Guest Post Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Guest Post

Student Shares What To Know When Moving To Chicago For College

This is a guest post by Brian Selcik, a student at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where he is studying for a BFA in Musical Theatre Dance.

chicago skyline

You may be a new student preparing a move to begin studying at one of Chicago’s many universities and institutions. Having gone through the process myself not too long ago, here are some things I’ve learned that will help plan for your first semester in Chi-town.

Parents, Students, Either.. Both? Take A Breath

The city of Chicago is like its own small country of 2.7 million people who enjoy over 40 kilometers (26 miles) of public beaches, lively local theater, plus the 4th busiest airports in America making it very accessible. Many universities in Chicago are located in the Loop right off of Lake Michigan. (This is the Loop.) There are over 7,000 restaurants and sights that bring over 55 million tourists annually and going to school right in the heart of the city allows you to experience it all.

chicago skyline evening

Don’t Make Your Living Environment Your Work Environment

One of the best pieces of advice I have for really anyone going to college is not to make your living environment your work environment. Dorm rooms are designed for you to eat, sleep, and live but don’t mistake a desk for a ideal place to study. It is hard to focus on work in a place where you sleep and relax – the opposite is also true. (Parents, you wouldn’t want to eat dinner in an office, would you?) But in Chicago you’re lucky to have many great places to get school work done. Some of my favorites are Dollop Coffee, Hayden Hall, Harold Washington Library, and even the new experiential lululemon at Lincoln Park.

chicago coffee shop

Explore The Loop

There is virtually no place in Chicago five miles around the Loop that would not have some great locations to explore with friends. Take your U Pass (the unlimited student ride pass for the public transportation) and head on the Red Line in either direction. At most any stop you’re probably going to find yourself in a cool location with coffee shops, restaurants, and so much more to experience.

It’s comfortable to get stuck in the few blocks around your university so taking the time to use your U Pass and explore is something allows you to make the most of your time in Chicago. A few of my favorite stops off the Red Line are Chicago and State, North-Clybourn, Fullerton, and Belmont.

Get Out When It’s Cold

Chicago is known for a lot of things but the cold weather during winter is definitely one of the most infamous. While it can get pretty bad you can still absolutely go out and explore as long as you are prepared. (It’s all about dressing properly!) Ear covers, a long coat, thick socks, a warm scarf, and gloves are all you need to survive the cold. You can stay outdoors and go ice skating at Millennium Park, or you can head indoors and go somewhere like the Chicago Board Game Cafe. The cold is not as bad as people (who usually aren’t from here) make it out to be as long as you are leaving your building prepared for the weather! Layers people, layers.

lululemon chicago

Go See A Show!

Chicago has one of the best theater districts in the country where you can see some innovative, creative, and inspiring work. You have your bigger companies like The Goodman, Steppenwolf, and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, but also your smaller store-front theater like BoHo Theatre and Kokandy Productions. There are always student discounts available (for tickets generally ranging between $10-15) and even some ushering opportunities where you get to see the shows for free. New shows happen year round so there you can go see new work whenever you have a free weekend.

Urbs in Horto

Since studying here I’ve come to realize Chicago is one of the best cities in the world. With its restaurants, history, and theaters, the unique location makes it a special place to live and study. Those of you planning your first semester in Chicago, hopefully these seeds will help you grow quickly in the city in a garden.

Thank you Brian for taking time in between your studies to share your experience and recommendations for new students coming to Chicago! This isn’t Brian’s first guest post on the site so if you’re visiting London see this, want to see Hamilton for cheap read this, and for a Harry Potter trip to Orlando click here. Brian’s also on Instagram @brian_potter7.

Where To TRAVEL in 2020? Travel Blogger Recommendations!

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope 2020 is one full of tech and travel so while you’re looking back on where you’ve been I got some of my travel blogger friends to help you plan where to go this year. These are some of the most traveled people I know and I appreciate everyone who sent me their recommendations – most places I haven’t been to either! You can see all the bloggers, plus my travel pick for 2020, in the video above.

Is Globalism The First Step To Star Trek’s Utopian Society?

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2019.

This is a guest post by Joao, one half of No Footprint Nomads, devoted Trekkies who write about sustainable travel from their experience of over 9 years on the road. Top photo courtesy No Footprint Nomads.

no footprint nomads

On Earth, the creation of life has evolved from individuals to groups: first particles, then cells and on to more complex creatures like animals, who organize in their own social structures. Homo sapiens have also followed this natural progression. By first gathering in groups, then cities, later countries – and more recently, unions of nations.

When looking at the large scale of events, we are evolving towards consolidation, even though we sometimes feel we are living in the most nationalistic time of our common history. The often used term “globalization” is real and nobody can deny we are more connected now than ever.

Internet, extremely low travel costs and the rise of remote work have created an ever-increasing flow of movement around our planet that is surpassing records every year. We can already see the effects in locations like Venice, Italy, where they have to limit access for tourists to protect the local lifestyle.

This natural law will affect all areas of our society like capital and money – although we’re still far away from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Neutral Zone“. (Where several 20th-century people wake up in the future to find out capital and property are no longer present in society.) This may be difficult to imagine in today’s capitalistic world.

Planet Earth in the Star Trek futuristic world is a border-less society. Our current globalization trend (e.g. European Union) is a stepping stone to that world. And when we talk about modern nomads, we are talking about the first truly border-less individuals. I use the term “modern” on purpose because the original nomads were very different from today’s. Back in the day, they traveled for survival to find food and shelter; today’s nomads travel to experience the world’s diversity. Society 1.0 represents the first nomads on camel-back, sedentary societies became the norm for 2.0, and now we are becoming nomadic again, hence society 3.0.

A nomad sees the world as an endless opportunity for exploration, either for pleasure or for personal growth. Time and borders are not as important in their life, although we are still somewhat far from a totally border-less society. Visa limitations, strict immigration rules and warfare are still very present in our world and defy the ambition of true nomads. But nomadism is essentially a mindset, a way of looking at the world and not being blinded by borders, by human-created divisions when, in fact, we are all the same species.

airplane window sunset

A nomad can live in a country for awhile until they feel the need to explore something else, like meditation, and then move to Thailand to dive into that passion. The world becomes a potential open university, and borders don’t matter anymore.

I’ve been involved with the nomad community for some time and there are some trends that arise after years living this lifestyle. It reminds me again the same TNG episode when Captain Picard replies to the man from the past, who does not understand the reason for living without material needs:

“The challenge, Mister Offenhouse, is to improve yourself. To enrich yourself. Enjoy it.”

In the nomad community it is not unusual to talk about meditation, healthy food, book reading, stoicism (yes, Gene Roddenberry’s inspiration for Vulcans), yoga, self-learning and all other activities related to enriching yourself, just like Picard said.

Every day that I live this life and meet more inspiring fellow nomads, I can see a little more of our future the way Roddenberry, a true visionary, painted for us in the series. If you are a true Trekkie, then consider embracing the world as a true nomad and forget any differences we might have.

Thank you very much Joao for this Trek-inspired guest post! You can find Joao and Sara on this site, No Footprint Nomads, where they write about sustainable travel. You can also follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Qa’plah!

SafetyWing Travel Insurance Review: A Good Plan For Travelers Without One

bogota fruit market

Travel insurance is the type of add-on to a trip you don’t know you need until what is invariably a bad time. A sprained ankle, appendicitis, the kind of medical emergency you don’t want anywhere, especially without some kind of insurance coverage.

Often, you’ve got to apply for travel insurance with a set itinerary in mind: where you’re going and when, all in advance. Travel enough though and you’re likely to change plans at some point, possibility invalidating insurance coverage. SafetyWing operates differently, with options for frequent travelers, long-term trips, and all of the increasingly common, uncommon digital nomad categories you may fall into.

The best way to review travel insurance is to actually use it. When SafetyWing got in touch for a potential review, I didn’t have the right trip planned but my friend Jessie on a Journey was off to Nepal. She shares her experience with SafetyWing below.

jessie festa

What SafetyWing Covers

Here is their policy at a glance:

  • Robust Coverage – With SafetyWing nomad travel insurance, you’ll be covered for unexpected illness or injury. This includes hospital, doctor, and prescription drug expenses (where eligible). Additionally, you’re covered for travel delays, lost checked luggage, lost/stolen passport, non-professional sports and activities, if you need new accommodation due to a natural disaster, accidental death or dismemberment. I know, not fun to think about, but important.

Note that the above is just a small sampling of what is covered. It’s important to review their policy to gain a full understanding of exactly what is or isn’t covered.

  • A Large Network – You’ll be covered in any country in the world outside of Iran, North Korea or Cuba. Additionally, you’re not covered if you hold Cuban citizenship.
  • $250,000 of Coverage – Their deductible is very low at $250, too.
  • No Time Limit – If you’re a digital nomad who plans to travel for many years, you can continue renewing your SafetyWing subscription.
  • One Deductible – Instead of needing to pay a deductible for every claim, you have one low overall deductible of $250 per year.
  • Access to Private Health Care Providers – If you’re in a destination where the public healthcare system isn’t great, this is an important option to have.

One really unique feature SafteyWing includes is limited coverage in your home country as well, so long as the visit isn’t for an appointment to treat an ailment that began on your trip. So if you’re home and an accident happens, you have 30 days of at-home coverage (or 15 days in the United States) during every 90-day cycle.

SafetyWing Limitations

Travelers who are over 69 are no eligible to purchase plans and visitors to the U.S. will need to get a new plan before their trip. U.S. coverage is a different plan altogether, which can’t be added on later. This means you’ll need to cancel and re-purchase a new plan, and your deductible will reset.

How Sign-Up Works

As you can also see above, it’s possible to purchase the travel insurance for less than one month to get a pro-rated policy. One small problem I ran into had to do with me being a New York resident. If you live in New York, Maryland, or Washington, you can’t physically be in your home state when you purchase due to local laws. [Anil here, a VPN will help you get around this restriction.]

safetywing

The Future Of SafetyWing Insurance

The company already has a great product, though they are currently working to launch the following features:

SafetyWing are also looking at potential comprehensive coverage (for your home country), a disability, and pension plans as well.

Flat-Fee Plans

Unlike most travel insurance companies where you need to provide a number of details before speaking with someone and getting a quote, SafetyWing works like a subscription. That is because instead of offering 10+ plans, they offer one robust policy solution. You’ll pay $37 per month for worldwide travel medical coverage (for travelers aged 18-39, though other ages are available).

  • Note that travel to the USA adds $31 per four weeks.

Quite often, companies charge $100+ for one month of coverage, so this is a great deal. While writing this article I actually went and got quotes from a number of other companies to confirm this. Unlike most travel insurance providers, you don’t need to purchase their insurance before your trip, either.

Taking The Headache Out Of Travel Insurance For Digital Nomads

What I really appreciate about SafetyWing is that I don’t need to answer a ton of questions and add up all of my travel expenses just to get taken to a page where I then to need to sift through numerous plan options. Instead, everything is included in one affordable price.

Thanks Jessie for your review! You can read Jessie’s full review here, catch up on her trip to Nepal, and learn more about SafetyWing here. All photos in this post (except the first one) are courtesy JessieonaJourney.com.

The Best Beaches In Malta, According To Locals

This is a guest post by Edward Lansink, the founder and editor of Malta Uncovered, a travel guide for curious travelers looking to discover Malta.

golden bay malta

Being surrounded by the Mediterranean sea, it’s only natural for the Maltese Islands to boast some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. With the islands’ mild winters, and the heat of summer, you’re most likely going to find yourself on a beach while in Malta.

Here are my tips for some of the best beaches that the Maltese islands have to offer, based on local knowledge.

Best Family Friendly Beach: Golden Bay

Even though the Maltese Islands are surrounded by beautiful crystal clear seas, the coast is generally a very rocky one, making for a limited number of sandy areas to soak up that summer sun. Having said that, you can find a few sandy gems scattered along the Maltese coast which make up for their scarcity.

One of the most popular sandy beaches is the aptly named Golden Bay. Found along the island’s northwestern coast, this beach’s wide curve of orange-gold sand slopes gently into the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It is flanked by dramatic, rocky cliffs and the striking Għajn Tuffieha tower on one side, whilst the luxurious Radisson Blu Resort & Spa overlooks the other end of the bay.

This is a beach in which you can lie down on the soft, golden-colored sand and just enjoy the summer rays. You can rent an umbrella and deck chair on the beach and if you’re into water sports, there’s a variety of activities and boat trips you can take up. There are a few beach hut cafes where you can grab a bite to eat or have a drink or two, but if you’re looking for something more upmarket, just walk on up to the five-star Radisson for a variety of dining options, either casual or more refined

Being a Blue Flag certified beach (European standard for beach quality), life guards patrol the area during the summer months and the beach has a system of flags signaling where it is safe to swim. The beach is easily accessible by car, with a few public parking areas nearby. It’s also serviced by a regular bus service.

Best Sandy Beach: Ghajn Tuffieha

If you prefer a more quiet sandy beach, head on towards Ghajn Tuffieha (Maltese for ‘Apple’s Eye’, also known as Riviera by the locals); located a 15 minute walk south of Golden Bay. It is flanked by dramatic clay slopes and rocky cliffs and boasts a narrow strip of beautiful orange-golden sand and clear azure waters and is accessed by descending a tall fight of (over 100) steps.

Ghajn Tuffieha

You can rent sun beds and umbrellas from a kiosk located on the side of the beach, which also offers some fairly decent snack options and there is a regular bus service to the area. Bus routes with destination Golden Bay all pass from there. You can also find a parking area at the top of the steps, but be warned, car spaces in the lot are rarely vacant as people visiting Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Bay use this area, as well as the main access road for parking and it does get pretty busy during the summer season. Having said that, Ghajn Tuffieha generally offers a more quiet and peaceful setting than Golden Bay, with a more natural atmosphere and less crowds.

Best for Snorkeling: Wied il-Ghasri

A unique spot and a popularly-photographed spot, Wied il-Ghasri in Gozo is definitely worth a visit for those who love snorkeling. This little gem of a beach is actually a coastal chasm at the end of a valley that opens to the sea through a river-like channel in between the rocky cliffs.

Wied il-Ghasri

You can access the beach via a rocky staircase carved into the valley, although you’ll need a car or bike to get here since there’s no bus stop nearby. Snorkeling here is pure joy, with lots of nooks and crannies carved into the rocky ledges of the cliffs surrounding the inlet. It’s an absolutely stunning location to swim and snorkel at, although not the best place to sunbathe. The beach itself is small and covered in pebbles, which adds to the beauty but doesn’t make for a comfortable spot to lie down on.

Other fantastic snorkeling beaches worth a mention are Mgarr ix-Xini (also located in Gozo) and Ghar Lapsi and St. Peter’s Pool, both found in the southern part of Malta.

Most Rugged Beach: Fomm ir-Rih

If you’re looking for a remote, secluded beach, Fomm ir-Rih is definitely the one for you. Located along the northwest coast of Malta, just outside the village of Baħrija, this beach is Malta’s most remote and probably least accessible beach. It’s a bit of a challenge to get down to the sea, with a tricky 20 minute trek through some rough and steep terrain, but it’s worth the effort.

Mellieha malta

The coastal views here are magnificent, the water crystal clear with some great snorkeling opportunities, and you might just have the whole beach to yourself for the day! Imgiebah Bay in Selmun, Mellieha is another, easier to access (and sandy) alternative to Fomm ir-Rih, although there’s still a 30 minute walk to get there from the nearest bus stop.

Most Unique Beach: The Blue Lagoon (Comino)

Accessed only via ferry boat, the Blue Lagoon is located on the tiny islet of Comino, found in the strait between Malta and Gozo. An extremely popular summer spot, the Blue Lagoon is often overcrowded, a true shame, but for good reason. Boasting bright, crystal clear, turquoise waters and some of the most unique and stunning views of the Islands, Comino is truly a unique place to visit. The lagoon itself is a small inlet of inland sea ringed by rocks and lined by gleaming white sand. The beach in itself is extremely small, but there are a large number of large, flat rocks dotted about which are perfect for sun bathing. Swimming in the warm, azure waters of the Blue Lagoon truly feel like paradise, especially on days which are less crowded.

For even greater access, and guaranteed private moments, you could stay overnight at Comino’s sole hotel (quite pricey considering it’s not the most updated place), or even camp on the island if you’re feeling more adventurous! Of course, there are many other special beaches around Malta, all offering their own unique landscape and charm. A few noteworthy mentions are San Blas Bay and ir-Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo, and Mellieha Bay and Ghar Lapsi in Malta.

Thank you Ed for giving us some great beach options in Malta. You can learn more about traveling in Malta through Ed’s website, Malta Uncovered and check out his ebook, Valletta: An Insider’s Guide to Malta’s Capital.

How To Travel With Exotic Pets Like Snakes And Tarantulas

This is a guest post by Richard Adams, a reptile keeper with over 25 years of experience who writes about caring for all sorts of creatures on his website Keeping Exotic Pets.

ball python travel

At the beginning of the year I made just one New Year’s Resolution: to take the summer off and explore France from my home in Sussex, England. The only problem in this otherwise life-changing plan were my four beautiful pet snakes and an assortment of random tarantulas. Sure, I could leave them at home for a few weeks: but what about the four months I was planning?

I could pay a pet sitter but they’re expensive or I could convince a friend. (Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t very successful with the latter.) This just left one good option: take the “zoo” with me – which is exactly what I did. These are my own tips garnered from traveling with three ball pythons measuring up to four and a half feet long, a milk snake called Kermit, and ten different tarantulas.

Check Company Rules And Legal Regulations

As a Brit, there are three main options for getting to France: by air, Channel Tunnel, or ferry. With the snakes and spiders, ferry was the most practical and cost-effective solution. Based in Sussex, this meant a drive of just over an hour to Portsmouth Harbour in order to catch the ferry. I packed up all the animals in my car, drove them onto the ferry, and straight off again at the other end. I chose an overnight crossing, departing around 11pm and arriving into Caen, in northern France, early the next morning. Booking early enough, comfy cabins were available for catching some sleep.

When transporting “exotic pets” there are two kinds of rules that you’ll need to abide by. The first of these are the rules set by each ferry company. Pay close attention to these, as the last thing you want is to be turned back at port. Personally, I traveled with Brittany Ferries. The process was quite simple, and just involved booking online, then contacting their customer service team with my booking reference to let them know what I would be carrying.

Richard Adams reptile keeper

As long as the animals remain safely locked in your car during the journey then there should be no issues. I also made to sure to place my pets in my trunk, to avoid startling any other passengers who may not share my enthusiasm for scaly animals!

The second set of regulations to be aware of are import and export rules. Fortunately, traveling within the EU is reasonably simple. Even though some of the species I was transporting are protected – registered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – my experience is that registration should prevent any problems as long as you’re not planning to sell your pets.

Of course, if you are traveling outside the EU, the rules are far more stringent. In those cases you will need to make sure you have the necessary certifications to prove their captive-bred status. I recommend double-checking with the authorities to ensure that you have written confirmation that your pets may leave and enter. This needn’t be too problematic; in the UK, for example, a quick email to Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) should suffice.

traveling with snakes

I gathered all of these emails into a document wallet, ready for inspection if necessary. As it turned out, the process at both ends went very smoothly and no proof was necessary. Still, it’s better to be over-prepared, especially since port authorities only deal with exotic pets rarely. If a query arises, you want to have the answer ready and waiting for them.

Accommodating Exotic Pets

The good news about holiday properties in Europe is that many are pet friendly. I opted to rent a villa just outside Cognac, checking with the landlady in advance that she was fine about the reptiles. While understandably a little hesitant, I have always found it handy to remind property owners that reptiles are kept shut away pretty much the whole time, and therefore don’t produce the smell, hair and mess that dog owners often leave behind. Snakes also aren’t known for chewing the furniture!

For more difficult properties, consider offering an additional deposit. If you’re keeping your reptiles well, there shouldn’t be a real risk of losing your money.

Remember, the earlier you start planning, the more properties will be available. You may have to try a number of landlords before you find someone willing to accept exotic pets, so be prepared to hunt around. Personally, I started looking at options in late February for a May arrival; even then many were already booked out. Leaving things to the last minute might leave you with only properties that won’t take reptiles.

Preparing Exotic Animals For Travel

Just as with other pets, you’ll want to make the journey as comfortable as possible for your animals. Unlike people traveling with dogs, however, getting your pet out of their cage en route is likely to lead to some odd looks at best, and at worst shrieks of fear. Planning ahead for the journey is therefore critical.

traveling with tarantula

While many people transport snakes in fabric bags, I opted to use plastic containers in two sizes. Large ones that the snakes would live in while at the villa and smaller ones for the tarantulas. To save space in the car and prevent damage to the snakes during transportation, each snake was placed into one of the smaller tarantula tubs for travel. The tarantulas were placed into small plastic pots, and the large snake tubs were then used to pack our belongings.

  • Feed After Not Before – Snakes in particular can be quite sensitive after eating, so it is recommended that you hold off feeding your pets for a few days before travel.
  • Stay Cool – During transit, try to ensure that your pets remain at a suitable temperature. This means avoiding parking in direct sunlight, keeping them safely shaded at all times, and using your air conditioning if necessary.

The most critical time in the transportation of exotics is arrival at your destination. Your pets must be the primary concern at this point, and getting them suitably housed should be your first action. For this reason, I made sure to have all my pet supplies ready for action the moment we arrived. In this way, within an hour of arriving at our villa every animal had been health checked and successfully rehoused into an appropriate cage.

Finding Supplies, Pet Food, And Equipment

Possibly the most complicated thing about transporting reptiles is finding suitable supplies when you reach your destination. For example, will you be able to buy frozen rodents for your python, or crickets for your tarantula?

Clearly, there are two options here. The first of these is that you can take as much equipment with you as possible. There are, of course, limitations here on how much you can fit in your car. In my case I decided to take with me just the basics, such as a big bag of snake bedding and water bowls for all the animals. This allowed me to set them all up properly on arrival, rather than having to go shopping first. The other solution is to buy reptile supplies in the country you are visiting, but in my experience finding reptile shops abroad can be challenging. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever before to order reptile supplies online; even in a foreign country.

Personally, I spent some time researching French e-commerce sites before leaving home. Use Google Chrome as your browser and you’ll find that foreign-language websites are quickly translated into your native language, allowing you to order online in a new country. If you have a Paypal account you’ll find it easy to make payment. I was also surprised to find that your native Amazon company (in my case Amazon.co.uk) will also ship overseas if you’re willing to pay the shipping fees. This dealt with the longer term supplies.

traveling with large spiders

As a tip, I used a company called Zanimo Exotic to provide my reptile food; delivery is quite slow (order by Friday for dispatch the following Wednesday) and couriers in France are expensive, but the quality and reliability was good. My suggestion would be to order in bulk to save money on shipping fees.

Exotic Pets Don’t Mean You Can’t Travel

Next week, I head back to the UK after a four month stay in France. It’s an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life; the weather, the food, the people, the wildlife. More importantly however, my reptiles are as fit and healthy as ever – indeed I would say the warm weather we’ve enjoyed here has been a benefit for them.

There are two important take-home points from my own experiences this summer. Firstly, don’t let pet ownership affect your travel plans. There are many ways to combine pet ownership and travel, so you don’t necessarily have to compromise. Secondly, don’t assume that if your pet is a little “alternative” you can’t take them abroad. As my experience has shown, it is definitely possible to take a menagerie of animals abroad with a little research and forward planning. In most cases you will be able to handle the process yourself; worst case scenario don’t forget that there are numerous pet travel companies now who will help you complete all the necessary paperwork and guide you through the transportation process.

So, next time you’re on vacation and pull up next to a car with a foreign registration plate, spare a thought for us reptile keepers. You might just be standing closer than you realized to a beautiful python or a tarantula the size of a dinner plate. Bon voyage!

Thank you Richard for sharing your expertise on exotic pets with us! Richard writes much more about the wonderful world of exotic pets, including his particular passion for tarantulas, on his blog Keeping Exotic Pets.

Loading

About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More


Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube

Image Map

Image Map

Get my latest posts in your inbox: