Today is the 100th anniversary the National Park Service in the United States.
As many of you might know I’m in the middle of a project to photograph all 59 national parks in the United States. I’m about 75% through with the project and I should be able to finish it sometime in 2017. (I’m also attempting to visit all the national parks in Canada, which is a whole other thing…)
Today I am announcing a new project, to go above and beyond just visiting America’s 59 national parks.
While the national parks are usually considered the highlights of the national park service, the system is much larger than just the 59 places with a “national park” designation. There are national monuments, memorials, battlefields, seashores, lakeshores, preserves, trails, and historic sites.
With the recent addition of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, there are now 413 sites in the United States National Park System.
….and I’m going to visit and photograph all 413 of them!
This isn’t anything new for me. I have been visiting National Park Service sites as far back as the late 90’s when I had to travel for work. I’d bring my National Park Passport with me and visit sites all over the US. Based on my most recent count, which was a while ago, I’ve been to over 150 sites already.
Here are the constraints I’m putting on myself for the purpose of the project. They are similar to what I’ve done for my national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Site projects:
- Any sites I visited before 2007, will be revisited. This is actually a rather hefty number as over 100 of the NPS sites I’ve been to were before I started traveling full time. Thankfully, many of them are in a dense area around Washington DC and New York City.
- I will take at least one representative photo at each site. Some sites, like the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, are really small. Some, like on the Mall in Washington DC, are just statues. Nonetheless, I should be able to get at least one decent photo from each place I visit.
- Each visit is to be a meaningful visit. This is very vague I realize. My intent is that the goal isn’t just to take a photo or get a passport stamp. I’ll try to have an experience like what a normal visitor might have, which includes going to the visitor center (if there is one), watching a film, talking to a ranger, and exploring the site. The sites are all very different from each other, so what might constitute a meaningful visit in Northern Alaska will be very different for an urban park in Washington DC.
- I will walk at least one mile out and back on each national trail. I am aware that this is only a tiny fraction of the size of most trails, but I’m not trying to hike every inch of every trail in the US. That would be over a year of walking. For most trails, I’m assuming I park my car at a trailhead, walk out for at least a mile, and then walk back.
- I will not be collecting passport stamps. I always forget to bring my passport. I’ve purchased 3 of them over the years because I visit a place when I didn’t have my passport. I’m just going to forego it entirely and just focus on visiting and taking photos.
This is a big undertaking and it will take me years to complete. That being said, I’m well on my way there already. Even with the rules I’ve placed upon myself, I’ll probably be well over 100 by the time I visit my 59th national park next year.
Much of this will consist of doing regional road trips throughout the US: fly into a city, rent a car, and drive to the NPS sites in a region. I’m sure there will be a few big road trips as well. Unlike full blown national parks, it is entirely possible to visit multiple sites in a single day as many of them are quite small and close together (again, New York and Washington DC).
I’m revisiting sites I visited in the past simply because of photography. I didn’t have a camera back then and I’d like to be able to share the images of all the places on the website.
I will not be the first person to accomplish this. According to the National Park Travelers Club, there have been 43 people who have visited all 413 National Park Service sites. Fewer than the number of people who have visited every country on Earth. I’m quite sure that by the end of the project several more people will have completed it, and the number of sites will probably be more than 413. (I remember it being in the 390’s back when I started visiting them in the 90’s)
I’ll try to announce trips on social media before I embark on them, so I can do meet-ups in the various cities across the US that I’ll be visiting. For some of the more urban sites, I’ll also be arranging small group trips as well.
I stared down at the white slip of paper in front of me and gulped. $2,200? How could I pay for this? Do hospitals in Thailand take credit cards? What would happen if I didn’t have the money to pay for it?
I’d spent the last week in the hospital after an emergency appendix situation, and I was finally recovered enough to start dealing with the administrative aspects of being hospitalized in a foreign country. Paperwork, phone calls, meetings with the hospital’s finance department, and bills began to fill my days and nights, and I admittedly started to get a little overwhelmed.
Luckily, after speaking with the hospital’s billing department, I was able to pay for my hospital bills with a mixture of cash and credit card, and I got discharged the following day. Thankfully I bought travel insurance before I left for my trip and they helped me arrange and pay for a hotel stay, so I made my way to a hotel in Chiang Mai near the famous night market. I settled in to my abode for the next few weeks and all was well.
Quickly realizing I now had less than $20 in cash, I hobbled my way to the nearest ATM with my aunt, who had flown in from the Philippines to help me out. Stepping up to the ATM, I inserted my debit card into the machine and performed my transaction as usual, took the money, and went on my way. Hours later, however, I checked my wallet and realized that my card was missing.
In a panic, I tore apart my hotel room and went back to the ATM, but the card was nowhere in sight. I asked the hotel reception, retraced my steps around the street, and even churned through the trash in my room to try and find it. Clothes strewn about the room, I called my bank and cancelled my card. Though this situation wasn’t ideal, I still had some cash and two credit cards to tide me over until I could manage to get a new card. That would be enough to last me the next few weeks until my boyfriend arrived from the US, right?
Again, all was going smoothly and I was recovering normally. I started to be able to walk again with the help of my aunt, and I was well on my way to filling out my medical claim forms to submit to my insurance provider for reimbursements. I changed hotels to a more youth-friendly place and was once again flying solo after my aunt returned to the Philippines.
A few days later, as I was sitting in my new hotel room, I checked my credit card statement to realize that a few purchases had been placed on my card back in Houston. Gasoline, a few fishing rods from Bass Pro Shops, and some retail buys totaling over $1,000 riddled my statement. I was furious, but also a little bit concerned, given that I now had only one credit card and the rest of my cash to last me. What if I had another emergency situation? What if my last and only credit card got stolen or lost? In the past few weeks I’d really learned to expect the unexpected while traveling, and financially this was no exception.
In my moment of panic there was still some light. I was cleared to travel and I booked a flight to my next destination, Vietnam. My medical and hotel expenses were submitted and approved by my insurance provider. I was eager to get back on the road and start traveling again, even if I was now reduced to a rolling suitcase in lieu of a backpack.
The day finally came when I was able to take off again. I packed up my room and went to check out of my hotel, grinning with excitement.
“We only accept cash here,” the receptionist said, “the credit card system is not working.”
What?! I thought to myself. With now only a few hundred dollars of cash at my disposal and some Thai baht, I was extremely concerned about having enough money to finish off my trip. Taxis to and from the airport, food, lodging, and activities ate up a good amount of money each day, and I still had over two weeks before my boyfriend would meet me in Saigon with my new debit card.
So what did I do? I spent a good chunk of time budgeting the next two weeks, each day being very meticulous about expenses, cutting them down wherever possible. I did a lot of research about activities and cut out partying and unnecessary snacking until I arrived in Saigon. I cut out credit card expenses entirely and kept my last card on my person at all times to avoid it getting lost, stolen, or misplaced.
And guess what? I made it, with over $100 to spare. In just a few days, I went from being one credit card and a few hundred dollars away from being completely destitute in a foreign country to being back on track with my trip’s itinerary. To top it all off, I learned so much about budgeting and keeping track of my finances, a skill I’ve been able to use on my travels and life at home ever since.
Finding an affordable hotel room in Barcelona is not as easy as it used to be. As Barcelona’s popularity as a tourist destination continues to soar (with almost 9 million visitors in 2015), so do the hotel prices. Long gone are the days when you could roll into the city and find a great deal even at the last minute.The rates
Enter Pension Mari-Luz. This budget hotel checks all of the boxes when it comes to our favorite cheapo categories: a low price, fantastic location, charming surroundings, and a welcoming atmosphere. Right now you can reserve a double room at Pension Mar-Luz in November 2016 for only $50 per night. That is truly a steal for Barcelona!
For select nights in December, the price is even a little bit lower. And if you’re traveling with a group, you can find triple rooms for only $71.
When it comes to perks, Pension Mari-Luz goes above and beyond what we expect from most budget hotels. The free Wi-Fi is a big plus, but we really love the balconies that offer views of the neighborhood. Almost every room comes with a balcony but ask ahead when reserving if you have your heart set on one. There’s also air-conditioning in the rooms, so you don’t have to worry about getting a good night’s rest even during a heat wave.
10 of the rooms share bathrooms, but they’re all very clean and modern. If you want a little more privacy, you can upgrade to one of three rooms with a private bathroom if you don’t mind spending a bit more. For example, a twin room with its own bathroom goes for $68 in November, while a triple goes for $87, and a quadruple can be had for $106.Location
For such a low price, you might think the hotel would be in a far-flung location. In fact, it is the exact opposite situation with a wonderful location in the heart of the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic). Especially if this is your first time in Barcelona, it’s hard to beat staying here. We love wandering down the narrow streets that twist and turn like you’re in a maze.
Yes, the Gothic Quarter can be a bit too touristy, but the hotel is just far enough away from Las Ramblas to offer some relief. Plus, just finding the hotel will be an adventure! It’s nestled on one those winding streets on the third-floor of a building without an elevator.
The post Hotel Steal in Barcelona: Pension Mari-Luz, balcony rooms for $50 appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.
But hurry — these fares will be over in une flash. You must book before midnight EST on Friday, August 26, 2016.The deal
- Tickets from $560 round-trip in economy on Air France (and its codeshare Delta) from JFK – Paris.
- Travel period: January 11 – March 31, 2017.
- Must book on www.airfrance.us
- Must travel on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to find sale fares.
- You must stay at least one week (and not more than 12 months).
- You must book by midnight, Friday, August 26, 2016.
We tested it out several times this morning, and indeed easily found $560 flights. Remember to stick to searching for Sunday – Wednesday. As with any sale, the more flexibility you have with your dates, the easier it will be for you to find the sale fare.
The post Air France Flash Sale: $560 NYC-Paris (book by Aug 26) appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.
Yeah, you read that right.
Thailand and most of Southeast Asia are riddled with stray dogs. Most are harmless and will for the most part leave you alone. Barely any are fixed so be prepared to see ballz and nipples everywhere. Just had to mention that!
There are usually a couple families in each town that have taken to feeding and taking care of the street dogs to a small degree. The dogs will typically stay around whatever place they can get regular food from. This could be where a street cart sets up every day or even, in my case, a school.
This is where my story begins.
I was visiting a friend who was stationed in a remote area of Thailand in the Peace Corps. Part of her placement was to teach English in a school nearby. Because I had just finished my TEFL certification this was great! I accompanied her to school for a few days to teach!
This is where the trouble started.
I had this idea in my head when packing for Thailand that I needed to wear floor length skirts. So I had this long flowy skirt on this particular day.
Side note: If you are contemplating teaching in Southeast Asia, skip the floor length skirts. You’ll look like a fool. Find some knee length skirts and those will treat you well!
Anyways, I blame this damn skirt for everything.
There were a few stray dogs on the property and I had seen them the last couple days, but they didn’t really pay much attention to me and I returned that lack of attention until BAM.
I literally was walking along, MINDIN MY BUSINESS.
This gnarly dog came out of nowhere and head butts me with his teeth and then runs away.
I didn’t really know what happened, it happened so fast. I lifted my skirt up and there was a small tear in my leg where his teeth connected. The handful of teachers and students around us all looked shocked. My friend asked me what happened and I say I think that dog just bit me.
I was fine, I just needed a bandaid.
Then the mic dropped, “No, that’s a stray dog, you need rabies shots.”
So my friend and I piled in one of the Thai teacher’s trucks and off we went to the local hospital.
To make things especially fun, there were literally no English speaking Thai doctors at this hospital. Luckily, my friend spoke pretty fluent Thai, except medical jargon wasn’t really in her training.
On a random twist of fate, I have an egg allergy and needed to make sure that the rabies vaccine didn’t have eggs in it like the flu vaccine. That was a fun thing to figure out.
I also needed to figure out at what intervals I needed the rest of the shots. I wound up needing one in a week, one in a month and one in 3 months or something like that. In true Megan form, I happened to be in a different city for each one of those and had to find myself a new hospital each time and butcheringly (yeah, it’s a word now) describe what I needed each time.
After a lot of miming and pictures and what not, they handed me this little card that was completely in Thai so I could just take the card to the next hospital to get the next round.
As a special bonus, while I was at the hospital, I had them check out the infection I had in my knee wound from a moto accident the week before! My luck!
It’s a funny story really.
But what happened afterwards is what shaped a lot of my experience in Thailand. I became very afraid of stray dogs. I still am today.
I happened to choose a road to live on in Bangkok that had a lot of construction and those lots were a favorite for street dogs which meant my street had a lot of stray dogs. By a lot I mean in a 20 minute walk I counted 35 dogs. No joke.
It was literally terrifying just walking out the door.
Luckily my bite wasn’t painful or serious and I didn’t start foaming at the mouth, but it did make fear a real thing for me.
I realized I wasn’t invincible and that I needed to be aware of my surroundings.
I let this fear get to me far more than it should have. I started making sure I had a water bottle in my hand when I was walking down the street to throw at a dog should one come at me. Fun fact: most stray dogs will back down if you throw something at them, as locals typically throw rocks and things that hurt so they expect that and run away.
It wound up being a factor in my exiting early, which you can read more about in a couple weeks.
I really shouldn’t have let this fear cripple me as much as I did. Some pepper spray would have helped me feel safe, and just reassuring myself that the likelihood of a dog attacking again, unprovoked was very slim. It’s tough though.
If a dog that may be infected with rabies ever bites you, seek treatment immediately. Any urgent care center or hospital will be able to administer the shots needed. Different shots and areas of the world have different courses of treatment but there is usually a course of 3-4 shots over the next couple days, weeks or months. Make sure to follow it rigidly. I received my shots in my arms, and only had slight tenderness afterwards, but administration and reactions may vary from person to person. If you don’t speak the language do all you can to find someone to translate for you so you understand what you need to do to follow up.
Welcome to the second week of my maternity leave! I’ve got a ton of amazing guest posts lined up, with a different theme each week.
This week we are talking about travel disasters. We’ve all had them. For me it was this insane day in Phuket, among others. Kay also wrote about her crazy appendicitis story in Chiang Mai earlier this year.
Thailand must be particularly ripe for travel disasters because we’ve got two stories taking place there, one from Megan and one from Kay. Hope you enjoy!