I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while. A couple weeks ago just as I was starting out as a blogger I came across another blog called Time Travel Turtle. I’m sure my dad will love this. As far as he’s concerned, there are few things more awesome than turtles, and half the time I call home he has some story about his pet turtle, Tuck, who lives in the pond outside.
Surprisingly, Time Travel Turtle gets its cute name from its author, Michael Turtle, an Australian who quit his job at 30 to go tour the world. And judging from his blog, he’s already checked a good fraction of it off his list.
There are two things that really strike me about Michael’s blog and make it one of my new favorites, interesting enough to write an entire post just to share it with others. First, it’s just incredibly well-presented. He has great animated slideshows (I love the rolling boxes feature!), an clean layout, and intelligent and insightful commentary on the places he visits. Clearly he’s put some effort into it, and it inspires me to continue working on my own blog and make it look a little less off-the-shelf.
Second, and more importantly, is the content. Content is king as any blogger will tell you, but Michael’s is not like most BoardingArea or other travel blogs I’m familiar with. I don’t think he’s even mentioned an airplane one time except in passing, e.g., “I had to fly to get there.”
Instead, “Time Travel Turtle” is all about the destination and the experience of immersing oneself in another culture. If I had the time and money to just quit my job and start traveling the world, his are the adventures I’d like to have and the blog I’d like to write. Maybe I could do that, but for now I have other plans. Hopefully I won’t be too old when I decide to finally indulge myself!
There are many great trip reports, including visits to North Korea and Paraguay, but my favorite so far is on his road trip through the Deep South. My girlfriend, Megan, is from Amarillo, TX, and while my interpretation of the “Deep South” runs from Louisiana to North Carolina (as opposed to just the “South” in general) I get a certain vibe every time I go to visit Amarillo or other places in Texas. It’s a completely different world from my life growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Shopping at Walmart is still a novel experience for me, as are the huge pickup trucks everywhere that people seem insistent on driving two blogs to the corner store. Fortunately, I am not the communist hippie vegan her family thought I was the first time they heard I was from California!
[In fact, in this handy guide to hippie-dom than the envirogeeks at "One Block off the Grid" have put together, I probably qualify as a Level 1 Anti-Hippie, and sometimes I dress like that too. I look forward to claiming deductions on my children one day, almost as much as I can't wait to escape the Level 5 NPR Hippies that permeate every corner of Seattle.]
Megan keeps talking about how we should visit the Texas State Fair, but I’ve heard rumors there are three of them. I think the one in Dallas that Michael visits is probably the one she meant. Hopefully, at least, since all that fried food looks tasty and once I lose my youthful metabolism I may look like this guy…
I’ve also often thought that the South is probably one of the ideal destinations for a road trip. You could make similar arguments for the Pacific Northwest (traveling up through the Yukon or east toward Yellowstone) and the Sierra Nevada mountains (perhaps heading through Yosemite and then past Mono Lake to approach Lake Tahoe from the south). Loyalty Traveler wrote a series of blog posts on a similar trip he took last year to Mono Lake.
I’ve been wanting to do all of these trips for a while and will hopefully make time for one of them this summer. Areas like these are full of highly local culture, and the population density just doesn’t lend itself well to flying in and out in a weekend like I might do with Boston or Miami. For example, later this year I’ll be heading to Branson, MO, for a family reunion. (If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, this is near the friendly folks in Springfield who pick up on the first ring whenever you call customer service.) There are tons of airports within a few hours of Branson, but they’re still, relatively speaking, in the middle of nowhere so fares are high. The phrase, “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink” comes to mind. But I’m sure it will be fun nonetheless. Hopefully we’ll be able to rent a car for ourselves to take off one day and just tour the surrounding area.
Although there isn’t much potential for travel hacking when taking these road trips, two possibilities come to mind. First, many small airports are often good mileage run candidates because their low volume makes them conducive to fare sales and often requires one or two connections. I took two mileage runs (and cancelled a third) to Kansas City last year. The only problem is that these cheap fares are unpredictable. When you actually need to get somewhere on a certain date, fares are typically high. The second benefit of small towns is that they are great for mattress runs and cheap award redemptions at the discount brands of chains like Hyatt (Hyatt Place) and Starwood (Aloft). If it’s a really small town and those don’t exist, then Hotwire or Priceline may be a good choice. You probably won’t care about proximity to tourist sites, and there are often enough rooms available that you can wait until the last minute to snag a really low rate.
So the next time you are planning a vacation, consider taking a break from the big destinations and focus on experiencing something new for a change. If you book a mileage run, turn it into a short vacation and see the surrounding area. The travel hacking I write about here and Michael’s adventured chronicled in Time Travel Turtle are pretty different, but his posts are still an inspiration for improving the way I travel in more ways than just financially.