Travel Hacking for the Credit Challenged

DSCN3045Once you start traveling a bit, it doesn’t take very long to realize that there is an entire universe of blogs, books, and membership sites dedicated to the concept of saving as much money as possible on travel. This process is affectionately referred to as travel hacking.

The primary concept discussed in the travel hacking world has to do with maximizing frequent flyer miles and other “points” you earn when obtaining and using particular credit cards. Dedicated travel hackers have more credit cards than they need, and they obtain them in order to get the introductory bonus miles and additional points for hitting certain usage levels.

Miles/points aren’t just used to get free or cheap airfare, but can also be used for free or discounted cruises, hotels, rental cars, tours, and other travel items.

All of these programs are well and good, unless you’re credit challenged. Even though my credit score is finally emerging from the scourge of my bankruptcy, I still have a long ways to go before I can qualify for most of the offers that the travel hacking world relies on.

So where does that leave the frequent traveler that happens to be credit challenged?

Since I’m basically a permanent traveler at this point (I have not had a fixed, year-round home for several years), I’ve learned as much as I can about saving money while traveling, without having access to all the awesome credit card bonus mile deals and other perks that are out there.

Here are the basics for stretching your travel dollars.


Your flight is typically the most expensive part of getting somewhere. You may have heard in the past that traveling slower means traveling cheaper, but that simply isn’t the case in all situations. In North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan, I’ve found that flying is often far cheaper than taking trains or buses within the same country.

How I find cheap flights:

  1. Do a flexible date search on,, and the Kayak iPhone/iPad app.
  2. Check the boxes to do comparison searches on other sites (CheapOAir, Travelocity, etc). They’ll pop up in separate windows.
  3. Strangely, the Kayak iOS app returns more complicated route searches, and appears to search airlines not on the web site.
  4. For complex, overseas, multi-city trips, also check
  5. For domestic/short flights in a region, check local budget carriers directly, as they often don’t show up in major site searches. Examples:
    • United States: Frontier, Southwest
    • Europe: RyanAir, AirBaltic
    • Japan: Peach
    • Southeast Asia: Tiger
  6. If the fare difference between the cheapest flight (which I usually just find via and your preferred carrier (the one you’re accumulating miles with) isn’t that much, book directly with your favorite carrier. For me, this means less than $20 or so domestically and $100 or so for a long haul transoceanic flight, at which point I’ll just fly Frontier or United, since I’m kind of “locked in” to their mileage programs since I used to fly out of Denver all the time (Frontier and United are Denver-based).

For U.S. domestic flights, I will end up on Frontier, even if it’s a few dollars more, just so I can get my miles towards future free flights. Same with United, unless I find a far cheaper flight on SkyScanner, which is becoming more and more common.

Bear in mind that flights in the middle of the week are usually cheaper than weekend flights, and that booking at least 14 days in advance is usually required to get the best deal.

As an example, I just booked a flight from New Orleans to New York City yesterday, and I ended up paying nearly double what I would have paid if I had booked it last week when I was first looking. I should have booked it last week — it’s literally the same flight number I first looked it, but I basically forgot, and it cost me. I also paid a slight premium (15% or so) for taking a Sunday flight instead of a Monday flight.

Rental Cars

Because they are ALWAYS so much cheaper, I’ve reached the point where the only place I check for rental cars anymore is It’s not uncommon for them to give me a better rate for an Enterprise car (my preferred car company) than I get by booking directly with Enterprise. Hotwire will give you a popup to compare rates with, which I probably end up using half the time.

I’m not picky about rental cars, and tend to just get the cheapest thing I can. I like Enterprise because they have a nice $9.95 per day deal on the weekends, and have good full week rates, too. I also have a good history with them and get their frequent renter deals with points I accrue through them.

I’ll also briefly mention car share programs. These are awesome, both domestically and internationally. I belong to two car share programs, and will probably join more.

Hertz On Demand (now called Hertz 24/7), for example, allows me to pay $6 to $8 per hour for a car in many cities across the U.S., when I need one for just short errands. My electronic access card for the cars, however, also works in France, Spain, Germany, and several other European countries (at higher hourly rates, due to higher fuel cost). The rates include all insurance and gas up to a certain limit.


If I’m not camping, which I do less and less as I get older, then my first preference is to stay in a hostel, even domestically. Hostels are rare in America, but more exist than you might think. I’ve even stayed at hostels in places like Boulder, CO and Salt Lake City, UT.

Since I’m a member, I start with Hosteling International ( to see if they have a member hostel where I’m going. I also like and, since they don’t have booking fees. has more properties, including B&B’s, but has booking fees and usually higher rates listed for the same properties.

If you’re really adventurous, try, and literally crash on a stranger’s couch in their home. I’ve done it, and it’s a fun way to meet new people, but it can challenge your comfort level.

In the United States, I basically live in motels. I’ll generally check and, looking for the best rate. Both these sites are generally cheaper than what I find on Kayak, Priceline, Expedia, and Travelocity, so I basically quit looking elsewhere.

I’m a big fan of the “Hotwire Hot Rate”, where they sell last minute unsold rooms, but don’t tell you exactly which hotel it is until you book. I’ve always ended up somewhere acceptable by doing this. has a decent rewards program, where you book 10 nights and then get 1 free somewhere. It’s available at limited hotels, but enough that I use it.

If you travel to the same places a lot, you’ll obviously find favorite spots. Check travel blogs for other people’s favorites, also. For example, in Sapporo, Japan, there’s only one hostel to consider staying at: Jimmyz Backpackers. In Maui, I was referred to Banana Bungalow in Wailuku by several travel writers, and my stay there was quite epic.

If you’re going to be staying in a place for an extended period of time (several months), it may be cheaper to rent a furnished flat (apartment). Look on Google to find short-term apartment rental agencies in foreign cities. In the US, check Craigslist. is growing popular for this, too, but I’ve yet to use it.


Sticking with certain companies, and using their rewards programs, can help overcome what is lost by not getting the credit card bonus deals. As I discover new tips/tricks, I’ll update this blog post to list them.

Why Georgia?

As a Wanderer, I can’t always explain the places I feel drawn to.

Every place has it’s own unique draw. People, events, history, language, culture, adventure.

More powerful than any other factor, however, is simply the need to go. There’s something about me that’s wired differently than most people. I like to think that it’s the same short circuit that drove men like Columbus, Cook, Shackleton, and others. It’s the need to go somewhere simply because it’s there.

Georgia falls into that category, but it’s also so much more.batumi by sea

Georgia has really only been on my radar for a couple months. And in that time, my desire to go has grown from just a pit stop on an around the world trip, to wanting to move there. The more I learned about this amazing country, the more I yearned to go for rational reasons, not just a yearning to travel.

A former Soviet republic, sandwiched between Russia and Turkey, Georgia is one of the most unique places on Earth, in many ways.

The weather is perfect. From a standard Mediterranean climate along the Black Sea, seasonal snowfall up in the Caucasus Mountains, and basically nice weather all year. Perfect sailing weather every day? Kind of hard to beat that.

In Bat’umi, a coastal town just north of the Turkish border, a brand new year-round indoor ice rink was recently built. Even better, it’s immediately adjacent to the public marina.

Georgia also has an incredibly fascinating history. It’s location has made it a critical connecting point for trade and transit from Europe to Asia. This location also makes it a vitally strategic military location, especially with it’s access to the Black Sea and the Med.

Georgia is also a religious crossroad. It was one of the earliest regions to be converted to Orthodox Christianity, and is literally THE transition point geographically between the predominantly Muslim and Christian parts of the modern world.

Then there are the Georgian people. I have yet to read a single blog post or news article in any way talking negatively about the Georgians as a populace. Many consider them to be the most hospitable group of people on the planet.

Georgia makes sense economically. With a cost of living about 1/10th of the United States, it’s only slightly more expensive to live than Thailand, but with far better weather (I severely dislike heat and humidity). Foreigners from a number of industrialized nations are given visa-free entry for up to a year at a time. That includes starting businesses, working a regular job, buying property… All with no visa necessary. I’m sure this is to encourage private investment in the country, and thousands are doing so, and I plan to join them.

georgianLet’s talk language. Georgian is one of the oldest continuously spoken and written languages on the planet, and it unlike any other language still spoken. It has no resemblance to Russian or Arabic, as might be expected. The script shown here, which is still used today, dates to the 13th century, and is an evolved version of an earlier script from the 5th century. The spoken language became distinct roughly 1000 BC. Yes, we’re talking about a distinct spoken language, still in use, that is nearly 3,000 years old.

An incredible history, proud culture, fascinating language, abundant economic opportunity, perfect sailing weather, low cost of living, beautiful scenery, stable government, developing infrastructure, stable non-euro currency, well funded banking system, 360-day visa free entry, beautiful women…I could go on and on. What is there not to love about such a place?

It’s odd for me to me to still be this excited about a destination after two months. That tells me my logical reasons for going are in sync with my natural, inner Wanderer reason for wanting to go.

I have no delusions of finding eternal love and happiness in Georgia. And perhaps I’ll only be there for six months, I have no idea. But by all measures, it’s a place worth checking out, for numerous reasons. If I discover when I get there that it truly is all that it’s cracked up to be, I’m going to be hard pressed to not just stay and call it home.

The easiest way to make a living at home yet live abroad

For me, running a business while traveling the world is the ultimate lifestyle design goal. Trying to create a business that will run itself and let me be disconnected is another story entirely.

If you have similar objectives in your life and career, then you’ve probably read various books and blogs that address the subject. The vast majority of the advice out there about becoming a globe trotting expat will tell you to do one of the following:

  1. Start a local business where you can be an absentee owner.
  2. Create an automated online business.
  3. Move your professional services business into a virtual environment.

If you’ve followed my story at all, you’ll know that I went with #3, then started creating #2, which is largely automated now and requires only a few hours each business day for me to manage, which is fine by me.

There is one thing that all the books and blogs miss, however. And in reality, it’s the one thing that provides the EASIEST method for living the dream of being abroad, yet still making your money from your home country, which is usually the objective for many people. As the saying goes, “earn dollars or euros, spend baht or pesos”. It’s called currency arbitrage.

For many of us, the real dream is to either be filthy rich and not have to work at all, or to have a business that is so heavily automated that is just prints money for us and we only have to work a couple hours per week. This idea, popularized in pop culture by Tim Ferriss and his book, The Four Hour Workweek, is fairly grandiose, and beyond the reach of most of us mere mortals.

However, living abroad, in someplace awesome, and still working is a fairly achievable dream. Over 4 million Americans live and work abroad, and hundreds of thousands do so working online part-time. I’ve reached a point where I can actually do that, and have made the trips overseas to test it, and it works.

But what if you don’t have passive income sources set up yet? What if you lack the tech skills to run something online? Is there another option?

Well, yes there is. There is one incredibly overlooked profession that lends itself very, very well to the expat/permanent traveler lifestyle. It requires working full time, 40 hours per week, and staying in one spot during the work week, if not weeks or months on end. For an American, Canadien, Australian, or anybody else from a country that has 90-day visa-free tourist stay privileges in many countries, this is a great way to use that 3 months, and just bounce from country to country.

What’s this magic profession that I’m talking about? Sales.

Yep, good ol’ fashioned professional selling. Selling what? Doesn’t really matter. Anything that is traditionally sold for commission, over the phone, and has either a high transaction value (to earn large commissions) or a high repeat order frequency (to generate repeat commissions).

Professional salespeople (and sales support staff) that work entirely by telephone exist in numerous industries. While some products are traditionally sold face to face (such as cars), there are numerous products that are not necessarily sold face to face (such as manufacturer’s OEM parts that go into those cars). I’m not going to try making an exhaustive list of products and services that can be sold over the phone, but here are just a few random examples:

  • Insurance
  • Investments
  • Consulting
  • Computer systems
  • Advertising
  • Web design, programming, and SEO
  • Graphic design
  • Communications services (telephone, cable, internet)
  • Print & mail services
  • Industrial equipment and services
  • Commodities (oil, grain, metals, etc).
  • Accounting, tax, bookkeeping services
  • Network marketing programs (lotions, potions, & pills!)

I’m sure there are a billion more. The point is that if your job is to cold call all day, make appointments for face to face salespeople, answer pre- or post-sales questions for customers, close sales yourself over the phone and by email…then there is absolutely no reason for your job to be constrained at one location.

Even if you work for another company full time, if your job is literally to sit at the same desk all day and never leave it, doing sales related activities of any sort, then there is no reason you can’t do the same job sitting in a chair at a desk 10,000 miles away. Technology: It loves you, so love it.

Negotiating a remote work arrangement with your employer may sound hard, but it’s actually not. Simply come up with an excuse to work from home one day a week, then after a while make it two days, then five. Your boss can put somebody else in your desk, saving money on having to rent more office space or buy new furniture when expanding. Once you’re working from home, you can just take off, with or without anybody knowing. If you work from home in the U.S., try running off to Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver Canada for a week and work from a hotel room.

With powerful laptops, good quality VOIP phones, and high speed internet pretty much everywhere, if you have a phone-based sales or sales support type job, you can literally work from anywhere. If your income is derived from closing sales over the phone, or you’re a professional services provider where most of your clients are people you never meet face to face, you can do this, too.

I’m a failure… and so are most successful people

Bankruptcy, divorce, drugs, foreclosure, mentally questionable, can’t jump or spin, graduate school dropout twice over, multiple business failures, extensive time living in cars, lackluster military career, exhaustive indecision problems, 50 pounds overweight, publisher rejections, crappy credit score, essentially unemployable because of lengthy self-employment history, sub-540 shooting scores, no children yet at 34, etc., etc.

By many measures of modern society, I have been a failure for most of my life. In fact, for the things that are actually of most importance to me personally, such as family, I consider myself a horrible failure.

The interesting thing about that, however, is that the vast majority of successful people throughout history have been dismal failures, too. They have been failures before, after, and during the successes for which they are most known.

Dan Kennedy, the “millionaire maker” marketing guru that has generated billions of dollars in sales for his clients, and a guru that I follow closely, has been divorced three times, bankrupt one, and at one point had a serious drinking problem.

Personal self-help guru Tony Robbins has been divorced, had a child out of wedlock, and other personal problems.

One of my best friends and a person that I look up to in a myriad of ways has been dealing with financial difficulties the past couple years.

A highly successful international ladies singles skater that I know has basically had her skating career fall to pieces in the past year. She’s arguably one of the top couple dozen technically skilled ladies figure skaters in the history of the sport, but has taken a lot of heat from the skating community in the past year for some personal decisions, and is most likely on her last year as a competitive skater (much to the detriment of her country’s chances for a medal in Sochi, in my opinion).

In my tax world, famous examples include legendary singer Willie Nelson, who paid the IRS millions of dollars in back taxes in the early 90′s, and actor Wesley Snipes, who is currently halfway through a 3-year prison term on Federal tax evasion convictions.

I’m sure that if I took the time to do so, I could come up with dozens of examples of famous people that are highly successful in one arena, but dismal and embarrassing failures in other areas of their lives. I don’t watch TV and don’t track celebrity gossip, but what I do occasionally see indicates that the rich and famous are awash in failure.

The reality is that there is no success without taking risks, and taking risks implies a high degree of potential for failure. All of us have finite time and resources, and more often than not there is an opportunity cost to doing one thing instead of another. For example, my recent decision to take up sailing terminates my competitive shooting career (although it was effectively already over).

I have operated a number of businesses in my life — I am the shining definition of a serial entrepreneur. Some of those businesses have temporarily paid the rent, but most of them were failures. My most successful business ever is the one I’m currently in, and my goals for that business are even far greater than where things currently are. Expanding the company means taking on additional risk.

Wherever there are goals and dreams, wherever there is money or love to be made or lost, there is potential for failure. Failure is a very real danger in just about everything we do. Some endeavors, such as a manned mission to Mars or the capture of a violent psychopath, have a multitude of risks that could all lead to death. Failure in other areas can lead to physical problems, financial hardship, or simply mental anguish.

But despite all the failure that we experience, we go into new things knowing that failure is an option, and do so anyway. When the potential rewards are great, the risk of failure is worth it. Asking the pretty girl to dance comes with the risk of rejection, but it can also lead to happiness.

The beautiful thing about failure is that it gives us feedback. As a species, we are capable of learning and improving from our failures, which over time leads to greater successes. When one rocket blows up, we learn from that failure, and make sure the next one is better.

Failure is not optional, it’s inevitable. What we do with our failures is what defines our character. Used strategically, failure breeds success. No matter how many times you fall, you can get back up, and eventually you’ll land that Axel, sail the Pacific, finish writing your epic novel, learn Spanish, own a home free and clear, have a loving marriage, or whatever milestone you’re aiming for.

True failure only occurs when you make the conscious decision to not get up anymore. So, GTF off your ass and get to it.

The 9 Weeks To BUD/S Workout

This was given to me before I went into the Navy as a pre-boot camp preparatory training program. While I had no desire to ever try out for BUD/S, it was (and still is) one of the best workout programs I have ever done.


The following workouts are designed for two categories of people:
Category I are those future BUD/S students that have never or have
not recently been on a routine PT program. Category II is designed
for high school and college athletes that have had a routine PT
program. Usually athletes in sports that require a high level of
cardiovascular activity are in Category II. Swimming, running, and
wrestling are good examples of such sports.


RUNNING: The majority of the physical activities you will be
required to perform during your six months of training at BUD/S will
involve running. The intense amount of running can lead to overstress
injuries of the lower extremities in trainees who arrive not
physically prepared to handle the activities. Swimming, bicycling,
and lifting weights will prepare you for some of the activities at
BUD/S, but ONLY running can prepare your lower extremities for the
majority of the activities. You should also run in boots to prepare
your legs for the everyday running in boots at BUD/S.

The goal of the category I student is to work up to 16 miles per
week of running. After you have achieved that goal, then and only
then should you continue on to the category II goal of 30 miles per
week. Let me remind you that category I is a nine week buildup
program. Follow the workout as best you can and you will be amazed at
the progress you will make.


WEEKS #1, 2: 2 miles/day, 8:30 pace, MWF (6 miles/week)
WEEK #3: No running. High risk of stress fractures.
WEEK #4: 3 miles/day, MWF (9 miles/week)
WEEKS #5, 6: 2/3/4/2 miles, M/T/R/F (11 miles/week)
WEEKS #7, 8: 3/4/5/2 miles, M/T/R/F (16 miles/week)
WEEK #9: same as weeks 7 & 8 (16 miles/week)

Physical Training Schedule I


WEEK 3, 4: 5 X 25 PUSHUPS
5 x 25 SITUPS

WEEK 5, 6: 6 X 25 PUSHUPS
WEEK 7, 8: 6 X 30 PUSHUPS

* Note: For best results, alternate exercises. Do a set of
pushups, then a set of situps, followed by a set of pullups,
immediately with no rest.

Swimming Schedule I

(sidestroke with no fins 4-5 days per week)

WEEKS #1, 2:    Swim continuously for 15 min.
WEEKS #3, 4: Swim continuously for 20 min.
WEEKS #5, 6: Swim continuously for 25 min.
WEEKS #7, 8: Swim continuously for 30 min.
WEEK #9: Swim continuously for 35 min.

* Note: If you have no access to a pool, ride a bicycle for twice
as long as you would swim. If you do have access to a pool, swim
every day available. Four to five days a week and 200 meters in one
session is your initial workup goal. Also, you want to develop your
sidestroke on both the left and the right side. Try to swim 50 meters
in one minute or less.

Workout For Category II

Category II is a more intense workout designed for those who have
been involved with a routine PT schedule or those who have completed
the requirements of category I. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WORKOUT

Running Schedule II

WEEKS #1, 2: (3/5/4/5/2) miles 19 miles/week
WEEKS #3, 4: (4/5/6/4/3) miles 22 miles/week
WEEK #5: (5/5/6/4/4) miles 24 miles/week
WEEK #6: (5/6/6/6/4) miles 27 miles/week
WEEK #7: (6/6/6/6/6) miles 30 miles/week

*Note: For weeks #8-9 and beyond, it is not necessary to increase
the distance of the runs; work on the speed of your 6-mile runs and
try to get them down to 7:30 per mile or lower. If you wish to
increase the distance of your runs, do it gradually: no more than one
mile per day increase for every week beyond week #9.

PT Schedule II


WEEKS 1, 2: 6 x 30 PUSHUPS
6 x 35 SITUPS
3 x 10 PULLUPS
3 x 20 DIPS
WEEKS 3, 4: 10 x 20 PUSHUPS
10 x 25 SITUPS
4 x 10 PULLUPS
10 x 15 DIPS
WEEKS 5: 15 x 20 PUSHUPS
15 x 25 SITUPS
4 x 12 PULLUPS
15 x 15 DIPS
WEEKS 6: 20 x 20 PUSHUPS
20 x 25 SITUPS
5 x 12 PULLUPS
20 x 15 DIPS

These workouts are designed for long-distance muscle endurance.
Muscle fatigue will gradually take a longer and longer time to
develop doing high repetition workouts. For best results, alternate
exercises each set, in order to rest that muscle group for a short
time. The above exercises can get a bit boring after awhile. Here are
some more workouts you can use to break up the monotony.


You can do this with any exercise. The object is to slowly build
up to a goal, then build back down to the beginning of the workout.
For instance, pullups, situps, pushups, and dips can be alternated as
in the above workouts, but this time choose a number to be your goal
and build up to that number. Each number counts as a set. Work your
way up and down the pyramid. For example, say your goal is R5″,

               # OF REPETITIONS
PULLUPS: 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1
PUSHUPS: 2,4,6,8,10,8,6,4,2 (2x #pullups)
SITUPS: 3,6,9,2,15,12,9,6,3 (3x #pullups)
DIPS: same as pushups.

Swimming Workouts II

(4-5 days/week)

WEEKS #1, 2: Swim continuously for 35 min.
WEEKS #3, 4: Swim continuously for 45 min. with fins.
WEEK #5: Swim continuously for 60 min. with fins.
WEER #6: Swim continuously for 75 min. with fins.

*Note: At first, to reduce initial stress on your foot muscles
when starting with fins, alternate swimming 1000 meters with fins and
1000 meters without them. Your goal should be to swim 50 meters in 45
seconds or less.

Stretch PT

Since Mon/Wed/Fri are devoted to PT, it is wise to devote at least
20 minutes on Tue/Thu/Sat to stretching. You should always stretch
for at least 15 minutes before any workout; however, just stretching
the previously worked muscles will make you more flexible and less
likely to get injured. A good way to start stretching is to start at
the top and go to the bottom. Stretch to tightness, not to pain; hold
for 10-15 seconds. DO NOT BOUNCE. Stretch every muscle in your body
from the neck to the calves, concentrating on your thighs hamstrings,
chest, back, and shoulders.


Proper nutrition is extremely important now and especially when
you arrive at BUD/S. You must make sure you receive the necessary
nutrients to obtain maximum performance output during exercise and to
promote muscle/tissue growth and repair. The proper diet provides all
the nutrients for the body’s needs and supplies energy for exercise.
It also promotes growth and repair of tissue and regulates the body
processes. The best source of energy for the BUD/S student is
carbohydrates. The best source of complex carbohydrates are potatoes,
pasta, rice; fruits, and vegetables. These types of foods are your
best sources of energy.

Carbohydrates, protein, and fat are the three energy nutrients.
All three can provide energy, but carbohydrate is the preferred
source of energy for physical activity. It takes at least 20 hours
after exhaustive exercis to completely restore muscle energy,
provided 600 grams of carbohydrates are consumed per day. During
successive days of heavy training, like you will experience at BUD/S,
energy stores prior to each training session become progressively
lower. This is a situation in which a high carbohydrate diet can help
maintain your energy.

The majority of carbohydrates should come from complex
carbohydrate foods that include bread, crackers, cereal, beans, peas,
starchy vegetables, and other whole grain or enriched grain products.
Fruits are also loaded with carbohydrates. During training, more than
four servings of these food groups should be consumed daily.

Water is the most important nutrient you can put in your body. You
should be consuming up to four quarts of water daily. It is very easy
to become dehydrated at BUD/S; so it is extremely important to
hydrate yourself. Drink water before you get thirsty!!! Substances
such as alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco increase your body’s need for
water, So, if you are going to drink, do so in moderation! Too much
of these substances will definitely harm your body and hinder your
performance. Supplemental intake of vitamins, as well, has not been
proven to be beneficial. If you are eating a well balanced diet,
there is no need to take vitamins.


NUTRIENT               INTAKE
Carbohydrates 50-70% of calories
Protein 10-15% of calories
Fats 20-30% of calories