Traveling Today: What You Should Know
Today, Tim talks about the things we should know about traveling today, especially, if we plan to travel for extended periods of time. As Tim says, “we can’t just wing it anymore.”
Making Up for Lost Time
Tim is trying to make up for the last time he went to South America. He will be going to multiple continents later this year. Traveling to Southeast Asia is still a big development for him because the whole continent is closed. He wants to go to SEA because it is a budget travel paradise. Even though it is still COVID-19, people can go out again. People are starting to make up for the lost time and taking the money they saved and using it for experiences.
Tim says that we used to be able to just hop on a plane with a passport and go. Now, you got more paperwork to deal with and forms you have to upload and maybe vaccination proof and test. One thing that’s changed his mind that might require more money is you might have to have travel insurance to even get into the country. It usually includes flight cancellation insurance or if your luggage gets lost on top of all the medical. Some countries require it because of the medical aspects. If you don’t have an expat policy, you’re going to need to pick up travel insurance and pay attention to the minimum coverage that you need from a medical standpoint.
The Travel Writers
Last year was a feast and famine for a lot of people. From a destination side that places people could road trip to in the US, some of them had a record year last year during this pandemic. People were looking for places they could drive to, where they could stay in their bubble, and places where they could be outside. The destinations that offered benefited, and then at the same time, travel writers who focused on domestic travel and road trips and outdoor activities did much better than those who were mostly writing about international travel.
Traveling for an Extended Period of Time
Tim’s pandemic project was his second edition of A Better Life for half the price. Nobody was going anywhere. Tim did a lot of interviews with expats and put that out at the end of 2021. One thing that’s changed during that a lot more people have remote jobs than there used to be, including corporate jobs where people used to commute to an office. Now, more of those are remote. Tim says that they should be because maybe you come in once a quarter and everybody meets, but you don’t need to be together.
Tim’s Soul Country
Tim loves Mexico because he has a house there, and he spends a lot of his time there. He has been to Peru five times and would come back in a heartbeat. Choosing between the two has always been hard for him because he constantly comes to new places. He says that it’s always hard to answer, and different places have different things to love. If you’re a beach person, that’s different from if you’re a mountain person.
A Drink with Leonardo da Vinci
More about Tim Leffel:
Tim Leffel is the editor of Perceptive Travel’s narrative web publication, named “best online travel magazine” by the North American Travel Journalists Association and “best travel blog” by SATW. He has contributed to more than 50 publications as a freelancer and runs five online travel magazines and blogs as an editor/publisher. Tim has just launched the NOMADICO newsletter with Kevin Kelly of Wire Magazine.
Connect with Tim Leffel:
Read Full Transcripts Below
Welcome. You’re listening to World Footprints. I’m Tonya Fitzpatrick.
And I’m Ian Fitzpatrick. And today we’re joined by our friend and fellow travel journalist Tim Leffel, who has some thoughts and tips about traveling even though we’re still in the midst of COVID.
Much harder to just wing it like we used to be able to just hop on a plane with a passport and go because first of all, you got more paperwork to deal with now and forms you have to upload and maybe vaccination proof and test you still have to take before you can get into the country. So there’s all that. But also one thing that’s changed that might require more money also is you might have to have travel insurance to even get into the country. And so I think it was always a good idea to have because it usually includes flight cancellation insurance or if your luggage gets lost on top of all the medical. But now some countries are requiring it because of the medical aspect.
You just heard from award winning travel writer, editor and online magazine publisher Tim Leffel discussed some of the post pandemic requirements we should be aware of, especially if we’re looking to live the life of a digital Nomad.
Tim travels frequently between his home in Mexico and the US, but he is currently preparing for an extended European trip. The insights and travel tips Tim offers are helpful to anyone preparing to travel abroad. We met with Tim at the Wyndham Palmas del Mar in the East Coast of Puerto Rico. We had been here for several days, and this was Tim’s first time visiting Puerto Rico. So we asked him about his initial impression of the island.
I’ve been a lot more impressed with the food than I’ve been eating extremely well. And then also just live music everywhere. People are always dancing and singing and there’s always some kind of music going on.
You didn’t get out there.
Not much of a dancer on occasion. It’s happened. It’s like a Bigfoot sighting.
It’s been a long time, I mean, several years since we had you on last time. Last time we talked about travel in a post pandemic world. And even though Covid is still with us, we’re traveling more.
Yeah, we’ve been together for a week and haven’t had mask on, so I guess we haven’t killed each other.
So what’s happening now? You’re heading off to Europe in just a couple of days. So we see Europe opening back up. And what are some of the other places that you’ve seen open up and the new trends that are happening.
I’m trying to make up for lost time. I went to South America earlier this year and I’m going to go to Thailand at the end of this year. So I’m going to hit multiple continents after moving around in a very small space for almost two years. So that’s kind of gratifying. But yes, Southeast Asia is a big development because almost the whole area was closed and that’s been such a budget travel paradise, and it sort of killed the round the world travel idea for quite a while there. And same with Central and South America. A lot of people do that Overland and take six months or whatever. But yeah, of course, we’re still dealing with the threat, but it’s definitely gotten a lot lesser and people are feeling like they can get out and about again. So I think we’re seeing a lot of people making up for lost time and taking that money that they saved, hopefully, and using it for experiences instead of just more things to stuff in their garage.
You mentioned that things are getting easier. We’re able to travel a lot more easier as well. But there are things that we need to consider now that we didn’t have to before.
Yeah. It’s much harder to just wing it like we used to be able to just hop on a plane with a passport and go because first of all, you got more paperwork to deal with now and forms you have to upload and maybe vaccination proof and tests you still have to take before you can get into the country. So there’s all that. But also one thing that’s changed that might require more money also is you might have to have travel insurance to even get into the country. And so I think it was always a good idea to have because it usually includes flight cancelation insurance or if your luggage gets lost on top of all the medical. But now some countries are requiring it because of the medical aspects. So if you don’t have some kind of expat policy or whatever, you’re going to need to pick up travel insurance and pay attention to the minimum coverage that you need from a medical standpoint.
Tim, you’re on the advisory board along with Tonya of the North American Travel Journalists Association, which gives you a pulse on what’s happening in the industry from destination marketing management perspective as well as journalists. What have you been able to glean from our time here from both the DMOs and journalists in terms of how they might be pivoting going forward as we come out of the pandemic?
Yeah, it’s been a weird couple of years, but last year it was kind of feast and famine for a lot of people from a destination side, the places that people could road trip to in the US, some of them had a record year last year during this pandemic, which is kind of hard to believe, but people were looking for places they could drive to where they could sort of stay in their bubble, places where they could be outside. So the destinations that offered that benefited. And then at the same time as travel writers, the ones who focus on domestic travel and road trips and outdoor activities did much better than those who were mostly writing about international travel that took you 12 hours on a plane to get to. But there’s been a lot of pivoting. Some people wrote more about food. I wrote more about liquor for a site that I have about Latin America. People were still drinking, so I wrote more about rum and tequila.
You got a lot of content here on this trip.
Yeah, we had some plenty of rum cocktails together.
So one of the other things I mentioned, that people are kind of revenge traveling, but we’re also seeing people want to move abroad for shorter period or longer periods of time. How are they doing that? You actually wrote a book about living abroad. Give us a couple of tips and things that people should think about if they’re thinking about going somewhere for an extended period.
Yeah, that was my pandemic project. I put out a second edition of A Better Life for Half the Price because it was really easy to get hold of people and interview them because for a while there nobody was going anywhere. So everybody was home. So I did a lot of interviews with Expats and put that out at the end of 2021. Thing that’s changed during all this is a lot more people have remote jobs than there used to be, including a lot of corporate kind of jobs, white collar jobs that people used to have to go commute to an office for. Now, more of those are remote. And a lot of times they should be, because maybe you come in once a quarter and everybody meets, but you don’t need to be together all the time. And then, of course, there are lots of people like us that really could work from a laptop just because we’re writers or people are graphic artists or podcasters, whatever, you can do that from anywhere. So that’s changed. And the governments have kind of reacted to that, because I think a lot of them have realized that’s a very desirable demographic to bring in, because these people are earning money and they’re not using a lot of services, they’re not using taxing the medical system.
They don’t have kids in school a good bit of the time. So a lot of countries, I think it’s up to 31 now, offer some kind of digital Nomad visa. Some of them are more desirable than others. Some of them are in expensive countries like Iceland, where it’s not going to help you too much to move there from the US or England. You’re going to actually be spending more than you did before. But a lot of them are in cheaper countries, too. So I’m happy to see that development because it means you can go somewhere for more than three months, because that’s usually the cut off for a tourist visa. And some places like Europe, you can’t even be in the Schengen Zone for more than three months, even if you change countries. So something like this, that Portugal and Spain have offered, for instance, will let you stay for six months or nine months or a year without having to worry about that.
And for anyone who doesn’t understand what the Schengen Zone is…
Well, I think there’s 26 countries that are basically grouped together in the EU. So if you go to one, it’s the same as going to any of them for the amount of time you can stay. And basically it’s three months within six. So you can stay for three months, but then you got to get out of there and go somewhere else for three months before you can come back.
One of the things I know you’re doing, you and your wife have done our home exchanges. And so would that be a viable option for people who need to leave somewhere for another three months and three months?
Yeah, we’ve done that quite a bit. Nothing that long yet, but we just spend a month Mazatlan in Mexico, and that was really nice to just hang out the beach. And then they stayed at our place. Sometimes you can do non reciprocal ones or there’s a points system. It doesn’t always have to be you’re there and they’re in yours. So, yeah, it’s a good way to use your house while you’re not there as an asset. And then other people belong to a house sitter organization where you basically go pay. I mean, you don’t pay. You go stay in someone’s house for free to take care of their pets and water their plants and whatever. And so it’s a win win for both people. So, yeah, look into things like that. There’s always volunteer opportunities and all kinds of ways to lessen your accommodation costs. But also it’s just way easier to find a place to rent than it used to be for a month or two months or three months. I mean, before Airbnb came along, it was just vacation rentals or word of mouth. And now there’s Airbnb, but there’s also Facebook groups and all these places where you can just kind of get the word out.
I’m looking for a place for two months, and then suddenly 20 people write you back.
Yeah. Now you manage and publish in a number of different areas in the industry. You have a hotel website. Give our audience a sense of some of the areas that you cover with your writing and with your websites.
Well, first of all, I span budget to luxury because I have a luxury site where I use a pen name. It’s not a very secret pen name. It’s just my first and middle name. But so my Google profile doesn’t look like a complete mess. But the blog I’ve had the longest is called the Cheapest Destinations blog. And I started in 2003, which was like the dinosaur age for this. I don’t think AdSense was even available. There was no YouTube, there was no Facebook even there’s no podcast. Yeah, it was kind of hard to get the word out, but we managed. I have another book called The World’s Cheapest Destination, so that’s where that all started. It was mostly just a blog to help journalists find me to quote me for the book. But then over the years, I started other things, just where I saw a hole in the market. So one site, it’s all narrative travel stories from book authors, and one is about hotels. And then I have one that’s just for travel writers. It’s kind of inside baseball, I guess, where I do interviews in print or online in print. So, yeah, it’s a little bit of different things.
I used to have a site about travel gear that I sold and sort of pulled some money out. So that was nice. But after I had like 40 pairs of travel pants and hiking shoes, how many can you use.
On your blog, I know some of the relationships you have with suppliers, they give you stuff that you give away.
Yeah, I do a monthly giveaway on Perceptive Travel, so go sign up for the email list and you’ll get the odds are quite good, too. This is not the Powerball lottery, so I’m lucky if I have 30 or 40 people enter and that’s just something everybody wants.
So upcoming, you’ve got a trip planned to Europe and you’re planning to go there. Give us a sense of where you’re planning to go in the next several weeks and months.
Well, this one’s going to be very focused and the two countries don’t have much to do with each other. But I’m speaking at a conference in Southern Spain and Marbella, and then I’m going to tour around this, Cordoba, Sevilla, some of those cities, Malaga, and then I’m flying to Sofia, Bulgaria, which is totally different because there’s a Nomad conference there. It’s called the Nomad Fest. And so I’m going to be there. And Bulgaria is such a I got to give them a plug because it’s a beautiful country, but it’s such a bargain. And I rented an apartment for a whole month for €260. I’m not going to stay in a whole month. I’ll take it for a month for that price.
It makes leaving this beautiful area a lot easier for you. Not for us. Look at this view and we had a pet walk across.
A lizzard. Some birds.
There was a beautiful Heron out there earlier.
Before we close, I have to ask you a couple of other travel related questions. These are kind of our standard rapid fires. All of the countries you’ve been is the one that really resonates with you, speaks to your I call it your soul country to speak to your soul.
Yeah. This is always such a hard one to answer. And people ask it all the time. And I must like Mexico a lot because I have a house there and I spend a lot of my time there. That’s my base in a city called Guanajuato, in the center of the country, up in the Highlands. But I’ve been to Peru five times, and I would definitely go back in a heartbeat. So I guess I like that country a lot. But yeah, it’s so hard because sometimes you just come to a new place and you love it. And so it would suddenly vaults to the top of your list.
It’s always a hard thing to answer, and different places have different things to love. And if you’re a beach person, that’s different than if you’re a mountain person or a city person. So it’s always tough. But yeah, I was just in Argentina, and I think that was my fourth time there. And every time I go back, I go, wow, this would be a good place to live.
The Latin countries really kind of resonate.
Yeah. And I do speak a fair bit of Spanish. It’s still not where it needs to be, but that helps, too, when you can actually communicate with people in their language. I can’t do that in Hungary or the Czech Republic.
You’ll get there. And so if you were to have a, say, a rum cocktail, because that’s the thing, too, with anyone past this present, who would that be and why?
Wow. I think you asked me this before, and I still remember what I answered because I thought it would be fun to go back in history to talk to Leonardo Da Vinci if there was a translator, because I don’t speak Italian. But yeah, present day, I’m going to give a different answer for present day because I’m actually starting to work with this guy named Kevin Kelly, and he’s the co-founder of Wired magazine. And he’s got a bunch of books out and he wrote the kind of seminal paper called A Thousand True Fans. Like, basically you could make a living if you have a thousand true fans who really care about your work. And I’m starting a newsletter with them called Nomadicos. It’s about for people who want to live abroad and travel abroad long term. And it’s just four bullet points each week with great resources and just a quick read so you can go, oh, that sounds interesting. And go check it out. So he’s somebody that I’m happy. I’m really happy that I’m going to spend more time with.
Well, you have two fans here.
And a hundred ninety-eight more to go.
Thank you so much. I’m so happy that we had this chance to spend time together in Puerto Rico. I know we’ll probably see you elsewhere in the world, but it’s always a pleasure.
Well, nice spending time with you again.
Thank you so much.
Yes, in person.
Stay tuned for the release of Tim’s upcoming newsletter, Nomadico. And of course, you can always sign up for his newsletter for an update, too. You know, it’s funny, dear. I don’t know if you noticed, but I certainly did. We were photobombed by an Iguana as we sat there recording this interview with Tim.
Well, I saw an Iguana behind the camera. I didn’t see one in front of the camera, so that one I missed so I was totally unaware of that.
Yeah, well, he made an appearance as did many of the birds and I really loved the setting that we did this interview and it was very authentic and just listening to it reminds me it puts me back there on the island, but Tim gave us a lot to think about. I think with regards to future travels and even our discussions of living abroad or traveling abroad for extended periods, he’s very full of a lot of incredible travel information and resources and tips, so I appreciate this conversation.
In closing, let’s consider the words of Oscar Wilde: “Live life with no excuses. Travel with no regret.” We’re Tonya and Ian Fitzpatrick and we’re so happy that you traveled with us today. We try our best to be at your service, so please support us with a five star rating and review on Apple Podcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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