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The Truth About Budget Airlines

The United States hasn’t jumped on the budget airline trend yet, but countries like Europe and Asia have embraced it. If you’re flexible to what day and time your flight is, you can get a flight for much less than a train would be. Booking a flight through a discount company can save lots of time and money, but it’s important to be aware of how a budget flight can add up.

Be Flexible With Locations

Say you want to go to Zurich, Switzerland, but the flight is a little pricey. Consider flying into the cheaper option of Frankfurt, Germany instead and then taking the train down. It’s often much cheaper to fly into certain airports depending on the location. On that note, be careful you know which airport you’re flying into. There can be several within a large city, and you don’t want to spend the money you just saved on a taxi trying to get to your hotel all the way across town. Spend a decent amount of time researching your options.

Use Different Search Engines

There are many different ones to use, and all will come back with a different price. Use a variety to compare which one has the best price. Sometimes it’s cheaper to book directly through the airline’s website, so take a look at that as well when comparing.

Don’t Make Tight Connections

Budget airlines are not known for being on time. They can often be delayed by hours, or just flat out cancelled. If you have booked several budget airlines together in order to get to a farther destination, the airlines most likely won’t refund your ticket on your later flights because your original one was delayed. Space them out several hours apart, or consider exploring the city for a day before taking another flight to your next destination.

Beware of Hidden Costs

One downside of budget airlines is they charge you for almost anything extra. If you want to choose your seat in advance, there’s a fee for that. If you have an additional bag besides your one small carry-on, there’s a fee for that. It’s best to pack as lightly as possible for flights like these to maximize your savings.


Expat Location Spotlight: Chiang Mai

As the amount of travelers working in foreign countries increase each year, so do the number of locations for them to settle in. Chiang Mai, one of these locations, is in a mountainous region of northern Thailand. It’s often rated one of the top 10 most livable cities in Asia. It has started attracting a large amount of travelers who come to visit, and end up settling there for months. There are several reasons for this.

Cost of Living

The cost of living is much lower than in other countries around the world. Even compared to Thailand’s popular cities Bangkok or Phuket, it’s cheaper to live in Chiang Mai. For a studio apartment on the outskirts of the city, you can expect to spend about 5400 Thai Baht (equivalent to $150 USD). Factor in basic utilities and the cost of food, and you’re only at $500-$600 USD per month, not including entertainment or any extras.

Increase of English Speakers

Due to a large amount of English-speaking workers coming in the past 10 years, there are now many businesses catered to those that don’t speak Thai. Although it’s recommended to attempt to learn some Thai, you can go to stores or even doctors’ offices that speak fluent English. Expat meet-up groups have also popped up all around the city, making it easy to meet fellow travelers. It provides a social outlet, and lets you connect with others in the same situation to meet up with in the future.


In case you don’t have a job where you can work remotely, teaching English is a very common choice for foreigners.  You need to apply for a non-immigrant visa, good for up to one year. You can then apply for a work visa, and an extension of stay if needed.

There are a few items to factor in before considering an extended stay in Chiang Mai. A tourist visa is required, which can be used for up to 6 months depending on how many times you leave the country. You need to exit the country every 60 days though, which will run you around $30 USD each time you enter the country. Visa fees and transportation costs aside, it’s easy to see why Chiang Mai is an affordable, livable city for expats.

Best Websites for Remote Workers

KeyboardWhether you’re working as your own boss or for someone remotely, being organized is key. Without being in an office with coworkers, it can be easy to forget deadlines to meet or virtual meetings scheduled for the week. Here’s a round up of some of the top websites to help you stay organized and on track.

When you travel often, keeping track of all your flights, hotels, and any other reservations can get overwhelming. TripIt lets you forward all your email confirmations to it and automatically imports the information into the calendar. One of the best features is you can view it all offline, so no need to worry about connecting to wi-fi in a foreign country while you’re trying to pull your hotel information up.

For those working in social media or marketing, Buffer is a life saver. It allows you to add multiple accounts to schedule content for. Set a schedule for how many times a day you want to post and when, or let their tool analyze the best times to post. The extension you can add to your browser allows you to easily add articles you come across to your queue for sharing later, or posting it instantly.

Every Time Zone
If you’re working remotely, chances are you’re communicating with people in different time zones. Instead of trying to remember where your coworkers are, add Every Time Zone to your  browser. It gives you quick access to know what time it is anywhere in the world.

This combines all your virtual post-it notes into one organized website. Evernote allows you to organize all your to-do lists and even sync them to your phone, so you can see what’s due on the go. You can also share your notes with others for faster collaboration.

Google Docs
With Google Docs, you  never have to worry about downloading a document from a coworker, editing it, and then sending it back to them. Create a spreadsheet and share the link with a coworker to edit. You’ll be able to see their revisions when you click on the link.



The Rise of Digital Nomads

Travel enthusiasts have encountered a common dilemma in the past. Do they commit to the few weeks of paid vacation they have with their typical 9-5 job to fit in all their traveling for the year, or do they somehow make enough money to quit their job and travel the world? Luckily, many travelers don’t have to choose any more thanks to the recent increase of location independent jobs.

Described as “digital nomads,” many passionate travelers are now able to travel where they please, all while working from their computer. This means the same job can performed from a hammock on the sunny beaches of the Philippines one week, and from a Bavarian village surrounded by snow-capped mountains the next. Workers are no longer chained to their desks or forced to work only within certain hours.

Difference in Living Expenses

Before making the move, consider how much you’re willing to spend each month on living expenses. These can vary drastically depending on the location. In the graphic below, it shows how almost $6000 is saved over a course of three months should someone choose to live in Bali over London. However, it’s also important to consider such factors as more remote areas might have a weaker Internet signal, or you might have to go to a cafe to do all your work.

The difference in living expenses can be huge depending on the location.

The difference in living expenses can be huge depending on the location.

Co-Working Spaces

While the freedom to travel and work on your own might be enticing, maybe you know yourself well enough to know you need a little more structure. That’s where co-working spaces come in, which are popping up all over the world. As seen on the graphic below, you can still choose a location of your choice, but will be in an office with other remote workers to encourage you to stay on task. It’s also a great way to gain some colleagues to hang out with after you’re done with your work for the day.

Coworking spaces

The best co-working spaces to work at around the world.

Is it for you?

There’s many obvious benefits to being a digital nomad. You have the freedom to travel where you want while still making money. You can choose where you want your office to be and make your own dress code. There tends to be an increase in happiness due to having such freedom.

With the freedom of working remotely comes the downsides as well. Contracts with online companies may end and not be renewed, leaving the worker scrambling for work. You must be organized and detail-oriented to make sure you’re leaving room in your schedule to get the work done that’s needed. It can be tempting to stay out late with the locals or spend all day at the beach, but it will leave you scrambling to meet deadlines.

Working remotely while traveling can be very rewarding, but it’s not for everyone. Consider your job skills, location, and budget before making the leap to join the increasing number of digital nomads.

Images provided with permission by


Looking for a Rails Engineer to Take Over Oh Hey World

OHWiconWe open sourced the entire Oh Hey World platform in early 2014. Since then, we’ve been working on Horizon, which is our 2nd attempt at making community accessible everywhere. (a 18 month recap can be found here)

We know location sharing is not a “problem” to the masses (one of our big learnings from the time spent building OHW) — but Oh Hey World is still a valuable offering to frequent travelers (digital nomads, travel bloggers, entrepreneurs, business travelers, and those on sabbatical or extended backpacking trips). It still gets new users every week who use it to track their locations, update their current location on their travel blog with our WordPress plugin, or text their loved ones upon arrival.

We’ve been on the lookout for the right full stack engineer to maintain and improve

Changes to be Made

Like many startups, we overbuilt. Oh Hey World is an amazingly powerful platform — but many don’t know what to do with it due to its complexity. The primary goal in the near term is to simplify the user interface to be 100% about the “check-in” and link off to partners/sponsors for everything else a traveler may need (finding friends nearby, things to do, hotels, hostels, vacation rentals, etc).


I believe many people would pay for a native iOS or Android app that handles tracking their location with the correct privacy considerations. The travel bloggers using the OHW WordPress plugin may be a niche crowd, but they are the content creators of the entire travel industry – there is considerable value to getting new travel products in front of them.

Alternatively, a development firm could be built on top of the Oh Hey World platform. Considerable effort by travel startups (especially B2C) is spent getting the basic aspects of a travel offering up and running: user accounts, locations, social graph, city searches, and information tagged to those cities. has built all that already. It could turn into a great developer showcase for the big travel tech companies such as Concur, Amadeus, TravelPort, or Sabre.

Long Term

In addition to the “travatar” opportunity (Gravatar, for current location), see my thoughts on how an open source project such as OHW could serve as a catalyst for a location based content delivery platform.

Why keep Oh Hey World running at all?

That’s certainly a legitimate question, given our focus is on Horizon. To be very transparent, the interest in keeping OHW running is the URL has good domain (aka SEO) juice built over 5+ years — as well as additional opportunity with increased distribution of the WordPress plugin. Lastly, every user who finds OHW is likely someone who would utilize Horizon’s offering to find people to stay with.

Who would be the ideal fit?

  1. A self taught Rails engineer (or one currently or recently enrolled in a bootcamp) looking for a real world product with users to work on as a portfolio/learning project.
  2. An engineer with a passion for travel looking for a side project with income potential down the road.
  3. Someone who wants experience overseeing & working on an open source initiative.
  4. Someone who believes in the power of travel, ands wants to be involved with Horizon team long term.

Are you an interested engineer? Shoot me a mail if so – drew at horizonapp co

Most Popular Destinations for New Years Around the World

Many travel during the holiday season to visit family, friends, or to spend the time in a unique location. There are many destinations around the world where communities and cities host fantastic celebrations for these winter holidays. Hot spots for winter holidays come in all shapes and sizes, from cold mountain peaks and ski resorts, to humid beaches with colorful shades of sand. Consider some of these destinations to experience awesome New Year’s Day festivities this coming new year! You’ll be sure to find something new and exciting, and won’t be disappointed with your ending year experience.

New York City, New York
In the United States, few places rival the popularity of spending New Year’s Eve in New York City and Times Square. Every year, approximately one million locals and visitors arrive for the pleasure of watching the massive 12 foot, 12,000 pound crystal ball fall from the sky. In recent years, the festivities have also included live celebrity entertainment. This city also has tons of other things to try from famous restaurants and sights, to award winning plays and productions. Use your New Year’s trip to get a true New York experience and find something everyone will enjoy.

Most Popular Destinations for New Years Around the World - new york

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If still pondering a holiday destination, follow Discountrue to receive the best deals on flights and Travelocity packages, and consider the Brazilian city known for its extravagant celebrations. World renowned Copacabana Beach is the place to be for the largest New Year’s Eve party on the planet. Millions arrive and gather along the 2.5 mile stretch of beach where the Reveillon unfolds. The local cultural festival combines religious and traditional beliefs, as locals donned in white attire toss flowers into the ocean to honor the sea goddess Yemanja. Oceanfront stages feature live concerts and dance performances. At midnight, all are treated to a massive fireworks display.

Rio de Janeiro is also home to some one-of-a-kind historical hot spots. Explore this unique city and learn about the varied and intense history behind the people and culture.

Sydney, Australia
The popular Australian metropolis happens to be the first destination in the country where midnight occurs. The city also presents the largest fireworks display in the world. The first begins at 9 P.M. and the second presentation starts as the clock strikes 12 midnight. Millions who attend the festivities also have the chance to witness the dozens of lighted vessels take part in the Harbour of Light Parade. There is also an exciting aerial acrobatics show. Aboriginal community members also make an appearance and perform a special ceremony to rid the area of evil spirits.

Apart from New Years, spending time in this city is an amazing opportunity to experience the quintessential Australian home. Check out the opera house, beaches, museums, hotels and more.

Edinburgh, Scotland
New Year’s Eve is a grand celebration for the Scots who call this occasion Hogmanay. The festival begins on December 30 and spans three days. Events begin with a torchlit procession through the city that concludes with a beautiful fireworks display. Street parties and concerts abound. At midnight on December 31, more than four tons of fireworks are ignited and explode over Edinburgh Castle. Other scheduled activities include a dog sledding competitions, the Loony Dook Parade, and jumping into the icy waters of the River Forth.

Finding things in Edinburgh isn’t hard to do either. You can explore historical castles, churches, museums and more. Taking a quick trip to the countryside is a great opportunity to see some purely Scottish sights as well.

Prague, Czech Republic
New Year’s in Prague is something you have to live once. The pub and club scene is perfect for partying and ringing in the New Year. The downtown city has an amazing celebratory air, and the fireworks display that explodes over the city is a delight to locals and tourists alike.

You’ll also be able to tour and see some unique historical sites and castles in this area.

It is not too late to make some New Year’s travel plans. Travel to the location of your choosing and enjoy a lifetime of memories after experiencing one of these amazing celebrations. Have a great New Year as you end 2015 with a bang and a new experience.

Kricket: Refugee Crowdsourcing

kricket-logoI came across Kricket recently, I believe via the Techfugees Facebook group. I spoke with Tom Nassr a couple weeks ago (turns out he’s also a SigEp) to learn more, and he mentioned they were working on a Kickstarter campaign — which is now live.

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How does it work?

Kricket is a map-based network for crowdsourcing information. The goal is to help refugees find safety, resources, and better travel routes. This platform is designed for NGOs, volunteers, refugees, and you, to contribute information to a single map that everyone can see & access, in realtime.

A few more details:

  • Everyone is looking at the same map of the worl

  • Everyone can “tag” their current location with an icon/photo and a comment

  • The tags on the map are “live” for 24 hours, then they are removed from the map

  • Everyone is anonymous

  • An Admin Panel can be accessed by Kricket & verified NGOs

  • Admins have the ability to update/ add / edit tags they create

  • This app is available on iOS, Android, and Web right now

I urge you to head on over and back the campaign.

Gemma Sisia’s Tanzanian story – The School of St Jude

I came across the story of Gemma Sisia, founder of the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania, the other day. It struck a chord with me, because I spent a week painting walls at Saint Monica’s, a school just outside Nairobi that my friend Racquel Turner runs. (see my the blog posts here, here, and here).

You can watch Gemma on ABC’s ‘Australian Story’ here:

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I love learning more about individuals doing such fantastic work. Thank you to Gemma and staff/volunteers for making the world a better place.

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One More Reason to Visit Greece: It’s Rebuilding the Colossus of Rhodes

The 500-year-old statue of the Greek sun god Helios, felled by an earthquake in 226 BCE, is reportedly being rebuilt bigger, badder, and more earthquake-proof than ever.  And it’s expected to increase tourism to Rhodes by huge numbers—maybe even helping to revive the troubled Greek economy in the process. While the project is still in the conception phase, go ahead and add “to see the Colossus of Rhodes” to your list of reasons to visit Greece.

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The History of the Colossus

Less than 200 years after the Greek city of Rhodes was built, residents erected the statue in order to celebrate Rhodes’ military victory over Syrian prince Demetrius the Besieger, who attacked Rhodes for over a year before finally giving up.

To this day, historians debate the Colossus’ exact location, but legend has it that the statue straddled the island city’s harbor, so that ships entering the city passed between the sun god’s legs. What historians agree on is that the statue took approximately 12 years to complete.

Even after it fell, the statue’s remains—consisting of huge, hollow pieces which laid on the ground of Rhodes for several centuries—were deemed suitably impressive to qualify as one of the Seven Wonders of the World (as determined in circa 150 BCE). But around 653, the remains were carted away by an invading military looking to capitalize on the scrap metal.

Today, a replica of the statue can be found in the town of Faliraki, while the actual suspected location of the statue, in Mandraki Harbor, is noted with a marker.

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Visions for the Future

In addition to being significantly larger than the original, the proposed rebuilt Colossus would also include an interior library, museum, cultural center, exhibition hall, and a crowning lighthouse that can be seen from up to 35 miles away.

The structure would also employ modern technologies and construction techniques in order to make it earthquake-proof and wind-resistant. And in an homage to the Greek sun god Helios, the original statue’s inspiration, the exterior of the structure would be covered in golden solar panels.

Currently, it’s estimated the new statue could be constructed in three to four years for a total cost of more than $250 million. Funds would come from a combination of institutional investment and global crowdfunding.

In reanimating the statue, the team behind the proposed project hopes to inspire massive growth in tourism to the island specifically and Greece as a whole. In the process, they hope the project will supply much-needed jobs and an estimated two billion Euros in tourist money during a time when the Greek economy finds itself beset by troubles.

This isn’t the first time a team has proposed a reconstruction of the ancient Colossus. Updates were proposed in 1999 and in 2008, but neither project came to fruition. While no construction dates have been released for this latest proposal, here’s hoping that this one actually has legs.

In the meantime, there are plenty of great reasons to visit Rhodes, even if the statue never gets built. From the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean Sea, to quaint, whitewashed houses, to warm ocean breezes, Rhodes makes for a veritable island paradise. A five-hundred-foot statue of Helios would simply be the icing on the cake.


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Tourists Are Flocking to Poland to See This Animal Migration

Forget pierogis and historical architecture. Come to Poland for the birds.

Specifically, come for the white storks—more than 40,000 of them, or a whopping 25 percent of the world’s stork population—that flock to Poland each spring.

While the birds can be found throughout Poland between the months of April and August, many of them congregate near Zywkowo, the so-called “Stork Capital”. The tiny village near the Russian border is home to more storks than humans—25 people and 43 pairs of nesting white storks, to be exact. Together, the pairs comprise one of the nation’s biggest stork breeding colonies, reports the NYTimes. Their nests cover chimneys, rooftops, trees, and specially made platforms throughout the town.

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The birds migrate from southern Africa to Poland each year in order to breed among the country’s pastures, farmlands, and wetlands, and their arrival is thought to signal good fortune for anyone lucky enough to witness it. The storks start arriving near the end of March, lay eggs toward the end of April, and welcome hatchlings at the end of May. The infants start leaving the nest in July, and all of the storks depart the country sometime in August.

While it is the land that attracts the storks, it’s the storks that have attracted a burgeoning tourism industry in the area. Every year, up to 8,000 tourists flock to the Zywkowo region to observe the storks as they go about their daily lives amid the Polish countryside.

Both the birds and the tourists benefit from funding by the nonprofit Polish Society for the Protection of Birds, which has established an official “stork village” designed to encourage storks to return to the area. In collaboration with local residents, the nonprofit has dug ponds, built platforms sturdy enough to hold the birds’ nests, renovated local roofs so they can support nests, insulated electrical wires for the birds’ safety, conserved around 185 acres of land, and erected an observation tower for tourists. The society also employs a local caretaker who leads educational tours and manages a guesthouse for visiting travelers.

The initiative has proved so successful that it’s been used as a case study for developing stork tourism throughout the entire country. Already, stork villages have popped up elsewhere in Poland—including in Toprzyny, which is just a short walk or drive from Zywkowo.

All told, there are currently 13 official stork villages in Europe. But most stork aficionados agree that Poland makes for the most striking up-close encounters.

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Exploring the Region

Those who are serious about tracking the storks’ migration throughout northeast Poland will be rewarded via a trip that’s packed with history, gorgeous scenery, and remarkable wildlife.

Zywkowo is about a two hours’ drive from Gdansk, a historic seaport in north-central Poland. From Gdansk, it’s an easy trip to the Gothic city of Frombork, where Nicolaus Copernicus first hypothesized that the Earth rotates around the Sun.

From Gdansk or Frombork, head to Dwor Pentowo, another stork village located near the “white stork trail” in Podlaskie Province. The longest marked bike trail in the region, the nearly 250-mile trail links four national parks: Bialowieza (home to the largest herd of European bison), Biebrza, Narew, and Wigry. The village of Dwor Pentowo is also near the Masurian Lake District, which is home to more than 2,000 postglacial lakes. The district and each of the national parks are all worth a visit.

From Dwor Pentowo, it’s just over a two hours’ drive to the Poland capital city of Warsaw. The lively city stands in striking contrast to the quiet farmlands of rural Poland. Bursting with bars, restaurants, museums, and history, Warsaw makes for a pleasant return to civilization prior to flying home.


Exploring the Wild Blue Yonder