’ve been in the market for a DSLR for a few months. I felt it would be the next tool I should invest in to take my blog to the next level. Of course any camera worth its salt is expensive. Finally, I found a camera on craigslist that is high quality and in my budget.

I email to see if the camera is still available. I’m told it is, and that we can arrange a time for later to pick it up. A few days go by and I never get a response. Damn! Then, there’s an email from her. Enclosed is a note that says they found the camera is broken, and since it’s got no value, she’ll meet me and give it to me for free.

We meet in a public place (cragislist killers, ya know) and I get the camera, a camera bag, a lens, and various other accessories. I take the camera to a repair shop to see if they can fix the pin that is causing memory cards not to be read. In typical American fashion, they explain it’ll be $300 dollars, 8-12 weeks bla bla bla. Of course, that isn’t an option.

Determined, I decide to go to Best Buy. I’ve broken plenty of pins and card readers in my time so why not give it a go? A purchase a $40 CF card…plug it in…and it works!!

I just got a $300 camera for $40!! I’m taking this as a sign it was meant to be!

#6 Make money.

GOAL: Earn enough to invest back into the blog, and be able to focus almost exclusively on its development.

I know what you’re thinking “ahhh, I knew it was too good to be true…this is what it’s all about, isn’t it? MONEY!” I’ll be straight with you – in a sense, yes. However, there is a reason this is at the bottom of the list – it is my last priority. Like they always say: “Do what you love and the money will follow”, and I believe that.

While I think an income will be a by-product of a great blog, it’s still a priority I want to be mindful of. Why? I’ll tell you.

If I’m able to generate an income from this blog, that empowers me to reinvest it back into the source – my audience. Don’t worry – this income isn’t going to be generated through the hard selling of crap that you don’t need in your life, or through so many pop ups you can barely see the site. I want to generate it through my service to you. My own products, resources, and work.

If I just made enough to allow me to simply work a part time job rather than full time, that opens up a lot of extra time and emotional energy I could invest here. I’ll more available to provide better content. I’ll be able to afford better tools. Maybe even in a few years, an assistant to help with marketing (this takes up most of my time right now).

Ideally, I’d like to grow to the point where I can outsource marketing. I can then focus strictly on writing content, creating resources, and being available for more intimate interactions with my lifers. One on one problem solving consultations, trip planning, and anything else that I might discover I’m useful for throughout this journey.

Its showtime.

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Now that I’ve declared my intentions, I invite you to continue on this journey with me. I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t already come this far with me. I’m excited to go ever forward together. ❤

-Zoom