300 Days Of Personal Growth

 

300 days abroad. One of those days I traveled with a Thai train 300 days abroad – Accounts of the inner journey 

It is time to make up the balance after being abroad for more then 300 days. However, in this article I want to reflect on the inner journey instead of the actual trip. Where there any spiritual or mental changes during these 300 days? Can I speak of inner growth? Was it a good idea to exchange the safe harbor for an unpredictable sea? Am I happier when I travel or when I stay home?

It is important to reserve some time for reflection during long journeys. At such moments, I advice you to write an overview of your thoughts and experiences. What are the benefits of your current lifestyle, and what are the problems that you encounter? What better way is there then to write it all down. Here are some personal growth lessons, which I gained during my 300 days abroad.

Patience

A traveler needs to learn to be patient. The challenge to be patient provides itself in many forms. For example, traveling often means waiting. At airports, at bus stations, at border crossings, during flights etc. The real challenge starts when you finally arrive at your new destination. Already on boiling point, you often have to deal with all kinds of people that want or need something from you. They can greatly increase the patience challenge.

I did my fair share of waiting and dealing with annoying people (who, at their turn, can be very patient in slow cooking your remaining sanity). I can still be impatient but long term travelling numbs that feeling. You start to accept that it is part of the deal. I say this to myself every time I am about to lose my mind. Sometimes it works, sometimes I end up in a police cell..

More respect for the “smaller” things in life

A roof above your head. A bed under your body. Healthy and rich food on the table. Friends and family members who care about you. A place you can call home. The longer I travel the more I start to realize how important these things are in a person’s life. I might not give them much thoughts when they are present, but I think about them a lot when they are out of reach.

Happiness

I often say it to myself with a slight feeling of disbelief, am I really doing it? Yes, I am really doing it! I am following my dream of traveling around the world and living abroad. It puts a smile on my face every time I think about it. Now I feel really lucky and blessed that I have the opportunity to live this kind of life. I truly appreciate this amazing gift.Me being happy

Appreciation

Trips to less developed and poorer countries always make me appreciate what I have. I am able to travel the world. I have a lot of free time, and I can use that time to do fun things. Not everybody receives those opportunities. I often realize how blessed I am when I see people who have to work for pennies everyday of the week, or really poor beggars who have to live on the street.

I used to nag a lot back home, but really, I have nothing to complain about. I am living an amazing live. However, I try not to brag about it to much. During my travels, I am often confronted with the hardships of less fortunate people. Seeing them suffer made me decide to create charity projects in the countries that I visit. I also try to become a more humble person.

Humbleness

I thought we had to work hard in the Netherlands. That our lives where tough and that we did not earn enough money. I used to open my mouth about those “problems”, and out of my mouth came complaints. In Thailand, I got a much needed lesson in humbleness. Life in the Netherlands was not so bad after all. I learned to listen instead of to talk. To give instead of to take.

Make that inner journey

As you might have noticed, a lot of my inner reflections are focused on confrontations with poverty and the hardships of other people. I guess coming from a “rich” and western country, it can sometimes be a shock and an eye opener to learn about the daily reality on the other side of the world.

Personal growth will emerge from that knowledge. You learn to be humble and appreciate what you have. You learn to care for others and to be more patient. Combine these positive changes with feelings of freedom and you know why you have to make that inner journey. That is why I encourage people to travel and why I will continue to write about it.
 

How did you mentally change while traveling? Which great insights, skills and abilities did you gain during your trip?
 

Useful links

  • Mythic stories and inner growth: A great article from Jonathan Young. How adventure stories and mythic tales show us the important challenges of the journey. During our journey we change and gain knowledge. We leave, learn and eventually return as a wiser person.
  • My charity project: I made it my goal to start a charity project in every country that visit for a longer period. On this page you can read about my current charity efforts in Thailand.
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How To Improve Creative Writing

 

Pen and paper - How to improve creative writing6 tips on how to improve creative writing 

I create one sentence and then struggle to write down the next one. However, the paper stays hopelessly empty. There are no ideas popping up. After a while I start to fill the paper in a different way. I am so tired that my only sentence starts to float all over the paper. Then the individual letters start to wander of from the sentence, to do their own dance on the paper.

I slap my face and try to focus. But the tank is empty due to a lack of sleep. The hot temperature in the room makes it even worse. A drop of sweat from my forehead suddenly enters the dance on the paper. I slap myself again but I am to far gone. My creativity can not be shaken awake anymore. If only I had followed my creative six step diet..

1. Have enough sleep

Of course you know but I will say it again. Make sure you sleep at least seven hours per night. Lack of sleep will kill your motivation, productivity and creativity. Do not sleep less but also avoid sleeping to long. Both of those habits can make you lazy or tired.

2. Consume a proper diet

Another point I probably do not need to tell you. But actually doing it is not always easy. Do you live from your creativity? Then you need to take extra efforts to eat healthy and drink enough water. Healthy food and water are your thinking fuel. A healthy brain means less struggles on the paper, because you will be rewarded with more creativity. Think about that.

3. Work in a cool environment

At the moment I live in a hot environment and I have been struggling with my creativity and productivity ever since. The brain functions less when exposed to hot temperatures. As a result you will become more lazy and thus less productive. It is best that you work in a cool room, if you want to have the energy and creativity to finish a story.

4. Avoid distractions

Make sure you do not get distracted during the writing process. Once your imagination runs wild you do not want to return to the real world. Find a quiet writing space. Writing in the early morning or late in the evening can also help. At those moments you will less likely be distracted.

5. Take walks and power naps

Do you often feel dull and sleepy during your writing sessions? Are you suffering from a lack of creativity? Try to refresh your brain with a walk or a power nap. Some fresh air and a short sleep can give you new energy and inspiration. Recharge when you feel unproductive.

6. Avoid stressful thoughts 

Stressful thoughts will cause a distraction during the writing process. Empty your brain before you start writing. Then you will have the space to fill your mind with creative thoughts for your story. One way to make your brain empty is by doing a short mediation session before you start writing. Physical exercise such as cycling or walking can also help to empty your head.
 
Do you have any other tips on how to improve creative writing?
 
Useful links

 

Visa Run Preparations For Expats

Passport visa run stamps How to have a fun visa run

Schedule:

– Wake up at 5:30 AM

– Enter the minivan at 6:30 AM

– Drive for five hours to the Cambodian border crossing

– Cross the Cambodian border at Ban Pakkad

– Write, sign, copy, stamp, smile

– Cross the border into Thailand

– Drive back home for five hours

Back home you are a stamp richer and a day poorer. Sounds like a lot of fun…? Probably not, but why not make the best of your trip. In this article I give some advice about how you can make your trip as comfortable as possible. In the article I focus mainly on expats/travelers in Thailand who need to to make an organised trip across the border.

Alone or organised 

Once, when I was still a visa run rookie, I thought that it would be fun and cheap to do a visa run on my own. So off I went to the Cambodian border crossing at Poi Pet. Boy did I have it wrong. The adventure started with a long and uncomfortable train journey and ended with a nasty scam. Eventually, I returned home a lot of frustrations richer and a lot of baht poorer.

Do you want to experience a comfortable visa run? Then choose to travel with an agency. You might pay a little bit extra but your journey will be fully organised, and you only have to follow the agency staff from one place to another. Very convenient, and maybe you are able to make some new friends among your fellow travelers.

Choose an agency

So which agency should you choose. Do some research and start by checking to which border crossing they bring you. Some destinations can be a real hassle. Poi Pet, for example, is a chaotic and miserable place full of scammers. However, it is a popular spot to cross the border, which means long queues at immigration. I recommend you book a trip to Ban Pakkad with Meesuk Travel. A very quick and convenient visa run.

When doing research it is also wise to check the departure/arrival point and time of the transport vans from the agency. Early departures from a good location are beneficial because the driver is able to leave the city quickly. You will most likely be back before the darkness and the start of Bangkok’s notorious rush hours. Good for your time and for your safety.

Rules and requirements

Make sure to ask the agency about the current visa regulations when you contact them to make a reservation. The Thai visa rules change often. Avoid unwanted surprises. Do not leave your house without at least three passport pictures (make sure they apply to the latest photo requirements) and bring some xerox copies of your passport.

Often you can make copies at embassies or border crossings but avoid the extra hassles of looking for a copy machine and standing in line. Also make sure you book a trip at least a few days before your visa is expired. Then you will have some spare days if something goes wrong. Unnecessary overstay charges are expensive.

Entertainment

Your going to be on the road for a full day so find some ways to entertain yourself, and make sure that you stay entertained for the whole trip. For example, bring a book or music player. I personally like to bring my laptop so that I can work or watch a movie. I also make sure that my phone has a portable Wi-Fi connection so that i will have a hotspot during the trip.

Your phone battery will not last long, when you use it as a portable hotspot, so I advice you to buy and bring a power bank. This very useful gadget can be used to charge your phones battery. Another option is to bring a USB stick and charge your phone with the power of your laptop. I also advice to bring a soft pillow for the best entertainment of all.
Use a power bank to recharge your phone

Snacks and drinks

A certain amount of food and drinks will be included in the price of your trip. However, do not only depend on the agency for your nutrition intakes. I advice that you also pack some snacks and drinks. Especially if you are, like me, picky about what you want to consume.

Ready to go

Now you are ready for a hassle free trip to the border. Remember to smile to the customs officers, drink enough water and talk to your fellow travelers. Don’t forget to take a look out of the window during the trip. Enjoy the scenery. The beautiful countryside of Thailand deserves an observation.
Did you ever participated in an organized visa run? Which company did you choose and how was your experience?
Useful links

  • Meesuk Travel: This is the website of the visa company that I usually use. They have good connections and they offer a decent visa run service. Expect to make a lot of Filipino friends as those are the people who mainly travel with this company.
  • Ultimate Thai VISA Guide: Looking for some original ideas for visa runs? Read this excellent guide from bloggers Allan Wilson and Fanfan Narach. On their blog, Live Less Ordinary, they provide a list of the best countries and cities for visa runs, along with other useful travel information.
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How To Survive A Day In Bangkok With Young Kids

 

How to survive a day in Bangkok with young kidsHow to survive Bangkok with young children

Recently my little brother (4) and sister (3) came to Bangkok. During their visit, it became clear that Bangkok can be a challenging environment for kids, and also for their parents’ wallets. In this article, I provide some tips on how to survive a day in Bangkok with little kids. Read this article to prevent yourself from unwanted surprises, and to give your family a hassle free time in the capital city of Thailand.

The environment

Consider the conditions your children will be exposed to when you visit Bangkok. The temperature is hot and motorized vehicles cause dangerous situations. Make sure to keep an eye on your kids and use taxis as a way of transportation. Taxis provide many benefits. They do not have to deal with the heat and the various dangerous situations on the street. They will also not get tired from walking long distances.

Taxis are cheap if you use them with many persons. Make sure to know up front which places to avoid and which places to visit. By doing this you will save time and money because you avoid attractions which will only disappoint you as soon as you reach the ticket desk.

Places to avoid

Avoid overpriced tourist scams like Ocean World and Madam Tussaud. Sure it must be cool to see a shark or a waxed version of Michael Jackson but expect to pay a fortune for these privileges. For example adults pay 900 baht (27 dollars) for an entrance ticket to Ocean World and a ticket for kids costs 700 baht (21 dollars). These prices are ridiculously high.

To make matters worse. These are actually the prices for foreigners. Thai people pay a much lower prices. Dual pricing should never be allowed in my humble opinion. They know it is wrong because they hide the Thai price for foreigners. The same double pricing scam is used at Madam Tussaud and other attractions. Avoid these scams! The humiliation and price are not worth it. Little children can easily be satisfied with more affordable activities.

Places to visit

The numerous parks in the city are much more suitable for children, and most likely also for parents. The parks offer many benefits. They are traffic free, so they offer a safe and more healthy environment for children. Parks are tranquil environments which often provide playgrounds. Those playgrounds are free and the kids love them.

You can also choose to go to the Dusit Zoo. This zoo offers more reasonable ticket prices. Do you live in Thailand or stay for a long time? For 2000 baht (61 dollars) you can buy a Zoo Lovers membership card. This card is valid for five years and enables a family member and four other persons to enter many zoos in Thailand.

Troubles and pleasures

Now you know more about the troubles and pleasures of visiting Bangkok with young children This city offers a lot of fun attractions for children but many of them charge a high entrance price. This is especially troublesome if you come with a big family. Try to find refuge in parks and the Dusit Zoo. Your kids will have a great time and you can rest while watching them play.

Did you visit Bangkok with young kids? Was it a fun city trip or did you experience some problems? Do you have other tips for people who come to Bangkok with their children?

Useful links

  • www.tripadvisor.com: Use this link to find out more about Bangkok for young kids. The link will take you to an overview page. There you can read information and reviews about various attractions in the city.
  • www.koratzoo.org: This link will take you to a page that provides your with more information about the different zoo membership options. A membership card can be especially useful if you live in Thailand.
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9 Reasons Why You Should Never Use Budget Airlines

 

9 reasons why you should not fly with a cheap airline.9 reasons why you should avoid budget flights

Do you want to fly to your travel destination with a budget airline? Then I strongly advice you to think twice. Remember that when buying cheap you get cheap, and that is the last thing you should choose for when it comes to flying. Here are 9 reasons why you should never fly for a very low price.

1. The location of the airport

Many budget airlines do not depart from a large international airport. Instead they depart from smaller ones. It could take some more time to get to that departure point, which could be difficult to reach by public transportation, or it might be much further away from your home. This creates the weird situation that your transportation to the airport could end up being more expensive then your flight.

I once found a flight to Gdansk (Poland), departing from Groningen Airport (The Netherlands). The flight ticket would cost me a whopping 10 euros! However a train ticket to Groningen would cost me already 25 euros! 10 euro for a ticket from The Netherlands to Poland is very cheap you might say. That is true, but keep in mind that there are many hidden/extra costs, which can make the price of your flight much higher.

2. Extra costs

Do you want to fly low budget? Then you better have no wishes, no expectations, and no luggage. Any extra service is going to cost you. Checking in at the airport, you pay extra. Bringing along checked baggage, you pay extra. Having a drink in the airplane, you pay extra.

The prices for these extra services can be very expensive, so these extra costs can make your seemingly cheap ticket suddenly a lot more expensive. Besides collecting money for extra services the airline is also trying to save money on as many expenses as possible. One of those money saving methods is an inconveniently far location of the departure gate.

3. Location of the gate

Large airports have many gates. The price fighters rent the cheapest ones, which are usually situated far away, at the back of the airport. Plan some extra time to get to your airplane after checking in and getting true customs. It could be a long walk to the gate. Make sure you really walk and do not use the moving walkway. Your legs are going to appreciate the exercise later on.

It will not take long before you will be confronted with another money saving method, which probably will be your next irritation factor. Once in the airplane you will love the cramped seats. Thank god you where able to use your legs for one last time, on the long walk to the departure gate.

4. Uncomfortable seats

Not enough space for your legs is maybe bearable for a short flight but on a long distance journey you might start praying to god that the suffering will be over soon. In order to save money they will cram you into this inhumanely small spaces. Unfortunately there is very little entertainment offered to distract you from your misery.

5. Lack of flight entertainment

You will not be blessed with your own entertainment system when you book a low cost flight. Instead you will be forced to watch a movie on a shared screen. Of course this needs to be a movie witch is suitable for everyone, so you probably will be watching very cheesy movies.

You will try to close your eyes in order not to watch the movie, but the pain and suffering from your crammed chair makes you craving for distraction. As a result you might end up watching that movie anyway. Then again you could also take the time to think about what you are doing in that airplane anyway, as you might take a risk by flying for such a low price.

6. Dangerous flying conditions

You think the airlines will only cut costs on customer service, and leg space? Think again. Some airlines also try to safe money on fuel costs. Pilots decide how much fuel is being tanked for the flight. However, sometimes they are forced to take as less fuel as possible. The amount of fuel in the tank might be enough, if nothing goes wrong, but what happens when the flight takes longer then expected..

Some airplanes got in trouble when they approached the airport. They where told that they had to delay the landing due to a busy airstrip, but there was no more fuel left to wait. A stressful situation for the pilots and the people in the flight tower. Combine this with the stressful working conditions of pilots and you create very dangerous situations.

7. Treatment of the staff

Do you want to trust your life on pilots who make to many hours and are pressured to fly for low wages, in dangerous conditions. They often operate with the fear of being fired if they choose for safety instead of the company policies. Sometimes they are just contractors. Which means that they are self employed. Their employer does not have to pay taxes, and the pilots do not get payed when they get sick.

Flying with a cheap airline.

8. Unfriendly staff

You can’t really blame the cabin crew for not being the most friendliest and helpful people in the business, considering the tough working conditions. The crew is often very tired, stressed and over pressured. Once more you get what you pay for. A cheap tickets means cheap service, and that will not only apply to the airplane staff but also for all the other people who are working in that company.

9. Customer service

Do you want to complain after your flight, or cancel your ticket after reading my article? It can be difficult to to get something done from the budget airline customer service. Often there is no customer service available in your country. Then you have to make an expensive call abroad and explain your situation in English. I tried this and like I expected, nothing ever happened when I tried to cancel my flight.

Cheap is not always better

Lets be honest. A price of 10 euro for a return ticket to Poland is an extremely low price. However, you pay this price because the price fighter has been compromising on things like customer service, safety, and comfort. Especially the safety issues are kind of disturbing. Please think about your safety when you book a flight.

Do you want to put your life at risk to save some money? Having less comfort is understandable and you have a choice if you want to pay for extra services, but you have no influence on your safety during the flight. An airline should never save money on safety procedures. That is just wrong in so many ways. Therefore I strongly advice you to reconsider flying with budget companies.

Did you ever fly with a budget airline? How was your experience? Would you fly with that company again after reading this article?