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Sunday, July 31, 2011

TYPES OF HOSTEL GUESTS

These are some of the types of guests I have seen at a hostel in my brief time of working there. Doubtless this list will continue to grow as I am able to categorize some of the behavior types into more refined categories. Not every guest will fit into a category. A guest may fit into multiple categories, or switch between categories. These are the ones I've gotten thus far, doubtless more will present themselves later.



THE GHOST

This person is rarely seen. They leave at the crack of dawn and return late - leading mysterious lives of tourism in between. Quote: "..."


THE HILTON

They expect everything one may find at the Hilton, including such things that an excellent concierge would be able to quickly provide. They are just too cheap/poor to spend twenty times what the hostel costs to stay at a place where such things are available. Quote: "Why don't you have X?"


THE CRAMMER

This person has never gotten a vacation before and is trying to fit as much into their limited vacation time as possible. If you hear about someone doing ten countries in ten days or similar, this is an enthusiastic crammer. This usually applies to people who have more money than time and don't mind spending most of their time traveling rather than seeing anything. These people can either fit into the 'Ghost' category or they sit around the hostel planning. Quote: (Ranting about what they must do.)


THE DISAPPROVER

This is usually a woman traveling with her boyfriend. A person traveling alone would have nobody to bitch to and in any decent society might be driven out. She tends to speak for him and voices her disapproval of anything from activities to the culture she is visiting. The henpecked/pussywhipped boyfriend may try to find a way to change the conversation topic. Quotes: "Oh, we don't do that!" "It's disgusting the way they..."


THE CHILD

As soon as their bags hit the floor in their room, they seem set to explode. Shit goes everywhere. Consideration and other adult concepts are meaningless abstractions to them. Quote: "It's just there for a second..."



THE CLUMSY GUY

This is the kind of person who can walk by a phone hanging on the wall and through apparently no intervention cause the receiver to fall from the cradle. If you discover someone is clumsy, you should immediately protect any electronics you have or destroy them before he does. Quote: "Sorry!"



THE INSISTENT SLEEPER

Regardless of what time they went to bed they want to sleep well into the afternoon. These are the people who hostels made a 'check out' policy for. They are either asleep or 'trying to get to sleep'. Information that medically a person only requires a certain amount of hours of sleep are met with an indignant 'not me!' On the plus side, however, you can fire mortars next to them without waking them up. On the negative side, they might snore loudly. Quote: "Just let me get some sleep." (This is said despite whether they've taken it all already or not.) Quote: "Zzzz..."


THE LIGHT SLEEPER

Although they should have lived with themselves long enough to know that they are a light sleeper, they did not bring any ear plugs, headphones or anything else to mitigate the noise of a hostel. They also seem to like to go to bed early. They usually don't last long in a hostel as hostels are generally fairly noisy. Quote: "Can you keep the noise down? Some of us are trying to sleep here!"


THE EARLY RISER

If he is quiet, this one is not really a problem. The problem is that way too few of them are actually trained as ninjas. Most of them own crinkly bags, bash things around repeatedly and are either clumsy or thinking "You've had enough sleep." Quote: "Good morning!"


UMBILICAL CORD

People who must call in to chat with people in other locations - family and friends not adventurous to come along. While it is natural for everyone to do so occasionally, these people do it nightly for hours at a time. It reminds me of an old quote I had heard but can't remember or find where it came from. "How can they still be on the phone? They don't know enough (about anything) to talk that long!" Quote: "Blah, blah blah..."


INEPT LONG TERM TRAVELER

Makes you wonder how they survived so long in other places. Often seems incompetent at things like getting a bus, carrying things every traveler should have (like scrap paper and a pen, for example), etc. Quote: "How do you do...?"


COLORFUL CHARACTER

These people are usually somewhat reserved on the subject of themselves but if you ask the right questions, you will find out they've been to seventy countries, have smuggled guns, etc. Great for getting loads of stories out of as well as finding out lots of information about countries you might be interested in. Quote: "Well..." (And somewhat reluctantly launch into a story that could easily be the basis of an interesting book.)



AND NOW, FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Friday, July 29, 2011

PARADISE

TRIP TO PARADISE

I was with several American Peace Corps volunteers and showing them around the city of Batumi. I took them over to the lemonade factory. Note, this is not 'lemonade' as it is thought of in the states - at all. Think of it as 'flavored sweet sodas' and you're on the right track. I've really enjoyed several of the flavors of soda and this time we were fortunate enough to meet George and David - the sons of the owner whose name eluded all of us who went on the tour. George and David were kind enough to show us around the factory. I've been in modern American factories (of various products) and this one I felt was very interesting because everything was hand done - from the mixing of the soda, the washing of the bottles (recycling here), applying the labels with glue and even filling the bottles and putting on the bottle cap. I thought this was a very interesting tour and was grateful to be able to go on it. I hope to get to show other tourists this (should they be into it) in the future.


Peace Corps volunteers


Heading into the lemonade factory

Manually sticking on the labels




Remember bottle caps in the Fallout video game?



Washing out the old bottles - by hand



George - son of the owner and guide on our trip











The finished product - I like it and the price is very right


The men who make it happen, standing under the sign for the business


Detail on the men who make it happen, the owners two sons, the owner and his brother


I wanted to extend my warm thanks for making us feel very welcome and giving us a guided tour of your factory!



FOOD

When people throw out food, the food dies. Since the food has no sin, it goes to Heaven. Because Americans throw out half the food they produce, America feeds Heaven the most. That means God loves it. [This may be considered silly but it strikes me as silly as an invisible man who lives int the clouds and needs our money.]



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS, FOOD

I am told that it is very unusual to see a Georgian eating by themselves. They will do it but prefer not to.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS, ALCOHOL

Large Supras (including but not limited to funerals, weddings, birthdays, etc) wine rather than cha-cha is the drink of choice. It is not unheard of to have cha-cha instead, just rare.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS, WOMEN

Unlike in Azerbaijan, at Supras (and social gatherings) women are seated at the same table as men.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS, BIZARRE SAYINGS

If a young woman cleans off her plate, she is told she will have a handsome husband. [This strikes me as odd because in fact doing so could cause the opposite. Unless their husband has interesting tastes.]

In both Azerbaijan and Georgia, a dropped fork indicates you will have guests coming. This is a very weird and silly saying that oddly enough got proven just after we were told about it. A fork was dropped and later unexpected guests joined us in the amazingly difficult to find without a guide 'White Room' restaurant. Needless to say, we were all impressed at the statement after that. So, if you are feeling lonely, merely drop your fork. If it doesn't work, move to the Republic of Georgia and try it again.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS, SCHOOLS

Oddly enough, there are no sports teams or anything like that. This confused me and I asked how which schools to be in awe of and which schools to shun were figured out in Georgia. I was told the usual method of determining such rankings was through street fighting. I am not kidding. They also have allied or friendly schools who help them give 'what for' to disliked schools.



ANOTHER RECOMMENDED BOOK

I recommend reading this for both men and women. I have no idea if they have it in other languages but it is worth the read time...





PHILOSOPHY

While I was camped out in Batumi Hostel, I met up with a dutch guy who I call Alex. He had a large, hard bound book that he was writing in and pasting post cards and whatnot into. He was putting no small amount of work into it. I related to him the story of Henriƫtte (who I call 'Harry Potter') and how she had followed either her grandfather (or great grandfather) from notes in his diary about his travels during world war two. I said that perhaps some day, his kids or grand-kids will follow him on his travels - so make them interesting and keep accurate notes. He said that he would like that. I told him that it is a better memento than most people leave - which is their couch. Personally, I think that leaving some heirloom like that is a lot more interesting - and potentially life changing than say another silver tea set or some shit. What is sad about this is that I've come across a lot of travelers who have been traveling for years. They have some vague memories of their travels and nothing written down to show for it. They have only excuses as to why they don't write things down. "I'm no good at writing." "It takes too long - I'd rather be doing things." "I'll write it later." It's the same bullshit over and over - and it is tragic.



YUMMY

Have vampire problems? Are your vampires rotting corpses who have a thirst for blood? Are your vampires easily mistaken for zombies? Are your vampires just not 'glittery' enough? Try this product to keep them away!
Thanks to experienced vampire killer Jana (yeah, she got the punks from Twilight, don't you fucking worry) for pointing out the logical connections!



WIT ISN'T WORTH IT

I was told it would be expensive, but I wanted to check to see what was expensive. I went down to the post office and got a quote for how much it would cost to send the $5 notebook filled with my notes to the Czech Republic. Twenty six GEL. Currently, that is $16.25 USD. Fuck that - I'll wait till I get to a different country. The people at the counter of the post office told me it would be cheaper to mail it in Turkey.



STRANGE PROBLEMS

A guy I met in the hostel named Gilad Polak (Israel) does 'adventure therapy'. While I thought in itself that was an interesting profession, he also told me something more interesting. His donkey got eaten by a wolf. I must admit, that's a new problem.



POLAND

From listening to an American who lived in Poland until a couple months ago and a guy currently living in Poland, it turns out that Poland is about the same price as Georgia, with the possible exception of the capital city being a little more. Even on that point they were not in complete agreement. This is exciting to me as it may put Poland onto my future travel plans.



AZERBAIJAN

Listening to Peace Corps volunteers who got sent to this country talk about it, it isn't really striking me as one I'd like to visit for a couple reasons. First, they follow the 'do unto others' philosophy when figuring out visa costs and lengths. For example, it is costs $50 to get into your country for their natives and they can stay for 2 weeks, that's what you get going there. That may sound fine on the surface but it kills their tourist industry. Which apparently isn't set up at all. I've heard for an American to get in, it is expensive and you don't get long. With the exception of one guy who requested it, none of the Peace Corps people seemed thrilled to have been stuck there for two years. In the Peace Corps, you request a general region and then they send you an invitation letter to where ever they need you regardless. You have the right to refuse the invitation but unless you give some sort of good reason, you probably won't get another invitation to a different country. And, you are stuck there for two years. It doesn't sound good to me.



COSTS

Baklava: I went to a store and asked how much a piece was. 1 GEL per piece, I was told- or I could buy it by the kilo. How much per kilo? 25 GEL. Cool. How many pieces per kilo I asked? 22. WTF.

Horse rental (in some part of Georgia I'm not in), 40 GEL per day.

Pack of weird cold medicine you put into hot water that works really amazingly well, 1.5 GEL

Knife sharpening from a street vendor, .60 GEL

Decent cigarette lighter with a built in flashlight, .50 GEL

Eye drops (natural tears variety, thumb sized container), 6.5 GEL



TOP TEN READER COUNTRIES

The top ten countries reading the blog within the last thirty days are in order of readership below. I see Jordan is number six. Note that if the border to Syria is able to be crossed (twice...) then I will be coming to your country soon. By that I mean Jordan.

United States, Georgia, United Kingdom, Finland, Australia, Jordan, Canada, Ukraine, Germany, New Zealand



YOUTUBE

In case you didn't catch it, the German forklift safety video - with English subtitles.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

TOO MUCH PASSION

Everyone knows that Georgians are passionate people. I got to witness what happens when that build up becomes too much. There was a man angrily strutting back and forth on the street yelling at the top of his lungs. He would occasionally slap someone (not nicely) or go into a courtyard where I could not see. From there, the sound of a lot of slapping, yelling and crying would emerge. This went on for about an hour or more. Nobody called the police. Although one cop was walking by and talking on his cell phone, he took no special note of this event. He just kept walking. I'm not sure who all this guy was slapping around (though at least one older lady was a target) nor why it was happening.

It did attract a fair sized crowd. Like in Ankh-Morpork, everyone here seems to enjoy a bit of street theater.

The next day, he was wandering around like normal and nobody treated him any differently than they had prior to the incident. The people staying at the hostel were worried that this sort of thing was normal for Batumi (and possibly Georgia). I assured them this was the first time I'd ever seen it, though the witnesses reactions as they stood around observing this display told me it was not unusual.

This highlighted a major cultural difference to me. In America the police would have been called in. There would have been at least three squad cars. They might have used a taser. The man would have definately been arrested and brought in to jail. His neighbors (in America) would have thought of him as a big, out of control baby and ostracized him after the event.

Here, it is perhaps seen as a venting of built up passions. Pity about whoever he was slapping around, I suppose. I guess they weren't considered important at this time.



BATUMI BELLY BASH

When men are feeling sweaty and hot, they often take off their shirt. More often than not, everyone wishes they would keep it on. In Batumi, they kind of go half way. There are two main kinds of shirt in this, either the button up or the pull over (the head). If the shirt is a button, all of the buttons are left open. If the shirt is a pull over, it is raised to a level above the belly. Inevitably, the belly which is displayed is about the size of mine. For those who haven't seen my belly, it is like a pale mountain rising from the plains. Made of pudding. Vanilla pudding.

English travelers have told me that the only people in England who wear their shirts tied up to expose their bellies were homosexuals.

Either way, men's bellies are on display in Batumi!
Note, this is not an actual Georgian belly but rather a picture of what a belly looks like, should you not know.

The women here are not to be left out though. Many favor wearing tight shirts in order to accentuate their breasts. Unfortunately, this often has the effect off showing off a huge beer belly. I'm not sure why this is considered 'sexy' but it is common enough that it must be.

When there is a concert in Batumi, you still see this but apparently it is the only night they let out lots of the 'beautiful people' to wander around.



BOTANIC GARDENS

Went to the Botanical Gardens with Sam


The security guards at the Botanic Gardens

She really, really hates these flowers!


So did I enjoy the botanical gardens? Well, I enjoyed hanging out with Sam. The trees and such seemed well kept. But I am not really into trees and bushes. And hills. I really fucking hate hills. With how hot it is outside it is a real sweaty bitch to wander around without shade.

When we first got there, Sam was using her Russian to try to talk to the guards but swore off using it for the rest of the day after seeing Logan's 'fast talk' skill without it. And a good time was had by all.



FROM FACEBOOK

Ever been curious about just how big a stack of money is? About how much the US actually owes in a visual format? Thanks to Matthew H for this beauty.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

ROLL YOUR FAST TALK...

ROLL YOUR 'FAST TALK'

Last night, I got drunk enough that I allowed myself to be persuaded to go to the casino by one of our Turkish guests. Turks really seem to love the casinos here. And the prostitutes. The fact that going to a casino told me that I was pretty drunk but unfortunately not quite drunk enough. We had a guy from Turkey, Poland, Germany and myself (American) head to the casino.

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn't it? Well, the casino was but it wasn't the funny kind.

The first thing that happened was that passports are required to gain admittance. I had known this while back at the hostel but had purposefully left mine behind. Perhaps part of me hoped I would not be granted admittance. Unfortunately (in this circumstance) I am really good at fast talk. I managed to talk my way in - and avoid the bag search entirely. As one of the guys was busy getting hassled over a multi tool he tried to bring through on his belt clip, I finished up convincing the security guards they didn't need to bother searching my bag which had a couple things in sure to cause consternation to the guards. Like a knife.

After we got in, we went around and watched the desultory gambling going on. I still remember the old fashioned slot machines. The noises and lights they had along with the clink of coins added to the festive party atmosphere. Gone. You give your money to the cashier and get a paper ticket you can feed into the slot machines. Gone are the happy clink of tokens or coins. Slot machines these days are all ugly computer games. It is difficult to tell if you are even winning. So, it is quiet and dull.

The card games, dull. The whole casino, dull.

For those of you wondering how much money the casino got from me, the answer is "I didn't visit the cash window to get money". Zero. I lack the strange obsession for gambling that many people seem to have. They use words to describe it like 'fun' but I have about the same amount of fun just handing over my money to a casino employee and finding a quiet corner to stand in for a couple minutes. The end result is the same, monetarily.

After leaving the strangely subdued and amazingly dull casino, we went to a bar, had a beer at 1.5 GEL then most of us called it a night. Well, me anyway.



PICTURE TIME!

We lost two guests down this hole in one of the rooms until it was noticed. It has since been replaced with a new floor. Ironically (or due to shitty construction) the 'soft spots' on the floor are in exactly the same area as before.


Yes - some people really do eat like this. I decry anyone who says "Oh, Logan loves to smoke!" I do like it but not THIS much!


Constipated?


The ragged edge - detail...


Katino, the wonderful woman who runs and cooks the White Room restaurant.


We had a dozen eating here but the room was too small to get everyone in the picture. This is the famous 'White Room' restaurant.




DU HAST

Thanks to Chris A for this interesting link.

Monday, July 18, 2011

TEA OF THE MONGOLS

NOTE: CLICK ON TITLE OF THE BLOG TO GO TO PHOTOBUCKET TO SEE ALL OF THE PICTURES!



ICE RINK

I went over to an ice skating rink today. The lady I 'spoke' with was one of those that should stay away from charades for the rest of her life. She would lose. She kept trying to tell me that the ice rink was open - despite the lack of ice and the amount of water on the floor. Oddly enough, it seems to be closed during some of the hottest times of the year - when people are most interested in getting into somewhere cool. No sign of a Zamboni in there either.



GEORGIAN DRIVING

I watched a guy back up through a busy intersection the wrong way on a one way street. He nearly hit a family and Lasha in order to ask him directions to somewhere. I said "What kind of driving is that?" He said "Georgian driving!"



TEA OF THE MONGOLS

I found out a lot more about tea produced in Georgia than I thought I would.

All tea in Georgia was apparently set up by Lao Chin Chow - a Chinese guy brought over to do that.

I went to "Chak Vis Chai 2007" which was established in 1896. A backpacker named Adam and I went over there to see it.


Adam


When we first got there, it didn't look like we were going to get past the gate and security guards. Fortunately, Adam is able to speak some Russian so he was talking to the guards. Eventually, it was suggested that the security guards call to the director. Surprisingly, the director showed up so fast that I think he was already on his way when called.

The director's name is Chamil Bulatov ("Bu-Lot-Ov"). He is a very cool person who exemplifies Georgian hospitality. Not only did he take Adam and I on a personal tour of the factory but he presented us with several kilograms of tea upon our leaving and had us drink tea with him.

Chamil Bulatov at his desk


The main product this place makes i pressed tea that goes to Mongols. They are the only place that makes the pressed tea in blocks in the correct way. There are other places that make fakes, we were told. Here, the blocks of tea are pressed for forty five minutes - others are pressed for less. They make it in the big pressed bricks (larger than a large book or a laptop computer for those who have never seen a print book before) because it lasts longer. These bricks are a mixture of green and black tea.

Chamil Bulatov with a 2 KG brick of pressed tea


Closeup detail of a brick of tea


Ever wonder what 100 tons of drying tea looks like?


There are a lot of business opportunities for tea and ownership of fields in the area of the factory (Chakvi, Georgia - not found on the internet much) but the average businessman doesn't know about them. Or, the average businessman isn't interested in this as a business because it takes 2-3 years before you start to see a return.

The factory can even make pure black tea for about $1.20 per kilo if the amount of interest in this tea increases. From personally trying it, I'd say it beats Lipton. Also, there are no chemicals in the tea at all.

Despite the pirate bandanna I was wearing, the director asked me if I was a businessman. I said "No, I am a pirate." For better or worse, I know the word in Russian as well. That sparked an interesting line of inquiry.

I felt a bit sorry for Adam. I would say something Loganesque and he'd start laughing then Chamil would become curious as to what was said and want a translation. By the time it got put into Adam's extremely rough Russian, it was admittedly less funny. Then, I'd start the cycle over again.

Tourists are welcome to come see this (call a day in advance) though they do not have active work going on in June through August presumably due to the heat.

For any international business people wishing to contact Chak Vis Chai 2007 (the factory) the international phone number is 995593090660 or local number 593090660.

Director Chamil Bulatov and Logan


I would like to thank Director Chamil Bulatov for his hospitality and Adam for his Russian. Both allowed me to have an interesting insight into tea. And Mongols.



HOW TO PREPARE TEA MONGOLIAN STYLE

Director Bulatov was kind enough to share with us the recipe for how to make tea in the Mongolian fashion.

Add 30g of tea to 1 liter of cold water.
Bring it to a boil for 2-3 minutes.
Leave it standing for 5-10 minutes.
Strain the tea out.
Add one half liter of milk.
Bring mixture to a boil again.
If desired, add a dash of salt (or let guests add their own).
Add 15-30g of butter.
Bring mixture to a boil.
If desired, add pepper to taste.



COSTS

New (manual) blood pressure machine to replace stolen one, 28 GEL

Kahlua (only one store in Batumi has any) 60 GEL
Lets pause for a moment to put 60 GEL (two good drinking times worth of Kahlua) into perspective. For 60 GEL, I can buy any one of the following:
60 bottles of cold soda (.5 liter) one at a time, more bottles if I buy in bulk.
42 packs of ramen noodles
3 cartons of French (knock off?) cigarettes, etc.
So, although I do like Kahlua very much, it is a 'lets see how we do money wise and buy it later after a bunch of frugal living thing'.

Small thing of cold coffee I really dislike the taste of but was programmed by Starbucks to buy cold coffee when I can find it, 2 GEL

Turkish cafeteria food with 330 ml can of Fanta, 11 GEL



FROM FACEBOOK

Thanks to Kevin M for finding this gem.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

FUTURE TRAVEL PLANS

TRAVEL PLANS

From the research I was able to do, it appears that my travel plans of taking a ferry from Greece to Egypt have been shot down. I couldn't find any ferries that are taking passengers. The ones I was able to find have either been discontinued (viva le revolution!) or only take cargo. [Note - if anyone knows of a working ferry, I'd much rather take that than fly!! As a special note to Adam, yes, I'd like you to research it for me then go on the voyage for me, take pictures of it then Photoshop me in, k thanks.]

So, it looks like despite my efforts to the contrary, it looks like I might be needing to fly. The plane ticket is going to be about $250 or less to go from Istanbul to Cairo. Though I'd rather go on a ship - I think when it was running it was less ($200) as well.



EGYPT PLANS

As I am following the sage advice of Adam (keep your ears open for possibilities) I was talking to a couple of travelers from the US - Lauren and Kyle. They told me that people in Egypt are going absolutely nuts trying to desperately soak every dollar they can out of 'rich foreign tourists' since a good part of their GNP. Their revolution caused the tourism industry to pretty much collapse overnight. Rather than getting new jobs, I'm told, they just try harder to get the few people there to spend money. I was told stories of not just hustling people but physically attempting to move them into restaurants and such. This didn't sound really good but something else they brought up did.

In a place called Saint Catherine Village, they have a permanent Bedouin camp.

I've seen pictures. It's a little place a bit out in the desert - I've seen pictures.

Now the cheapest lodging they have is 'Camping, shared bath, per person' at EGP 15. That's (at the time of this writing) $2.52. Now, as Adam (my mentor) is fond of pointing out, I am a pussy. Well, by his standards of having people come and hit him with pain sticks in the morning to wake him up after sleeping in a nest of angry vipers.

A step up from that is 'Dorm bed with shared bathroom' - pretty much seems to be regular hostel living at 25 EGP. $4.19.

If I want to get fancy, I can go with 'Single room with fan/heater, shared bathroom' at 55 EGP. That's $9.52.

But, the rooms are not where they seem to make their money - that is on the food. Fortunately, on line they have a menu so I can see exactly how much they charge for meals. And I believe that I was told there is a store close by. I'm not sure on that honestly.

The food is a bit more pricey - a burger and fries is 22 EGP ($3.69). Looking at the total 'breakfast, lunch and dinner' the cost seems to be about 73 EGP ($12.24). Hence I'd probably be spending about $16.43 per day. That is not bad.

I will need to build up my gear a bit if I am to go with their recommended checklist of stuff - especially if I go on any of the treks they have. I'm not sure if I'd be getting a recommended 'three season' sleeping bag though - $100 to $200 for something I don't want to carry around would suck. I also have yet to get any light pants but I am hopeful there are some fat Egyptians wandering around so I can get what they are wearing. I might also go with the gallibaya, sserual and a kafiyah. We'll see.

Honestly, I don't know how long I'll want to spend there. It could be OK for a week or two - or I might try to get through the winter spending under $20 per day and confusing the natives by not doing a lot. Who knows - they may even offer me a job tending camels or something. Who can say.

If I get bored, there is a town not too far away called Dahab.

If anyone has any constructive feedback or ideas on this, I'd like to hear them.



WTF

Oh how the tables have turned. Thanks to Jason M. for this story off of Facebook.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

THOUGHTS ON RUNNING A HOSTEL

HOSTELS

Disclaimer: Some of this stuff may be incorrect. I don't claim to know everything about...well...anything. But I thought I'd put down some thoughts for others. Also, I want to state that this is not a criticism of any specific hostel I've stayed at. I'm just setting down what I've found thus far.

One thing that has always struck me as bizarre is the number of hostel owners who have never been traveling and stayed at other hostels. I am baffled about this. To me, it is like someone announcing they will become a dentist without ever seeing a tooth. Like opening a burger joint (restaurant) without ever having eaten a hamburger. Saying 'sure, even though I've never been to a hostel but by God I know what is needed to run one' always confuses me.

These lessons came from the mighty Adam (who runs the kind of hostel you want to live in for awhile), some from living in hostels for several months and some from working in a hostel.


CLEANING

If you hate cleaning up other people's shit, don't own a hostel. Most of what you will be doing revolves around cleaning up extremely messy people's trash, bathroom mess, dishes, leaking juice containers in the fridge, etc. You will be cleaning every day, often multiple times a day. If you want to hire other people to do it, you will cut down on your already narrow profit margin and they won't do as good of job as you want. If you are a somewhat sloppy person, this will be reflected in your hostel and then in your ratings and then in your profits.

Whereas the hostel itself should be clean, the bathrooms should be sparkling. This is the messiest place potentially in the hostel. I've asked a lot of travelers what part of the hostel should be the cleanest and thus far the unanimous response has been 'the bathroom'.


START UP GEAR

Buy beds with gear lockers under the bottom bunk. I came across these in Serbia. Having a storage space easily capable of storing your entire pack filling the unused space under the bed gets rid of the 'we don't have space for gear lockers' excuse. A lot of hostels have gear lockers 'for just the valuable stuff'. I believe that the gear lockers under the bed are superior to these. If someone gets robbed at your hostel - no matter how great their stay was up to that point - your hostel becomes forever labeled as 'the hostel they got robbed at'. Don't be cheap here - get the beds with the lockers under them. Slat beds are for chumps. Most hostels seem to use them because they are a bit cheaper, easy to disassemble and reassemble, etc. I personally hate them because they are really uncomfortable as opposed to a solid piece of wood. Also, I've noticed that penny pinching hostels don't have extra slats - if one breaks they simply space out the others further. Also, as a bed gets more worn, it tends to bow allowing the slats to fall out. Then, you have to ratchet it back closed again. Pain in the ass.

The formula for how many sheets to own seems to be double the number of beds you have. Possibly more if you are trying to do them all yourself to save money. Plan on the laundry service you are using to be late in getting your sheets to you. Nothing looks more unprofessional than saying "We're out of sheets to a prospective guest." Even if you don't mind looking unprofessional, word gets around. Guests who might have stayed and filled a bed (and your pocket) for a week are gone after day day.

I don't recommend couches in the common room. You'll find people sleeping on them and they encourage physical intimacy. These are things you don't want or need in a hostel. Chairs - lots of chairs - are better.

If there is a surface capable of being sat upon, it will be. Having tables, chairs, radiators with a flat top (seen one broken in Bosnia), etc that aren't sturdy will result in these things being sat on and broken - even if amble chairs abound.

Parking is something that the hostel owner need not really concern themselves with. Very few of your clientele (outside of the USA) will own vehicles and those that do will fend for themselves.

Bug killer/bug zapper - get one. Bugs really make a hostel look dirty. Also, hearing the high pitched screaming of a bug as it is electrocuted give a high level of satisfaction.

Advertisement - do not advertise in local papers and such. You don't want that business. You'll get people who have gotten kicked out of their homes by spouses (usually for good reasons), people intent on partying and tearing up the place, etc. Hostelworld, Hostelbookers, etc are the only advertisement you must have. I would go so far as to say if you aren't on every hostel site you can find, you are not in business. Those places will take the pre-booking money (10% of the rooms cost) but it is totally worth it. That is the resource people who do not pre-book use to find you.

Most hostels have towels in the bathroom. My guess is to prevent needless waste of toilet paper. My personal formula for determining how many towels a hostel needs would be BATHROOMS x DAYS TILL LAUNDRY IS REGULARLY DONE ON THE OUTSIDE x 2. You will need to replace towels on a daily basis. It is well known that some backpackers don't bother to carry a towel despite Douglas Adam's excellent advice on the matter. They will use the small hand towel in the bathroom to dry off with. Stock extra, change that towel daily. Also, some people will come to you asking if they can buy a towel. These are the polite yet inept. Personally, I'd just recommend stocking hand towels - they are good enough for bathrooms yet too useless to consider stealing.


NATURE OF THE JOB

If you want to work for a few hours and not think about work any more, I don't suggest running a hostel. Hostels are pretty much a 24 hour job. You will always be cleaning, sitting in or thinking about the hostel.

It is imperative to have a door buzzer you can clearly hear in your room. In the larger hostels it is possible to have people manning a desk 24/7 but in the smaller ones people need to sleep.

When you do something is often just as important as what you are doing. For example, pulling dirty sheets off of the bed. If you do it before the guest arrives and they are presented with a nice packet of clean sheets, great. If they are standing there watching you pull off the dirty sheets, you have failed. Don't get me wrong - there is lots of downtime in a hostel - but you don't get to choose when that is. If you want to present a professional appearance, clean first - even if you are 'feeling lazy'.

If you are not a self starter, don't like meeting people and can't speak any English at all - these are also good reasons to consider a different line of work.

You'll need a minimum of two people at the hostel at all times. This is to allow one to go get things while the other keeps watch.

Have one guy do the money and keep the records. This should be the hostel owner as it matters a lot more to him.

Like every other business I've ever heard of, your first year won't be a good profit year. With all of the start up costs and such, you will be doing well to break even. Hostels operate on a rather thin margin. Often, people look at price first, reviews (on the hostel sites) second.


SPACE NEEDED

Common rooms should be large enough to comfortably seat everyone who stays in your hostel. Ideally, the common room should be well away from the bedrooms so that any noise from it doesn't disturb your guests while they are sleeping.


NOISE

I can't tell you how many hostels I've been in that employees are the ones who make the most noise. Many times, they have the TV cranked up like they are deaf or at a rock concert. This annoys many of the other guests - especially those who don't want to watch TV, talk to each other or sleep. My personal recommendation is not to allow any TV's, radios or other noise making devices. People won't remember the 'great times they had at a hostel watching TV' but they will remember meeting and talking to cool people. Unfortunately, common sense seems to fly out the window with this suggestion. People regard it as their God given right to blast everyone else with their media.


SIGNS

I learned this from Adam at TIU Front Page (see 'Shameless Plugs' below). The best signs are those that combine instructions with humor. Signs mean less work for you and the masses will be happier in your hostel. If you are thinking 'these signs are rude to the guests' know that you are inconveniencing all of your guests by not having them. In addition, having signs prohibiting double occupancy of a single bed will save wear and tear on your bedding. Of course, the fish rots at the head so if you are part of the problem you can't prohibit others from doing it. I've found it is much more comfortable personally to stay at a place that has a lot of rules opposed to one that has none or few rules. Judging by the ratings people have put into things like Hostelworld, there seems to be heavy agreement with this. Signs ensure the rules are known by all and not arbitrary. People are naturally inconsiderate - plan on it.


RULES

Don't allow sleeping bags to be used as they carry parasitic bugs. Putting a sheet down under it won't help against the very small bugs that can burrow into skin. I'm not sure what steps must be done to get rid of these bugs - whether it's just putting down powder or throwing out the mattresses but I was told these sort of bugs are a 'hostel owner's worst nightmare'. I'm not sure what all that entails but it certainly sounds negative.

In conclusion, hostels are mainly about two things - cleanliness and personality. The personality part is easy for some but cleanliness must be rigorously pursued every day.



SHAMELESS PLUGS

Check this out! James Fowler who writes the 'Five Best' blog has made a wiki of blogs. He has kindly added mine to it and so I am delighted to plug his blog. READ IT. DO IT NOW. His blog can be found here.

TIU Front Page Hostel. This is a hostel that taught me a lot about how to properly run a hostel. I recommend going and staying for a few days here. Talk to Adam and Sylwia. They know what it takes to keep a customer happy.



COSTS

Buying all the neighborhood kids ice cream (and myself naturally) from a wandering ice cream merchant, 5 GEL.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

LOTS OF TRAVELER'S TIPS

WHAT'S UP

I had met up with a 'Turkish small businessman' - one of those guys who has a lot of different jobs with vague titles and not much time required at the office, if you know what I mean. He told me that four in five clubs here are stocked with prostitutes. A lot of people come in from Turkey for 'sex tourism'.

After two weeks (or so) I've managed to become a bit more of an authority on 'what's in the area around the hostel'. I realize that it would have taken Pete 'a half day and a bit of a wander' but I'm still pleased at being able to tell guests who come to the hostel what's around.

I've also gotten well known enough on the Turkish street that I can't go down it when I'm in a hurry - too many people to meet and greet, getting sucked into games of Backgammon, tea, etc. But I do find it quite a nice diversion.

Most of the guests here believe I own the place (the hostel, not the city) but I did have to work harder to convince a Turkish tourist Ekin (Nike backward - cool nickname) that yes, I indeed work here. Really. Now, give me your fucking passport. Anyway, he shared some interesting information on Jordan with me. (See Traveler's Lore). After we got over this initial speed bump, he was a wealth of information.

Since I am following the advice of my sensei Adam and staying put for a few months, most of the stuff I'm typing in is 'traveler's tips' rather than 'this is what happened to Logan'. This is as much for my records as your edification.

For those wondering 'so how are you doing with your spending'? It's a constant struggle. Fortunately, it can cost about the same to eat out as it can cooking my own food. Since they have no kitchen facilities here, that works out for me. In general, my costs are going about like this:

Breakfast - yogert (2.4 GEL)
Lunch - Bakery hamburgers. I buy two of them, take the toppings and meat from one, stick it on the other and pretend I am eating in the US. (2.6 GEL or so)
Dinner - I either eat a packet of noodles (1.5 GEL) or take people out to the white room for a huge feast (7 GEL, give or take) depending on how many people we have, my mood and so on.
Miscellaneous stuff like cigarettes at a buck (US) per pack, haircuts, replacement gear, medicine and all that also kick in.

I have been trying to keep to 20 GEL per day but find I often go up to 30 GEL per day. 30 GEL is till half my daily money allowance so that isn't too horrible but I'd like to get my spending to 1/3rd.

Checking with my bank account (which is way too frankly honest) and taking when I last withdrew money and dividing by the number of days till I need more show my spending is actually about 45 GEL per day. Not good, but I had to blow a bunch of money on replacing my medicine and such. Not a thrilling happy thing but not unexpected either.

Bottom line, I'm working on doing better but I'm under the break even point and am saving money now. The question is 'how fast am I saving money'. I know what my goal is and I don't know if I'll get it for awhile.

For leisure, I am talking to people, drinking a bit of tea, water and juice, watching movies and TV on the tiny netbook screen and reading books on the Kindle. I figured the Kindle would come in handy eventually and now seems to be the time.

I haven't started contacting people via couch surfing to hang out with yet - keeping that for a 'later' thing as I'm still inundated with people coming to the hostel to stay.



SINGLE WOMEN TRAVELING ALONE

I talked to a girl who was traveling alone here and asked if she had any tips for other women traveling by themselves. Here is what she said:

a) Trust your instincts. If you're not comfortable (in a place, situation, etc) don't try to convince yourself to stay. Just go. Trust your instincts.

b) Avoid arriving late at night to a new destination. If you must, give someone a ring just to tell them where you are.

c) Don't dress stupidly (aka 'sexy' aka 'revealing skin'), especially at night.

[These are good pieces of advice and I thank her for them! Hopefully, we will get more people willing to travel solo. Traveling by yourself is such an interesting experience!]



TRAVELER'S LORE

I had found out about a Facebook page called 'Cairo Scholars'. It has links to the expat community in Egypt as well as places to stay and such. I decided to 'like' it because it is possible I will be 'wintering' in Egypt this year. It is always interesting what sort of resources people know about.

Ramadan is starting on the first of August. I do not at this time foresee being in Egypt (or any Arabic country) for that event. Although I have heard that it gets to be a lot of fun at night - many parties, casual feedings and such so it might not be a good thing that I miss it.

Getting to the Turkish border (and a nice beach) you can either take marshutka 101 or possibly 146. This goes to Sarpi, Georgia.

Jordan: Seeing Petra costs an amazing $70 US. For those too lazy to click on the link, that's where the climax of the third Indiana Jones movie took place. I know that inside is nothing but a couple square rooms - nothing cool. Hence, another way to say it is 'to get your picture taken in front of it is holy shit $70!' Even the Brits who like to charge outrageous fees in London for seeing things (Churchill's Bunker, Westminster Abbey, etc) don't go above 20 BPS (aka $31) for that crap. I was told about an adventurous tourist who snuck in there at 4-5 AM to avoid the security guards and such that would later be demanding money. In addition, it is advisable to have a receipt for your accommodation with you at all times or they charge you double price to see stuff. Robbery! Jordan itself is very expensive - I've been told equivalent to Switzerland. This tells me to keep the fuck out.

Turkey - try to bargain down the price of lodgings down by up to 40%. How much you can knock them down depends on how full they are and so on.

Turkey - check out Pamukkale (town). They have some unique hot springs and such there. It sounds good to me. I ws also advised to check out a hostel called 'Mustafa's Pension'.

Turkey - the two big bus lines are Metro and Pamukkale (named after the city).

Turkey - check out Bodrum. They have the largest under water archaeology museum in the world. Also, there is a hostel there. [Note - they have one hostel there and it has a really horrible rating. Reading the reviews on it somewhat dampens my will to go there. By somewhat I mean 'all the way'.]



COSTS

Indian food - kind of crappy (mostly bone with a little chicken hanging on it = kill the cook) - 10 GEL

Shorts - gaudy and very Georgian in fashion (I dislike the shorts a lot) - 10 GEL

Flip flops - Iraqli found me some good ones as the 9 GEL ones I had bought literally were pounded flat, had a hole through them and were about dead in a mere ten days - 17 GEL

Getting to Trabzan (Turkey) via a very nice bus with air conditioning and possibly a toilet (Turkish buses are nicer by a long shot than Georgian) - 20 GEL

A guest at the hostel was telling me about a forty minute boat ride along the coast you can get though I haven't gone and confirmed it - 5 GEL

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

CLICK ON TITLES TO GET PICTURES

HOW TO TRAVEL

In an answer of how can YOU make money while traveling, the answer is 'if you have a family, car, house and stuff, you can't make enough money to travel indefinitely'. Women (in general) are nest builders and 'want to be close to their families' so they aren't often into traveling indefinitely. If you aren't trying for a six month or year or longer travel time, then working isn't really going to be something you'll have time for. For someone interested in working, there are lots of places you can find with research to teach English. It's not what I'm doing but it is something people can do - even those without a university degree, experience etc can do. Other people tend bar. Other people take on three jobs for six months, work like mad then quit everything to travel for six months to a year then restart the cycle. Others get jobs they can do remotely. In general though, you have 'stuff and comfort' vs 'adventure and travel' - you only get one of the two categories. This bums people out but it's what I've seen to be true thus far.

I was discussing this with one of my fellow travelers and she said that people make excuses up they call reasons instead of 'just doing it'.



TEN CHEAPEST CITIES TO LIVE

Pete sent me an article from 'The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited' which listed the ten cheapest cities (of the ones they surveyed). For those interested they include: Dhaka in Bangladesh, Mantia in the Philippines, Panama City in Panama, Alglers in Algeria, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, New Delhi in India, Tehran in Iran, Mumbai in India, Tuis in Tunisia and Karachi in Pakistan.

Obviously, some of those places I won't be able to get to but I did find the list interesting.



WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

· Consultation/Vaccination Review-$ 30/50.06 GEL
· Hep A - $95/158.53 GEL
· Hep B - $42/ 70.08 GEL (per shot)
· Typhoid - $70/116.81 GEL
· Diphtheria Tetanus - $45/ 75.09 GEL
· Yellow fever - $95/158.53 GEL
· Rabies - $42/ 70.08 GEL (per shot)
· Meningo A+C - $ 60/100.12 GEL

These are the rates I got back from a place in Tbilisi. I sent back a letter inquiring as to why their rates were approximately double those of western Europe.

They sent back a letter saying indeed it was cheaper in Asia and Africa but denied it was expensive in Europe. Despite what another traveler had told me about it being 200 Euros for the whole thing. Huh.

Unfortunately, the US Embassy doesn't have an e-mail contact - just phone and snail mail. Meh.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS

Public passionate kissing is illegal in Tbilisi though this is not enforced.



COSTS

Ugly shorts, 10 GEL
Good flip flops that Iraq-Lee picked up for me, seem good thus far 17 GEL

Sunday, July 3, 2011

LOGAN GOT ROBBED

I had gotten too comfortable. I had forgotten to lock my small locks on my backpack.

I don't know if it would have helped, but I do feel stupid for not doing it. I didn't think I was in a risky enough situation to warrant it.

My backpack was not yawning open nor were goodies someone would want to steal lying about in plain sight. The backpack had been closed.

I think what happened is that someone saw me taking medicine. They noticed I am usually in a bit of pain and figured that there might be pain killers in there.

They were wrong.

So, the thief made off with my medicine out of the bag. Also taken was my bag of miscellaneous emergency stuff - condoms, pepto tablets, some cold medicine, etc.

Also, for some inexplicable reason they took my blood pressure monitor.

They used my dirty clothing bag to store their loot in and didn't have the decency to empty out the dirty clothing in it. So, I lost at least one pair of underwear. Hopefully not any pants.

But losing a pair of underwear is annoying. Especially given that I found out the two pair I recently bought were made of something other than cotton.

So I need more underwear.

It's a real bummer.

I hate the aftermath of getting robbed.

You don't want to be suspicious of any of the great and friendly people that went through but you can't stop wondering which one was the douche bag.

Oh, and I have to spend a lot of money replacing the medicine. That's irritating.

The thieves did leave the medicine I'd bought in Bosnia on top of the bed for some reason. That was nice of them and gives me a thirty (or more) day supply.

So, I'm back to keeping an eye on stuff as well as I can.

This incident does make me wish every hostel had the big gear lockers you can fit your entire backpack into. Incidents like that don't happen when you lock up everything. I think the amount of space the lockers take up is not significant to how getting robbed can fuck up your time - especially for someone on vacation.

It does hurt when you don't have much and get robbed.

To the robber: Thanks, douche bag.

Friday, July 1, 2011

STING IN BATUMI

STING IN BATUMI

While typing this, I was listening to a very old Sting singing a couple blocks away at a concert. I didn't have tickets and couldn't see anything from the street. Due to the president of Georgia being in Batumi (this is current rumor) there are 2-6 (unarmed) policemen at every corner. So, I decided to return to the hostel and type up some of my notes.

[Note: After Sting and the concert, they lit off fireworks. Being in a seaside resort town is rough. Oh, yeah.]

This stuff following starts a couple days ago:

I was out wandering around and saw a guy (still alive, I believe) being hauled off in an ambulance. From the green leafy stick in the injured man's stretcher (possibly in the man himself) and everyone looking up, I am presuming that he either fell/jump/was pushed. The only floor that didn't have people staring from it was the fifth which also had an open door. If he did drop from the fifth floor and survived it (after falling onto a tree) that is pretty impressive. What interested me is how the police were handling it. A wailing woman who I presume was a relative of the injured man was allowed to wander off. The landing area was wandered around in by lots of civilians - not roped off. The crowd eventually dispersed and I wandered off. I didn't take any pictures of the crime scene as I didn't want to attract the attention and irritation of the local police.

While I was out wandering around, I found a place that served 'haga puri' that Lasha had recommended. Despite the small restaurant, the loud music emanating from it and an uncooperative lady behind the counter who would have certainly failed any game of charades she had ever played, I managed to get this dish. It is a boat made of bread with a big thing of butter in the center as well as some cheese and a half cooked egg. I tried a few bites, paid and left.

Last night along with Sam, Fish, Santa, Iraq-Lee and Lasha we were playing a very strange game. I'm not sure if it was 'cops and robbers' or 'mafia'. There were the same number of cards as players with all of them being face cards except two which were aces. These were shuffled and then every person got a card. Hence, two people were 'mafia' and the rest were civilians. One person said "Everyone close your eyes." There was a pause then they said "Mafia open your eyes." Pause. "Mafia close your eyes." Pause. Everyone open your eyes. In this way, the two mafia people know who each other are. Then, the players launch into a big speculative conversation about who the mafia are. Eventually a vote is taken and someone must show their card. When the card is shown, the person is out. It could be a mafia that is killed or a civilian. If the civilians are whittled down to the same number as the mafia (who could tie any vote two against two) then the mafia wins. If not, the civilians win. It is an interesting game but I am not in a hurry to play it again.

Disclaimer on all of the Georgian customs, proverbs, sayings, etc - these are ones I have been fortunate enough to learn from my hosts and I could have messed up in translation and such but I got them as close as I could.



GEORGIAN CUSTOMS


When the Tamada (toastmaster) is chosen, sometimes the rest of the Supra (party party, so to speak) drinks a toast to the new Tamada.

The purpose of the Supra is not to get drunk but to talk to each other.

How to know when to drain your glass every drink - see what others are doing.

Iraq-Lee "Good drinkers are as famous within their community as good footballers are in Georgia."

If you don't wish to follow the Tamada's rules, you must leave the Supra.

During the Supras, the old attempt to teach the young toasts from the older generation.

Outright drinking contests are very rare.

A good phrase for the traditional third toast: "People are not dead so long as people are alive who remember them." - Iraq-Lee.

You aren't suppose to sip on your drink until it's time to drink.

If someone is leaving and you do a toast to them, this indicates it is time for them to leave. Timing on this toast is important.

The mother is the most important person in every Georgian man's life.

There is a correct and incorrect format for Supra toasts. You don't toast something like "I like women" but you could toast "To all beautiful women".

In a Supra, there are special poems which in themselves are toasts.

The only songs which may be sung in a Supra as toasts are special 'national songs'. These are sung with three voices minimum and are sung 'A cappella'.

If you want to instantly pick a fist fight with a Georgian man, insulting his mother, sister or girlfriend will make it happen. [No, I haven't done such a thing, I am merely recording customs I have learned about.]

Georgians respect each other and don't say bad things to people they don't know very well.

I had asked Iraq-Lee's girlfriend, Kate, about women's roles during Supras. She told me that if the Supra was close friends, the women take turns toasting along with everyone else. If it is a big Supra with strangers they just say "I agree" and drink. Generally, she said, the Supra toasts are for men. During a 'friends Supra' people just generally toast whatever is on their minds without regard to what toast has gone on before.



BEST QUOTES OF THE SUPRA

Iraq-Lee talking to Santa on women's rights: "I'm sorry you are a woman."

From Sam who is a stand up comedian came up with "Sexism - it's like racism light."



GEORGIAN PROVERB

A drunk man is a truthful man.

The son is a mirror of his family.



GEORGIAN SAYINGS

"Pants friends" are friends since you were small kids.



INFORMATION BOOTH

The number I got from the information booth for a doctor was disconnected or no longer in service. The only place to stay they are really willing to tell you about is a hotel a friend of theirs owns. In other words, beware of the information you get there.



SANTA IS COMING TO TOWN

Actually, she's already here. A lady from Latvia is here and I can't pronounce her name but it sounded like 'Santa'. I said 'Santa'? She said "Others do call me Santa." After making sure she was OK with that, I decided to call her 'Santa' as well. Talk about a memorable nickname!



BATUMI HOSTEL

I am extremely happy today as I have been hired at Batumi Hostel. My wage - free bed for as long as I want to work here. Pretty much the only work I'm doing is chatting to people as they have someone else who is going to be doing the cleaning. I can't imagine a better set of circumstances for me.



SOME ON BATUMI

This is an interesting CNN story on Batumi (the town I'm living in) for those interested.



NOTHING TO DO WITH GEORGIA AT ALL

Something I was told about is 'the German Houdini'. One guy doing a girl from behind while his buddy is hiding in the room. While the girl is suitably distracted, they switch and the original screwer goes outside, knocks on the window to get her attention and waves. [Aside from the possible prison time, I can see this one going very, very wrong.] Thanks to Fish for enlightening me on yet another very strange sex thing that undoubtedly has been pulled.



COSTS

Concert in which some trumpeter I've never heard of and with 'very special guest of Sting) I believe the tickets are 400 GEL. Naturally, only scalpers have them now as you'd have had to buy them months ago.

'haga puri' (small) 5 GEL, large 8 GEL

Fairly expensive restaurant food including potatoes, meat kabob, weiss beer, 15 GEL

Side of mayonnaise, .9 GEL

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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