Category Archives: Guest Post

First Impressions of Europe From the Eyes of a 25-Year-Old American Guy

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Earlier this month, my boyfriend, Hunter Reams, visited me in Paris and we explored France, Hungary, Austria and Switzerland. We experienced new cities together and had adventures of a lifetime! From meeting locals through AirBnb, to experiencing our first night trains, to enjoying cuisine from menus that we didn’t understand, to walking miles through historic streets, to exploring art and culture museums, to sipping coffee (or wine 😉 while people-watching and enjoying the breathtaking views, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel with Hunter during our busy and budget-conscious graduate student lives. Since it was Hunter’s first time visiting continental Europe, I thought it would be interesting to capture his perspectives of Europe as a mid-2os American. Thank you, Hunter, for sharing your perspective of our story and your candid thoughts!


Everyone dreams of traveling through Europe. If you have not visited, Europe is that magical land that you have quickly scrolled through on Facebook on your friend’s endless Facebook pictures. Well, having recently returned from a 2-week trip through France, Hungary, Austria, and Switzerland for the first time, I am now one of those Facebook picture posters. That is because Europe is beautiful. A land of beauty in a way that I truly did not know existed.

Besides losing all hope of sleeping on my plane, due to a baby in close proximity, everything about my trip was incredible. From my first moments in France, traveling through the suburbs to reach downtown Paris, I could tell that this would be an adventure of a lifetime. Several times throughout the taxi ride I compulsively exclaimed: “Wow, look at that cathedral,” “Everyone is so slim,” “The cars are so small,” “This neighborhood reminds me of D.C.”. Never before had I felt so far away from home, yet things did not look all too unfamiliar. I think that my major theme from my trip comes down to exactly that: It is another world over there – so much history, conflict, and culture. But also, it also showed me that we live in a small world. I saw shops and restaurants that originated in the U.S., next to 1,000 year old historical monuments from early human empires. It was definitely a cultural dichotomy.

Strasbourg, France: Simply put, Strasbourg was amazing. I visited Strasbourg for a day and a half with Brittany and one of my best friends and would love to go back again. Strasbourg was a city that seemed like something out of a movie. While on the walking tour, I noticed that literally every building looked like it was from the year 1400. Additionally, it is on the border of Germany and France – so both cultures are seen throughout the city. I enjoyed German-inspired French food at historic taverns. But the most distinctive and memorable part of Strasbourg was the Cathedral. This mammoth of a church dots the skyline in the center of the city and is truly one of the most breathtaking buildings I have ever seen.  Strasbourg is a hidden gem that I would recommend for anyone traveling through Europe.

Exploring Strasbourg with Brittany and one of my best friends, Nick!

Exploring Strasbourg with Brittany and one of my best friends, Nick!

Budapest, Hungary: Budapest was definitely my wild card coming into the trip and it was one of our most exotic experiences. Brittany and I flew into Budapest and were picked up by our Airbnb host. Not only was our rent a mere 31 Euros a night, but our host Victor drove us home from the airport and all around the city. I am telling you this because one of my most resonating impressions of Budapest was that the Budapest people were incredibly friendly! I felt like everywhere we went in Budapest we would run into people that were nice, helpful, and overall just happy people. Now, I think Brittany and I were given a particularly accurate view of Budapest because we accidentally booked our Airbnb in the middle of the Jewish Ghetto…(I swear the description said “city center”). While we were not too thrilled at the prospect of staying in a poor part of the city, it actually ended up to be a real blessing. We walked all around areas of Budapest that were not meant for tourists and saw the lingering effects from WWII and the Nazi control of Hungary. Now that being said, Budapest is gorgeous and has probably the most beautiful riverfront that I have ever seen. The rolling Hungarian hills line both sides of the river with beautiful and historic buildings. The best decision Brittany and I could have made was to do the Danube river cruise. We enjoyed a full buffet dinner for a reasonable price, met great couples from England and Argentina, and had the perfect view of Budapest and its riverfront! After the river cruise, we wanted to experience the famous Budapest nightlife. Coming from Paris, where the bar scene was not as active, Budapest made up for it and then some! Brittany and I decided to go to a “ruin” bar, which is essentially a bar that is in a really old building and has all sorts of interesting and old objects throughout. For example, Brittany and I had drinks while sitting in a bathtub! With several floors, outdoor seating, happy bar-goers, and almost all 90’s American Music, it was designed for a great time. Brittany and I love 90s music so that was an unexpected plus!

View of the Hungarian Parliament from the Danube River Cruise

View of the Hungarian Parliament from the Danube River Cruise

Salzburg, Austria: Salzburg is a city that is more significant than some people may think. It is the birthplace of Mozart, home of the Sound of Music, and was an important military outpost with the oldest and best-preserved military castle in Europe. Salzburg was clean, historical, gorgeous, and it had a very unique and cool vibe. Brittany said it was her favorite city of our trip and I can definitely see why. When I think back to Salzburg, I picture myself walking around the city with the beautiful mountains surrounding the valley, and I think of all of the brightly colored shops and historical monuments all around. Although we only had a day to spend in Salzburg, the beauty of the area has stuck with me. On top of that, the food and drinks were delicious as well – we enjoyed weinerschnitzel and local beer on our first night! I will also never forget our last night in the city. We went on the Sound of Music tour and saw all of the famous settings from the Sound of Music. We then went to a beer hall – connected to a church for some reason – and drank beer with other Michiganders we bumped into at the hall of probably 1000+ people. We drank for a few hours, drinking out of the same big mug, washing it out with water, and getting it refilled from a keg, (like good Germans). After we both had our fair share of beers, we stumbled around Salzburg, went to another bar, ate burgers and fries (like good Americans), and then hopped on our 2:30am train and headed to Switzerland!

Salzburg Scenes from the Sound of Music Tour

Salzburg Scenes from the Sound of Music Tour

Bern, Switzerland: I look at Switzerland as a place that does everything the right way. Bern is so beautiful, historic, charming, and really encompasses the beauty of Europe in one city. Yet at the same time, Bern is modern. Public transportation is the main form of transportation. The buses, trolleys, railways, were all modern and sustainable. People walking everywhere or riding bikes. And the culture blended several influences from France, Germany, and Italy all in one place. It was the ultimate melting pot in one of the most beautiful locations I have ever seen! At this point in our trip, Brittany and I were definitely a bit exhausted after 4 days of non-stop travel. Bern was the perfect place to relax. We walked all around the city, climbed to the top of a hill and witnessed one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen, and enjoyed some Swiss fondue. Definitely a great place to visit!

On our way to dinner at Rosengarten, overlooking all of Bern!

On our way to dinner at Rosengarten, overlooking all of Bern!

Paris, France: I spent the majority of my time in Paris. Luckily, I was able to spend it with Brittany in her host family’s apartment and experienced a more accurate picture of Paris – not one as just a tourist. When I think of Paris, one word comes to mind: “grand.” Paris was so grand. Every building, all of the people, the food, the culture; it was all so beautiful and so detailed. I was fortunate to have enough time to visit all of the major attractions: I stood on top of the Eiffel tower, looking over the beauty of the city from a bird’s eye view. I saw Notre Dame, explored the exhibits of the Louvre, enjoyed wine and cheese at Montmarte, wandered around the incredible Palace of Versailles, and shopped along Champ-Elysees (I bought my new work bag that will be a great memory while I am interning this summer). I ran along the Seine River and enjoyed an evening picnic at Pont des Arts (like a typical Parisian – I carried wine and cheese in my backpack during my run and Brittany was very grateful :)). I spent mornings studying at the coffee shops and people-watching while Brittany was in French class. I shopped in Galeries Lafayette and enjoyed famous pastries at Cafe Angelina with Brittany, observing a level of affluence and eloquence that I had never experienced before. Paris is a city that is too surreal for words. Even in the outer portions of the city, the detailed buildings and quaint shops made it all so cool. Paris had it all. The public transportation is excellent and the cleanliness, history, and modern conveniences make Paris a city that really represents the best of the Western World. Admittedly, I will concede that I was a bit disappointed with the Parisian nightlife, culinary scene, and the pompous attitude of quite a few French people. But the overwhelming beauty and history of the city more than made up for it. I am not exaggerating in saying that Paris is a city that everyone needs to visit!

Beautiful, sparkling Eiffel Tower at night!

Beautiful, sparkling Eiffel Tower at night!

Overall: Europe was an amazing place that gives me both faith in humanity and faith in our planet. I explored a continent that combined the best of both worlds: historical culture and a progressive sustainable society. People were in shape and stylish. People I met were knowledgeable, and understood history and the melting pot of cultures throughout the world. People were aware of American issues and I had some great debates with Europeans about the current state of American politics. The cities were all clean and safe. If I had to point out any cons to Europe, it would be that the food and drink portions are too small (as a pretty big guy I had to make an adjustment). But other than that, Europe really changed my perspective on the world and blew me away. I think that everyone should try and explore Europe to discover this world for themselves. Ultimately, as it did for me, I think Europe will give you a different perspective on life. A perspective that values history, the public society, and culture. I explored four countries that truly value providing for the public good, which I hope the will continue to inspire the U.S. I have learned so much from my time in Europe and I have now caught the travel bug. I can’t wait for the next time I satisfy my wanderlust and I greatly recommend any of the places I visited on my first of many Eurotrips!

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Life Abroad in the Military

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Let’s take a quick trip across the world to learn an interesting perspective about life abroad in the military. I asked my cousin, Michael Spoelstra, who is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and based in Okinawa, Japan, to provide us with insights about living as an expat deployed in Japan. He provides a thoughtful and honest perspective about the challenges of living abroad. Thank you, MP (my nickname for him!), for writing for inspirNational!

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Photo Credit: Michael Spoelstra


 

It is difficult to put together the sentiments one feels. I think there are stages people experience in being removed from what they’ve been so accustomed to, so I’ll try to address the three stages which I’ve experienced – the Vacation, the Rut, and Reality.  Keep in mind this disclaimer; my experience is not the same of the typical traveler.  I had no choice where I ended up, due to military orders, nor any say in the duration of my tour.  I’m also writing this on a birthday, alone, on a grey, gloomy day – so some context may shed light on the tone of this post.

Stage one, in relocating to Okinawa, Japan is the Vacation phase.  I am approximately 7,307 miles, 14 hours in time zone, and thousands of years steeped in culture away from home.  Fighting through jet lag one is overwhelmed by the alien feeling of it all.  The sun feels different.  Flora and fauna are different.  The stars in the night sky seem rearranged.  And for once in my life – I am the one who is different.

Excitement courses through your veins – you want to try all the food, you want to see all the cultural sites, you want to engage these strange new people.  The deeper, more complex human needs are shelved while you figure out how to get places, what your routine is, how to stay out of trouble, who to go to for help…etc etc etc.  This phase lasts approximately 3-4 weeks, or as some say, long enough to break a habit.  Stage one is a “yes” stage, a stage overflowing with optimism, opportunity, and adventure.

A routine is developed, novelty erodes and a foreign national enters into the Rut phase, developing a deeper understanding of where they fit in this new culture, and what’s expected of them.  This second stage is highlighted (or low lighted) by the fact that a routine is developed.  Loved ones from home message less – the novelty has worn off that you are away and messaging is inconvenient and sporadic.  The time difference is most debilitating.  Everything familiar that you followed back home is on an opposite schedule.  The distance you feel isn’t just physical, it is a cultural and emotional distance – you hear about an epic football game with a close ending – the world could end for those poor fans on the losing end – yet it is inconsequential here.  You wonder whether those same people that stopped messaging you think of you often – if everything will be different when you come back.  Coping with this comes in the form of planning travel, understanding new people and melding with new social groups.  These friends aren’t just friends.  They replace your family, friends, and are the tie you have to what you have always known.  The uniqueness and cultural differences among the locals you once found humor in suddenly becomes obnoxious.  This stage persists for different amounts of time among different individuals, and sometimes the lines between the Rut and stage 3, Reality.

Reality is, I think, the most mature stage there is in being so far from home, a long term resident in a different part of the world.  A self-subsistent state occurs when you are alone or so long.  You become emotionally hardened, locked-up, and accept the world as you’ve observed it.  The differences between myself and the Japanese are nothing to be annoyed with.  Annoyance is a form of refusal or inability to understand why people do what they do.  The reality in being away from home here is the same it would be if you moved 80 miles down I-94.  Change is inevitable in life, and the attitude you bring to the table shows what substance will come from the heat of your crucible, whatever that may be.

I miss home.  There are great opportunities here that I cannot miss despite that. The experience of living in Japan has been humbling, it has been challenging, and it has been acculturating.  It tests your mettle, your mental fortitude, and the relationships you have had.  While this isn’t a ringing endorsement for relocating across the world, it isn’t a damnation either.  I am thankful to understand myself more.  I am thankful for the mental toughness I’ve developed.  I am thankful for my parents.  Mostly, I am thankful to have become the person I am through these experiences.  You can never know your country’s greatness until you have truly experienced another country.  On the flip side, you can never know your home’s faults until you have made another home.


Michael’s last point is what really “hit home” for me. I think it is so important for all of us to experience travelling (and ideally living) abroad to appreciate our home country and become open to other ways of living throughout the world.

 

From Explorer to Settler

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InspirNational readers: We all love to explore and travel, but how do we decide where to settle? Thank you to Hunter Reams for writing this guest post with some great insights about choosing where to settle.


There are countless blogs and advice columns on traveling and exploring the world. While we all love being an explorer, at the end of the day, or at the end of a great vacation, we need a place to call home. Deciding where you want to settle down can be one of the most difficult decisions. From affordability to an awesome job market, many variables impact your decision on that place that you can call home. I have narrowed down my top criteria in making the all-important decision of where to plant your roots.

Job Opportunities
Job opportunities vary from state to state and region to region, and this is a very important variable as it is the foundation upon which you will prosper. I believe that the best place to start your “quest to settle” is to analyze the job market. If you work in investment banking, New York City will be much more likely to have opportunities than Gary, Indiana. Or if you are interested in supply chain management for oil, Texas and North Dakota may have the best opportunities. Network with friends, network online, network some more, and search for the employment opportunities that will make you happy. Once you have located either specific jobs or areas that have a demand for your expertise, narrow your search area to those places. This way, you will be much more likely to be financially stable, and derive the most enjoyment out of your new location!

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Family and Friends
If family and friends play a major role in your life, you may not want to locate far away from them. While social media and communications technology have made it much easier to stay connected over long distances, it is nonetheless very difficult to live far from your closest circle. Personally, this is a particularly difficult criterion as my parents relocated to a remote Appalachian city, while my friends and extended family are in Michigan/Ohio…When analyzing this variable; keep in mind the age/health of your family and friends, as well as the possibilities of them relocating. If you are looking to settle away from friends and family, consider living in areas that are near airports or other forms of public transportation to help you stay connected.

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Climate and Geography
If you love the beach, should you focus on living beachside? If you want to ski every day, should you narrow your search to mountainous regions? Do you want to live right by the Detroit Tigers’ stadium so you can get season tickets to the games? Both the climate and geographic region play a huge role in determining your hobbies, behaviors, and activities. A good way to analyze this variable is to write down all of the hobbies and activities that make you happy, and determine if each geographic location can cater to them. If you absolutely cannot go a week without playing golf, then living in Maine would not be a great idea. If you love the snow and four seasons, then maybe Florida is not the right place for you. This variable should not be overlooked because you can find employment, affordable housing, good education systems, and culture all throughout the country. But certain geographic locations have characteristics that others do not possess. (i.e oceans, warm weather, sports teams). Choose wisely when determining what geographic locations can best satisfy your needs.

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Population and Culture
I grouped population and culture together because I have traveled to many large American cities and have yet to find one that does not offer plenty of culture. On the other hand, the majority of small cities do not possess as many offerings of cultural stimulation. If you crave the variety of cultural foods, music, atmosphere, ambience, etc. then living in cities like New York, Los Angeles or Miami would be a great fit. Those cities are full of vibrant offerings that will keep any cultural sommelier happy. If cultural diversity is not as important to you, then a small town or suburb will likely be a good match.

Population is also an important factor because life in a small town is much different than living in a suburb, which is much different than living in a large city. Having lived in all three, I will share my opinions per population size:

If you enjoy seeing neighbors at the local grocery store and enjoy being a bigger fish in a small pond, then the small town life may be for you. Living in a small town provides a sense of community – you feel like you truly are part of the town. There are also fewer worries about crime, traffic, other annoyances, and the ability to frequently see friends and family at the local restaurants, churches, and stores. Additionally, it is typically much more affordable and land is abundant. The biggest disadvantages to small town life are the lack of amenities, culture, and job opportunities. In the town I lived in for 6 months, there was very little to do, not much shopping/entertainment, and lack of cultural exposure among many of the people. The town did not have any major corporation and held very few job opportunities for a young college graduate. I believe that living in a small town is best suited for those that want a slower pace of life, close-knit community, and more privacy. Families, retirees, and those who love the outdoors are best suited for the small town.

Growing up in a suburb provided a great mix of the small town and bigger city. While I could travel into Detroit for sports games and concerts, I also could retreat back to the safety and privacy that the suburb provided. There were great job opportunities in the suburb itself and in the surrounding cities. I feel that the biggest disadvantage to suburban life is that there is not the abundance of culture/entertainment that one finds in a big city, and it also lacks the land and community involvement compared to a small town. Some may find that suburbs are unsatisfyingly mediocre. I believe that suburbs are the most ideal location for families and those that want a comfortable lifestyle.

Life in the big city has the advantages of all the amenities you can ask for; lots of entertainment and culture, and tons of employment opportunities. Cities often have public transits systems that eliminate the need for a car and a short bike ride or walk can get you to where you need to be. I feel that the biggest drawbacks to living in a larger city are the lack of nature, expenses, small fish in a big pond, crime, and annoyances such as traffic and higher taxes. I believe that the big city is best suited for young professionals and those that want to experience a fast paced lifestyle with tons of culture and diversity.

Overall, small towns, suburbs, and larger cities all have pros and cons. It is important to discover what makes you happy, and find a place that works for you!

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Longevity
My final variable in making the decision to settle down is longevity. It is important to grasp an understanding on long-term variables that will be important to you. Education systems, healthcare, governmental benefits and taxes, real estate markets – these things are easy to overlook when you are 25 and excited to start your career in a new place. But in a few short years when all of your friends and colleagues are starting families, these variables can become extremely important, if not determinative. So when making your decision on where to settle down, keep in mind that your priorities will likely change. To help analyze this factor, reaching out to family members or friends who are at a later stage in life may be of help. Ask them what they look for when relocating, and the best ways of ascertaining that information. This way, you are not only preparing for the present, but also for the future.

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Final Word
Overall, there is no right decision and that is a beautiful thing! You cannot make a wrong choice, only choose a different path. Do your diligences, discover what makes you happy, and then go for it!

Can You Travel to 25 Countries by Age 25?

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I am excited to share the inspiring story of my friend, Lisa McElhenny, who proves that you can travel to 25 countries by the age of 25! Lisa works as a fundraising consultant in Cleveland. I met her out-of-the-blue last year at a mutual friend’s house, and we were excited to find out that we were sorority sisters and both new to Cleveland. We instantly bonded, especially about our love for travel, and now Lisa has become one of my best friends. When not working or serving on our sorority alumnae executive board, we both love to see the world. One day I decided to ask her about her amazing travel ambitions. Check out her responses below!


How did you decide to travel to 25 countries before you were 25?

When I was a kid visiting my grandparents in upstate New York, one of their friend’s mentioned that their grandson had just completed his goal of visiting 25 countries before turning 25. I might have been 8 or 9 at the time and it sounded like an incredible adventure. I thought, if this kid can do it, so could I! It was a pipe dream for a long time. In fact, it was not until I was in college that I really committed to the pursuit. When I studied abroad in France my junior year, I was able to visit six countries by bus, train, or cheap plane tickets. All of a sudden I realized I had visited more than 20 countries and this fantasy felt possible. I was so close to 25, I just had to do it!

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

Where have you traveled and where do you plan to travel before you turn 25?

Most of my travels have been to Europe, North America, and the Caribbean. My family spent a couple of years living in Canada when I was a child. I also had the chance to visit several relatives with my grandparents in Sweden in 1998. From there the trips were over holidays with family. We went to Costa Rica, Mexico, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. Then when I was 17 I went to Nice, France for a semester-abroad program. While I was there I traveled to Monaco, the Vatican, and Italy. I think it was at that point when I started to count the number of countries I had visited. When I was 21, I was living in France and found a classmate who was as eager to explore Europe as I was. We took trips to Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, and Morocco. Most recently, I went to Iceland with that same friend.

My family and I in Rome

My family and I in Rome

On Friday, my family and I are heading to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands – that will be number 24. We will be flying into Quito and then taking a cruise through the islands. This is a lifelong dream for the four of us to see the islands and the unique wildlife, especially the sea turtles and blue-footed boobies.

Finally, my boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Prague in the Czech Republic in May. That will be the 25th country before I turn 25 in September. I am looking forward to learning about the history, exploring the small markets, and seeing the architecture.

What were your favorite places or memories while traveling?

I have countless memories of these trips that I will always treasure. Good and bad! With my family there are crazy boat stories where we thought we would never make it back to land in the Caribbean and I have some war stories of battling jellyfish in Costa Rica. With friends, I think back to live music and lots of dancing in Ireland and getting lost and accosted with marriage proposals in Morocco.

On my recent trip to Iceland, my friend Emma and I had an incredible time pairing outdoor adventures of hiking and glacier trekking with city explorations in Reykjavik. I have never seen anything like the landscapes of Iceland. Driving along the highway you will see steam oozing out of the earth. There are no forests and the way the grass grows makes it look like it is in constant motion melting down the volcanic hills. What made this trip even more special was seeing the Northern Lights. We were in awe of their beauty and true majesty. I will never forget how giddy we were watching the pale blue dance across the otherwise black sky. Iceland is definitely one of my favorite places I have visited.

Emma and I in Iceland

Emma and I in Iceland

What have you learned from traveling?

I am just a drop of water compared to the ocean. I mean that in the most positive way. We are all just a small part of this world and it is humbling to realize that again and again. We lead lives that are so self-centered. But when you travel, when you see the massiveness of the world, you realize that it is not about you at all.

Look at this map. With my 25 countries, I have barely made a dent! We live in a world that is so big, so diverse, and so inspiring. I am so grateful for the experiences I have had to explore different cultures and the opportunities that have led me to these countries. I am even more eager to see where the world leads me next!

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What advice do you have for aspiring travelers?

  • Stay in a hostel. Hostels are not only a great way to travel on a budget but also an opportunity to meet new people. Some of the best adventures my friends I had in Europe all started by meeting another young traveler in a hostel.
  • Don’t hesitate to find a park, or coffee shop, or bench to just sit and take it all in. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, because I am a big fan of planning activities. But, if you are willing to just sit, relax, and observe, you will be able to pick up on the nuances of a culture.
  • Go! Now!

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your inspiring story and insights on inspirNational!

Entrepreneurship and Travel: Abroaders’ Approach

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Last fall, through the power of social media, I connected with the founders of Abroaders who are game changers in entrepreneurship and travel.

What is Abroaders?

Abroaders is a resource and community that helps people make travel affordable through frequent flyer points and credit card deals. It provides members with “travel hacking news, members only travel tips, and information on how to leverage international travel for explosive personal growth and business development. Cheers to a life without borders!”

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I asked co-founder, A.J. Dunn, to provide us with his perspective on Abroaders’ approach to entrepreneurship and travel. Thank you, A.J., for sharing your insights!


It has never been a better time to consider entrepreneurship.  Especially if you value travel.

There are lots of ways to quench your thirst for travel.  Teaching English abroad, using vacation time to travel, negotiating remote work, etc. If your thirst for travel is similar to mine, the above examples are great, but won’t fully satisfy the need to travel.  I really wanted to travel with no limits.  Never be bound to one location for any reason other than I wanted to be there.  I wanted location independence.  The only way I saw how to do this was win the lottery (be independently wealthy) or have a source of income that didn’t require me to be in any particular place at any particular time unless that was my wish. I chose the latter.

This post isn’t meant to serve as a measuring stick for success, or to measure our travel prowess against one another. So many digital nomads have made more money than me and so many digital nomads have been to more countries than me.  But I am living my dream, and that is all that matters.  We are all on personal journey’s and most of us envision our journey’s to have a different sequence and we are all en route to different places, both literally and metaphorically.

Where you’ve been is nice, where you’re going is exciting, but nothing can compare to right now.

This post is going to outline how I’ve been able to travel the globe (both fast and slow travel) over the last 4 years thanks to entrepreneurship as well as beating the airlines at their own game.

A quick explanation of how I can travel the globe full-time.

Like I said, I am where I want to be.  Maybe it isn’t where you want to be. But there are certain concepts and tools that grant us the true freedom to do with our time whatever it is we please.

In a nutshell, I can travel the globe and experience all things travel because of two things.

  • Entrepreneurship: Using award points and frequent flyer miles allows you to fly for next to nothing….However, food, shelter, water, and having a social life typically require some actual cash.  Entrepreneurship has provided me the income to pay for everything outside of plane tickets.
  • Mastering award travel: International airfare is really expensive.  My business partner and I save tens of thousands of dollars each year thanks to research, a strong attention to detail, and strong systems that have allowed us to master the “frequent flyer miles” or “award travel” game.

Note:  If you’re willing to invest your time and are interested in learning how to master award travel, my company has created some free resources on how to do this.  We created a quick start email course (get sent a series of emails teaching you the essentials).  And we have a weekly podcast that is free and takes a deeper dive into different topics pertaining to award travel. If you want to reap the rewards without investing the time, we have a paid service as well.

Things to consider before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is a wild ride.  I highly recommend you watch this 3-minute YouTube video that explains the entrepreneurial journey in a more concise and elegant way than I can.

Here are some key points and questions I think are very important before you take the plunge

  • Before starting a company, seriously consider having a business partner (will touch on starting a business with a friend later)

At the end of the day, there are like 39842903843342987324 things that need to be accomplished or accounted for.  And what happens if you get sick?  Or have personal things you need to attend to?  In my opinion, a business partner is crucial and it allows you to share some of the stress and responsibility of being the head honcho.

  • Are you mentally tough?

If you aren’t, do yourself a favor and don’t start a company.  Are you offended that I asked that question? Do yourself a favor and don’t start a company.  There are a lot of stressful things about starting and growing a company and if you don’t consider yourself to be mentally tough, you probably can’t handle it, or maybe you could handle it but lack the confidence necessary to grind your way to success.  I haven’t met a successful entrepreneur that wasn’t mentally tough.

  • Do you REALLY want it or would it be nice?

You have to be a good kind of crazy and obsessed with either your business idea or at the very least obsessed with the freedom that a business could provide you.

  • Are you prepared to make a comically low hourly wage in the beginning?

You can definitely achieve great success entrepreneurially and create systems and build a team that allows your company to remain a well-oiled machine without you….But you need to start somewhere, and it’s tough to train somebody to do something if you haven’t done it yourself.  Sure you can source things like web design, and copy writing, but your core product or service, at least at the beginning you will need to be involved.

Quick tip on remote work.

  • Have a reliable work space (especially if you’ve never worked remotely before)

You don’t need an office.  You don’t even need to be a member at a co-working space (although I do advise this). But working remote is more challenging that people think.  I’ve learned I am most productive when I have a dedicated workspace as opposed to working in bed, at a desk, dinner table, then couch, and so on. Working from home is a blessing and a curse.  TV, laundry, your bed, no boss keeping tabs on you.  Those things are the devil and a distraction for your work day.  But there are great pros like saving money on a commute, not having to drive in traffic, and being able to work from anywhere in the world you want.

Questions to answer before starting a company with a friend.

  • Is this a friend that I ever bicker with over petty things?

If you argue about petty things with someone, you should really avoid going into business with them.  Because there will be non-trivial things you’ll have to have very serious conversations about and come to a joint-conclusion.

Erik and I are both rather frank people that naturally seem to avoid pass-aggressive behavior.  This bodes well for a business partnership IMO.  I can tell Erik I think an idea of his will not work and he doesn’t take it personally (I’d like to think I’m the same way).

My next question is really important in regards to coming to those joint-conclusions both people can buy into I previously mentioned and move forward with.

  • Do both friends (or a group of friends) share the same vision and goals for the venture?

What do you both want?  Money?  To make a change?  To offer a service to help as many people as while making sure you can at least pay the bills?  I feel it’s inevitable with any business you’ll come to the following fork in the road: make more money now, or continue to build as much equity as possible in your core business and turn down faster and larger profits.

That fork in the road seems to be a push-pull thing.  Erik and I have gone both ways at different points in our business.  Our decisions pretty much always came back to the vision we both shared for our business.  The first priority was to achieve location independence.  The ability to be anywhere we wanted whenever we wanted. To work from anywhere.  But we also have lofty financial goals as entrepreneurs based on certain future goals we have as individuals (I’m passionate about education and want loads of cash to put into a non-profit in that space).  We also both wanted to have reasonable standards of living on our entrepreneurial journey.  If we both had some cash in our checking accounts in those early days, we decided to turn down quick wins to build equity in the long game or to take some time off and travel.

  • Are you prepared to do more work than your friend, or believe you do more work than your friend without complaining about it?

This thing is cyclical.  There’s times Erik is more motivated than me to work like a crazy person and vice versa.  When you’re in the zone or really passionate and motivated about an aspect of the business to grow and improve, you can’t assume the other person is “there” with you.  It goes both ways and you just need to accept sometimes you’ll do more heavy lifting than the other person.  And there will be times they do more heavy lifting than you.

  • Is the business more important than your friendship?

This isn’t a rhetorical question.  Some people really care about their businesses and are willing to burn a bridge here and there.  Erik and I have known each other forever and from day 1 we agreed the friendship came first. That was a non-negotiable.

This is not a question to answer, but something to take advantage of….This is your friend.  There’s an incredible amount of trust already built.  Leverage this. Continue to allow yourself to trust the person you know and trust the strengths you know they have.  Lots of people go into businesses with certain people for strategic reasons.  There isn’t the trust built up.  There isn’t the chemistry.  This is an advantage you have when you go into businesses with someone you know well.  It limits the emotional and stress overhead of watching finances like a hawk/etc.

Finally, trust your gut!  Our instincts seem to have evolved further than our ability to rationalize and “think” some things out.  This isn’t always the case, but when in doubt, I firmly beleive that whatever your gut tells you should trump everything else.

My hope for this post is that you found  useful information/tools and are inspired to make entrepreneurship and travel a part of your daily life. Feel free to reach out through the Abroaders website if you have any questions.

A Yankee Perspective on Southern Livin’

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Are you interested in learning what is like to live in the Southern United States? My boyfriend, a native Michigander, turned into a southerner last summer when he entered law school at the University of South Carolina. Below you will learn more about the Southern lifestyle, particularly from a Yankee (Northern American’s) point of view. Thank you, Hunter, for sharing your thoughts!


Moving can be one of the most frustrating and stressful things one can do. I have moved several times in my life, but none more drastic nor more important that my move down to South Carolina for Law School. I have now been located in Columbia, South Carolina for almost 6 months. This post aims to share my perceptions of the south from a northern viewpoint, and to give insight to anyone who is considering moving down here as well!

Coming from Michigan, my experiences with the southern half of the United States were extremely few and far between. Besides a couple trips to Florida and driving through the south, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Luckily for me, it has been mostly a great experience and a definite perspective changer.

What I have noticed about living south of the Mason-Dixon line:

Goodbye snow, hello sun. One very positive experience I have enjoyed down south is the weather! While I will admit that the last few weeks of August and first few weeks of September were HOT, from mid-September on, the weather has been absolutely gorgeous. Just today on January 25th, I was one of many who went for a run on this beautiful “winter” day in the upper 50s and sun. While I enjoy skiing and the snow around the holidays, the never-ending winter of Michigan would often wear me down and bring about seasonal depression. South Carolina weather has been wonderful for being outside and has definitely been an upgrade from Michigan weather. I have spent more time running outdoors, riding my bike, and swimming in these six months than I would in two years up north. And for that, an A+ for positive weather experience.

Columbia State House

Columbia State House

Vineyard vine, sperrys, and sundresses. There is also a distinct difference in style. Down south, the prevailing culture is traditional and very preppy. The men wear pastel colors, boat shoes, and chubbies (short shorts). The women wear sundresses and very traditional southern clothing. It is almost as if I was transported back to the 1960s. This style change has been both a positive and somewhat of a negative experience. The one negative about southern style is that there is a strong culture of conformity. Because there is such an overwhelming popular style, if one does not conform to the group, it is easy to feel left out. Having said that, the style has also been a positive because it results in everyone looking good and caring about their appearance. The ambiance of well-dressed people enriches the environment and has been an overall a positive experience.

Robert E. Lee and John C. Calhoun are Gods among men. In South Carolina, there is a great sense of pride and culture with the state and the south as a whole. Along with that, there is a strong sense of identity with Southern history. This past weekend, Brittany and I visited the Confederate museum and realized the differences in historical perspective. The Confederate museum was very sympathetic towards the succession of the Southern States and it treated the north as an oppressive imperial force. There was even a comparison between General Sherman’s army and the Nazis. It was fascinating to see the differences in perspective between the north and south. In Michigan, there was a sense of state pride. However it pales in comparison to the southern pride I have seen in South Carolina. When you are in South Carolina, you will know that you are in South Carolina! I have grown to love this southern culture and historical pride.

Confederate Flag from Columbia, South Carolina curing the Civil War

Confederate Flag from Columbia, South Carolina curing the Civil War

Nice and easy. The stereotypes are true: Life down south moves at a slower pace and southern hospitality is alive and well. The folks down south have been very nice, very welcoming, and easy to get along with. Compared with the north, life seems to move just a bit slower and people do not appear to be as rushed. If you’d like to slow down, I’d say the south is the place for you.

Hope you’re hungry! I love southern food. Collard greens, fried Okra, and BBQ with the vinegar-based sauce are foods that everyone should try. Additionally, the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means that the seafood here is also absolutely delicious. With some Sweet Tea to wash it all down, you will not go home hungry. I have found that I can enjoy all of the food I have grown to love up north, while also getting a taste of some fine Southern culinary dishes. It is the best of both worlds and definitely a positive experience.

Wear your Sunday finest! Religion has a larger place in everyday society down south. I received a first taste of religion in the south in my first law class. Midway through the class, a girl sneezed and at least half of the class (including the professor mid-sentence), said “God bless you”. A large procession of “bless you’s” is now an everyday occurrence after a sneeze and that is a clear distinction from my educational experiences in Michigan. And while religion clearly is important, I have not been pressured or coerced in any way to join a particular church or follow a particular denomination. From what I have encountered so far, religion is widely practiced and good morals are preached, but not in an offensive way. So that has been another positive experience!

The south may not be for everyone, but it has been a great experience for me so far. While I can see myself returning to Michigan one day, the different culture and perspective I have experienced in the South has been invaluable. As a wise woman once told me, “bloom where you are planted.” The South has been a wonderful place to bloom and I would encourage anyone to come down south and experience this new perspective on life!

Do What You Love, Love What You Do

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I’m so excited to share the story of Sigourney Seybert, one of my classmates and friends from the University of Michigan. She currently works as a Field Staffer at New Life Church Ann Arbor and as an International Missionary at Great Commission Latin America. She is one of the most inspiring people that I know, who follows her heart and faith to guide her in her career. She is making a huge difference in the world, particularly in El Salvador and the Ann Arbor community. She is positively influencing others to pursue their faith throughout the journey of life. Learn insights from her below!

My friend Brittany and I met while in undergrad at the University of Michigan in a social outreach class.  As you can imagine there are a lot of people in these types of classes that are passionate about community development, social work, and generally making the world a better place.  However, Brittany and I clicked and found ourselves soon dreaming and scheming about our futures and talking about the issues and people groups we were passionate about.
Fast forward to now and I have the privilege of writing a guest post on this blog!  It seems like not long ago I was a little freshman heading to Ann Arbor ready to make a splash, but little did I know I would be moving to El Salvador in 5 short years.  Going into college I knew that I wanted to do something to help others.  Like many hopeful freshman I thought I would go to med school and save peoples’ lives, but after almost failing general chemistry I threw those dreams out the window.  I sought out a church community my first few weeks on campus and settled into a church on campus that was full of young people.  In the spring of 2010 when the opportunity to go on a mission trip to El Salvador presented itself I knew I had to go.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
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We touched down in “the land of smiles,” as it is known, to find ourselves in the midst of a national emergency.  All our plans of teaching English, building houses, and feeding kids went out the window and our entire week was spent doing disaster relief.  We delivered clean water, food, and condolences to people who had lost their homes.  We heard countless heart breaking stories of families separated in the night as the water rose, houses washing away, and emergency evacuations.
Now I, Sigourney, grew up in a nice New England Parsons home set on ten acres in the country of mid Michigan.  Up to that point in my life I could think of few times I had felt uncomfortable.  This trip rocked my world.  I started asking a lot of deep questions like: Why do these people have to suffer while I live so comfortably?  Why do they have so little while I have so much?  Can I do anything at all to help?
These questions rang in my ears as I returned to school for my second year.  I cried, I became apathetic, I prayed.  I didn’t know what I could possibly do with my life to make a difference.  So like any logical person would do, I went back.
The second trip was less dramatic, but provided much clarity.  I realized that I could make a difference if only for a few people and I became satisfied with that.  I realized that what I had fallen in love with the year prior was the people.  They don’t have much, but they know what is important.  Relationships.
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So as I returned to Ann Arbor for my final few semesters it was settled:  I would study Spanish, so I could build relationships there, and Social Work so that I had a skill set to empower communities.  From 2012-2014 I would return to El Salvador four times.  Each time my Spanish a little better, my relationships a little deeper, and my heart more fully alive.  In the fall of 2012 I had made the choice to go on staff at the church knowing that half of the year I would move to El Salvador.  I would have the opportunity to love the 40 kids the church there feeds every day, to teach them about God, to help them with homework, but mostly just to love them and their families.  I also now have the opportunity to plan trips for University of Michigan students, just like I once was, that could change the trajectory of their lives.It has been a long road.  It has been a tough road full of pain and heart break, but also full of inexpressible joy.  In five short weeks I will board that plane and I will once again enter the land of smiles, not as a stranger in a foreign land, but as a homecoming.
So at this point you may be asking “How do you live in two places?  How does that even make sense?  Why would you leave your friends and family and comfort?”  These are all valid questions and the answer is simple: I desire to use this life I’ve been given to it’s fullest potential.  For me that means living in two places.  I believe that we are here to love and serve those around us and that to those whom much has been given much is expected.  I have been blessed with abundant resources and I feel that it is my responsibility to be a good steward of these resources.  Now you may be asking “How can I do that?  I can’t just move out of the country!”  This is exactly what I don’t want you to hear.  What I do want you to hear is that you have to power to make a differenceFigure out what you are passionate about and find a way to make your life about it.  My job didn’t even exist until I wanted it.  Do I make a lot of money?  No.  Do I care?  No.  My heart is so full and I wake up every day so excited and grateful for the job that I have that it doesn’t matter.  Maybe for you it does matter.  Well then go get a high paying job and then use your money to bless others in your free time.
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However, I would like to caution you from just giving money away.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I think you would be missing out on a huge opportunity to learn something.  I have learned more about myself, the world, and what love truly looks like by getting in the trenches with those who are different from me.  I have wept with my friends there, I have laughed, heck I stood up in a wedding in El Salvador last week!  Don’t just give to make yourself feel better.  Give deeply not only of your resources, but of your heart.  Engage with people that need to be seen, and feel empowered to impact others for good.

I will get off of my soap box now, but as you can probably tell I am super passionate about this.  I’d love to talk with anyone more about any of the things I talked about.  Please feel free to contact me via email at sigseybert@gmail.com!  Also, I have a blog of my own if you’d like to read more details or see more pictures about my journey and the work I’m doing now. Thanks for reading!

-Sigourney Seybert

Thank you, Sigourney, for sharing your amazing story and inspiring others to do what they love, and love what they do!