Travel

Who won the giveaway?

Congratulations Bitsy! You’re the winner of our adventure clutches giveaway!

A few weeks ago, Zoom Goes held it’s first giveaway. Thank you Bitsy for entering, being a Zoom Goes supporter – and congratulations on your win! Send us a picture of you sporting your shiny new clutches!

ZoomGoes Giveaway

In keeping with my full transparency policy, the giveaway was an activity designed to help build my email subscription list. I’d say it was successful at bringing my list up to 32 subscribers! Thank you everyone who participated, don’t worry we’ll be having another giveaway soon (and because you’re on the list, you’re automatically entered, ba-zing!). In the meantime, welcome to the Zoom Goes tribe!

Traffic and Social Media Report

As part of our mission to grow Zoom Goes, we’d also like to share with you some numbers for where we are right now regarding traffic and social media followings. For us, this is a good record of a baseline. For you, I hope you’ll find it insightful if you’ve ever wondered about starting a blog of your own!

Without further adieu (all numbers represent the month of September):

Email list subscribers

We started the month of September at 9 email subscribers. Today, we’re at 32! While the giveaway definitely worked, it wasn’t entirely self-serving.  We’re so happy to hook someone up with something they love! Congrats again Bitsy!!! 😀

Blog Traffic

Unique visitors (individual people who visit the site): 351

Views (if you click on the home page, and then another page, that’s 2 views): 1,170

This is a great baseline. I look forward to seeing what our numbers will be for October! Grow baby, grow!

Facebook

Facebook is my primary referrer for traffic and sharing content – I think it’s a generational thing. Simply put, all the other platforms are complicated. Hashtag this, hashtag that….we all know who I’m talking about.

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Instagram

Oh hey Instagram, we were just – uh….So, how’s it going lately with those hashtags and the giant world of an internet filing system?

Hashtags are a giant part of how Instagram operates and how your content gets found by the people you want to find it. And there’s no real manual on how to do it! During my research into hashtags and Instagram, I found that it was actually a little bit of a mind game.

When trying to get your posts viewed, you have to think “if I were looking for this exact thing, what would I search for?”

Sounds simple right?

 

ZoomGoes | Instagram

Pinterest

Surprised to see Pinterest at the party? Okay, maybe I’m just projecting my own surprise on to you. When I found out that people were using Pinterest to promote their blogs I was bloggled (see what I did there?)! Wasn’t Pinterest just for recipes and awesome dreadlock beads?

Turns out that’s not the case – I get pretty decent traffic from Pinterest referrals. If you’re not following me there, you should! If you’re trying to promote your own business, etsy store, recipes or anything else online make sure that you put Pinterest to work for you.

Zoom Goes | Pinterest

Twitter

 

Twitter, can you talk right now? Do you have enough characters? Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter is more about conversation than information. Still though, it’s great for little announcements, reminders and pics!

There’s a lot of “twitter talks” that happen regularly. Users tweet about travel, hobbies, awards and more. Similar to Instagram, these talks are all categorized with hashtags. #TravelTalks for example. I’d love to get more involved in these!

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Income report

Last, but not least, is what everyone is interested to know about – income! How much money did my blog make in the month of September?

Google Adsense: $0.51

Amazon Affiliates: $0.00

In the Amazon Affiliates program, I get a commission for any items that sell using a referral link that I place in my site. So far, I’ve only done three of these – The Rose Cup, Bandelettes (the biggest seller) and Packing Cubes. Usually, there is a spike in this number when do a product review, but I only do those when I’m truly moved by a product. I don’t want to do it just for the money, ya know?

I’m laughing a little! I know, I know – it’s pennies, but that’s okay! There’s more in it for me than the money – you guys!

Thank you again everyone for helping me have a wonderful first giveaway!

Do you have any questions about blogging? Leave me a comment 🙂

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Travel

The Best Of: Vietnam

The best of Vietnam, in photos.

Oh Vietnam..we’ve had some interesting experiences together.

Cities visited: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Bac Ninh, Hue, Hoi An

I had a rough time in Vietnam. From puking my way out of an abduction to being kissed by strangers for photos, I ended up leaving Vietnam early because I couldn’t take all the attention.

Despite that (or maybe because of that?), my time in Vietnam was one of the most unique experiences I had on my trip. I was lucky enough to stay with a host family during my time in Hanoi – talk about immersive education. I learned to prepare snails, squid, and other unique foods. I ate Pho for breakfast and enjoyed homemade wine at night while we played cards.

My host family took me to her sister’s house in a rural town that obviously doesn’t see many tourists. Her sister has a school there where she teaches. I taught a lesson during my visit and it was a much better experience than when I taught in Thailand.

After the lesson we went back to her house for a family feast. While I didn’t completely follow the conversation, I still felt like I was part of the family. We spent the afternoon napping, eating lychee and talking.

Her sister asked me if I had any ideas for names of her school. We brainstormed a bit and I suggested incorporating “Blooming” into the name. You know, since the kids are growing and ‘blooming’ like little flowers. She loved the idea and the school is now named “Blooming Kids”. If you’re interested, you can check out their Facebook page! I’m so proud to have been a part of that.

It’s memories like those I won’t find anywhere else!

Vietnam also had some of the craziest traffic I’ve ever seen. When you go to cross the street, you just gotta go – they’ll swerve around you. If you try to wait for an opening, you’ll be waiting forever. I almost found out what it was like to be run over by a scooter!

Vietnam, I’d like us to try again and get off on the right foot! In the meantime – keep that traffic moving!

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Resources, Travel, Trip Planning

Everything you need to know about travel insurance.

Have questions about travel insurance? You’re in the right place.

Travel insurance can, like any insurance, feel intimidating or confusing when shopping for it. Fear not, I’m here to help walk you through all of the most popular questions about travel insurance.

What if I already have health insurance? Do I really need it? Where do I get travel insurance? What does it cover? What’s the process like if I need to use it? Is it expensive? 

All of these questions were things I asked myself when I first considered getting a travel insurance policy. You might think I took one out for my trip to Asia (which I did), but I’d actually purchased travel insurance two times before that, with no regrets! Without further adieu, let’s dive in.

Why would I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance is a beautiful blend of health insurance and renter’s insurance. Unlike other policies, travel insurance will cover both you and your belongings while you’re on the go.

If you accidentally smash your tablet, drop your camera, or break your leg while traveling, travel insurance covers all of those. What I like most though is the fact that you’re location independent. Renter’s insurance might not cover my valuables if I’m in Timbuktu, but travel insurance would. The same goes for health coverage.

What if I already have health insurance?

When I was first looking into travel insurance, I was planning my first trip to Burning Man. At the time, my job offered a great health insurance program that I was a part of. Because of this, I wasn’t sure that I needed travel insurance. What was it going to cover that my regular health insurance wouldn’t?

DISCLAIMER: All information in this post is based on personal experience, and I am not a professional insurance broker.

As it turns out, there was quite a bit that my travel insurance policy would cover that wouldn’t be covered by my regular health insurance policy. Since I was heading to Burning Man, I was particularly keen on the benefit of a medical evacuation.

If something had happened to me, my travel insurance policy would have covered a helicopter evacuation – up to $500,000 USD! While I didn’t think anything like that would happen, I didn’t want to be a 3 hour drive from the nearest hospital and find out the hard way.

While the medical evacuation was the big selling point for me, there were other benefits for me too. Travel insurance would help offset any costs I might have incurred beyond what my regular health insurance would have covered. There was also the peace of mind that I wouldn’t have to worry about my health insurance not covering me at Burning Man because it is an “extreme event”. Whereas with travel insurance, they’re used to people doing the extreme!

Do I really need it?

Now this question is a bit tough because, frankly, that’s a choice you’ll have to make for yourself. My stance will always be “better safe than sorry” when it comes to your health, well being, and the risk of your valuables getting stolen or broke.

I recommend comparing any current coverage to that of your potential travel insurance provider. This will give you a clearer picture of the potential benefits.

Where do I get travel insurance?

Just like regular health insurance, there are plenty of insurance providers out there to chose from. Your best bet would be to Google “travel insurance policies”. Most likely, the first result you’ll see is a company called World Nomads.

World Nomads is my provider of choice, I love them. They had me right off the bat by offering a no-strings-attached quote. I hate it when you apply for a “free quote” and it turns into 100 emails a day, never ending phone calls, and weird people at my doorstep. Okay might not people at my doorstep, but you know what I mean!

They have great customer service, a quick response time, and were very helpful to me when I needed to file a claim. They also offer different “levels” of coverage. This way, you can choose the right amount of coverage for your needs.

Is it expensive?

I’m happy to say that, no, it’s not that expensive! Cost depends on where you’ll be traveling, for how long, and what type of coverage you want.

Here’s what I’ve paid with World Nomads:

  • Two weeks traveling in the US: $36
  • One month traveling in the US: $73
  • Five months traveling in Asia: $110

I’ve only had to file a claim once, and that was for an urgent care visit in Hong Kong. The insurance policy was $110, and my claim was for ~$90 – and I got every penny of that! It almost paid for itself!

What if I need to use it? How does that work?

Medical

In most cases (double check with your provider), you’ll need to pay for all medical costs upfront. You’ll then file a claim with your provider to be reimbursed. I admit, I was a little leery of this at first, but World Nomads was great about getting my claim filed and approved quickly.

When you file a medical claim, you’ll typically need to present all of the following:

  • Receipt from your payment method, with the cost clearly printed
  • Diagnosis / Description of the expense (broken leg etc)
  • Signed agreement form that comes with your insurance paperwork
  • Copies of your arranged travel to and from your home country. I sent in screenshots of my flight confirmation emails to and from the US

I sent all of these things to World Nomads and they got back with me in a few days saying my claim in the amount of $88.98 was approved. If you decide to go with a different provider, simply ask them which documents are required for a claim. Make sure to ask them when you take out the policy so you get everything you need during the incident. It would suck to have to track down a clinic in Bosnia just for a piece of paper!

Items

Luckily, I’ve never had to file a claim for a lost item – but I did talk to my World Nomads rep about it when I filed my medical claim. If, for example, an elephant had smashed my cell phone I would have had to provide the following:

  • Proof of current ownership
  • Proof of purchase listing the cost of the item
  • Proof that I was traveling with the item
  • A description of how the item got damaged
  • Signed agreement form

Item coverage is another benefit of travel insurance for me. When I had my near-kidnapping in Vietnam, I didn’t think twice about throwing my backpack over the highway guardrail because I knew anything in there would be covered and replaced.

Any other questions?

I hope you’re feeling more educated and empowered now! If you have any other questions about travel insurance, I’d love to hear them.. Leave me a comment, and share this article with your friends so they can benefit too!

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Everything you need to know about travel insurance | Travel | Health | Insurance | Cheap Travel Insurance | Zoom Goes
Laos, Travel

The Best Of: Laos

The best of Laos, in photos.

Laos, the country of personal growth.

Cities Visited: Luang Prabang, Phonsavan, Xiangkhoang, Vientiane

For me, the “Best of” series has been about reflection. Having been home for a bit, I’ve been processing my experiences a bit more. These pictures have been a crucial part of the process <3

While sorting photos for this series, Laos stood out for a very distinct reason. During my time there, I had a lot of experiences that were new for me. Things that pushed me in new directions, and expanded my horizons.

Normally, I travel alone. Entering Laos, I met an amazing group of people on the 2 day slow boat ride from Thailand. We discussed culture, education, Hitler and Dumbledore. Having so many cultures represented at once was it’s own little adventure. It was a delight seeing what references would be caught, what trends carry across the world (Seth Rogan, World of Warcraft), and hearing how people perceive America.

My persona of who I was as an American got reflected back to me often in Laos. Beyond the perspective from my fellow travelers, I visited my first historical museum. The COPE center educated me about the ongoing violence in Laos caused by undetonated bombs left by American bombers. I felt embarrassed, ashamed of the American involvement – an interesting feeling.

While my time in Laos was short, it was powerful… like juice concentrate! An experience I’d be happy to drink up again.

 

 

Laos, I’ll never forget our time together, especially the waterfalls and playing mermaid. Until next time….

Don’t forget, ZoomGoes is having a giveaway! Here’s your chance to enter – the deadline is October 6th, 2016. You can totally win!

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Resources, Travel, Trip Planning

Budget Report: how much does it cost to travel for 5 months?

How much does it cost to travel

“How much does it cost to travel?”

This is by far the most common question that I get asked about travel. I had always read that “you don’t have to be rich to travel” but how true was that really? Let’s find out!

About this report

I decided to break this down by country. Since most of the countries I visited don’t accept American cards, I payed cash for almost everything. I tallied these numbers by looking back on my bank statements and adding up the cash withdrawals according to the dates I was in each country. On my next trip, I’ll keep better track of expenses by category for you guys so we can find out how much they were individually. 🙂

The numbers below include everything you might pay for back home. Food, lodging, entertainment, midnight snacks, transportation, toiletries, clothes etc.

Before I left for my trip, there were a few purchases I had to make that will be included in the total, but aren’t associated with any particular country.

Flight to Bangkok: $414

Flight home from Tokyo: $861.66 (if I had planned better, I could have bought this further in advance and lowered the cost big time!)

Travel insurance: $110

Keep Costs Low

There was also a considerable amount of prep-work that I did before I left, in an attempt to keep costs down. If you’re ever planning some long term travel, I recommend you do the following to keep costs low:

  • Open an account with a company that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. I use Capitol One 360 – this saved me a few bucks every time I used an ATM OR made an online purchase in another currency.
  • Open an account with a company that will reimburse you for your ATM fees. Since I come from a military family, I use USAA. If you’re non-military, take a look at online banks such as Charles Schwab for this perk.
  • Buy one way tickets. My ticket to Bangkok was actually round-trip, even though I didn’t catch my flight to come home. Buying a one way ticket keeps you from having to pay ticket change fees, and from eating the cost of paying for a seat you might choose not to be in once you get on the road.
  • Give up the booze. I started doing this before I left and once I was on the road. Not buying alcohol can literally save you hundreds of dollars!

The final numbers

6 flights, 9 buses and 10 trains later, I present to you: the final costs! How much do you think it will be?

Cost Breakdown by Country

  • USA, San Francisco: $1,329.37
  • Thailand: $666
  • Laos: $641.24
  • Vietnam: $714.37
  • Cambodia: $323.92
  • Malaysia: $136.57
  • Singapore: $527.18
  • Hong Kong: $323.44
  • Japan: $1,978.49

Total Cost: $7,498.40

Is that higher or lower than what you expected?

When I looked at this number, I felt a bit shocked. It seems high (thanks Japan)…but when I think about how much my cost of living was in America – it was actually cheaper to travel!

In Chicago, my apartment expenses started at $600/mo. Once you add in groceries, transportation, entertainment, girls night out, a Netflix subscription, and impulsive video game purchases, life on the road was more affordable – and so much more satisfying!

Looking back on the trip, there’s a lot of things I would do differently to save even more. All in all though, this was still the trip of a lifetime and absolutely priceless!

If you have any questions about the costs, or ideas on how to save even more – leave me a comment!

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Thailand, Travel

The Best Of: Thailand

The Best of Thailand

Oh, Thailand, how I miss thee.

Cities visited: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Saen, Random Jungle Roads on a Motorcycle

Thailand will always be special to me unlike any other country can be. It was the first country I visited outside of the US (I’m not counting Canada because it’s like “America lite”- sorry Canada). Landing in Bangkok, Thailand immediately rocked my world.

Out of everywhere I visited, I spent the most time in Thailand. I literally left the day that my entrance stamp expired. The customs officer even commented on it – I told her that I wanted to stay as long as I could! I love Thailand! She smiled.

Thailand and I had a lot of firsts together. I visited my first cat cafe, taught English even though I didn’t have a college degree (and hated it), tried all kinds of interesting foods, took a cooking class, bathed baby elephants, saw more temples than I needed to, took my first sleeping train, rode a motorbike through the jungle, and ate crazy amounts of Pad Thai.

I also sweat my ass off EVERY. DAY….. WORTH IT!

Thailand was the perfect way to enter my travels into Asia, making Thailand one of the best of the best!

Photo viewing recommendations: If you’d like to view the story behind each photo, click on the photos and look through them like a slideshow. The story is in the captions!

I know in my heart that someday I’ll return to Thailand – I would even consider living there. Next time, I’ll appreciate it even more. In contrast to the other countries I visited, the Thai people were the nicest, the food the most delicious, and the fruit the freshest.

In the meantime, I’m trying to live as Asia-like as possible! Even at this moment, I’m wearing my ‘Aladdin’ pants I got from Thailand. Now, off to make some Pad Thai….I don’t care that it’s three in the morning!

I’m so excited to be bringing you the “Best Of:” series. I love looking through these photos, re-living all these experiences, then sharing them with you. Next week, we’ll be seeing the Best Of: Laos!

REMINDER!

Don’t forget we’re running a giveaway right now for an adorable set of what I’m calling “adventure clutches”. Aren’t they cute?!

ZoomGoes Giveaway

To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is fill out this form. Winners will be announced on October 6th! If you are the winner, I’ll contact you via email for your address. Godspeed, contestants!

Any context I can include to make these posts better for you? Leave me a comment!

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