Browsing Posts in Leffel projects

Tim Leffel Ecuador

December is shaping up to be a record traffic month for this cheap travel blog, a mere 11 years after I launched it. More than 50,000 readers a month land here normally, which is more readers than a lot of magazines I’ve written for, so it’s a safe bet a lot of you are first-time readers.

This is not, however, one of those blogs that screams, “Look at me and all the cool places I’m going!” I don’t think I’ve ever posted a selfie on here and half the time I don’t even write about where I’m traveling until weeks or months later. Heck, those Panama photos I put up a couple weeks ago were from April of 2013. Instead, this is a blog about the cheapest places to travel in the world, the cheapest places to live, and how to get the most out of your traveling budget. I share what I know and what I’ve learned so you can do more for less.

But I should probably get a bit personal now and then to explain who I am to the new people. Especially since the last time I did so, in this 7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me post, was more than two years ago. Since then I’ve moved back to Mexico, put out another book, published 17 more issues of Perceptive Travel, reviewed 100+ travel gear items, and traveled to a bunch more places.

That tells you a good bit about what I do for a living, but I’m also still a freelance writer for a lot of publications that aren’t mine, plus I get quoted in the media a lot as a bargain travel and destinations expert. On that page I linked to there you can hear interviews on pocasts like The Week in Travel, the Daily Travel Podcast, and Overseas Property Insider. Next week I’m recording ones for The Suitcase Entrepreneur and The Budget Minded Traveler.

Tim Leffel Bolivia

This blog is very conversational and casual, but I’ve won dozens of awards for my more crafted prose, from all three major annual award programs in the USA. As editor at Perceptive Travel, I’ve also commissioned a few dozen more stories that have won best travel writing awards.

I currently live in Guanajuato, Mexico, where I bumble along in Spanish, run occasional street food tours, and work out of a house I own. My wife is more fluent and my daughter takes subjects like history, math, and science in her adopted second language. We travel within Mexico on school breaks and we’ve probably been to more Mexican states together than U.S. ones at this point. Here’s a shot from Puebla outside the lucha libre arena.

Leffels Puebla

I like adventure travel, exploring offbeat places, and finding great bargains. I’m not a country counter: I’d rather spend a week or two in one place or return to the same country to get to know it better than to fly through a bunch just to check off boxes.

mezcal OaxacaI like trying local food and drinking local hooch. But I do miss the vast array of microbrews you can get in the land of my birth. As with coffee and wine, the country that used to be a laggard when I was a kid is now on top in many respects. (The USA doesn’t like to be outdone when it comes to consumer choice.)

I’ve never owned a fancy car, or had a massive house, or felt like I had to go get the latest iSucker gadget the week it came out. Instead I’ve collected a huge treasure of great experiences. If you’d like to do the same, you can sign up for the RSS feed, follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+), or get the Cheap Living Abroad newletter.

Adios for now.

Berestagi Sumatra travel

It’s time for the year-end issue of Perceptive Travel online magazine, home to great travel stories from book authors on the move. We’ve got some demon dancing, some extreeeeme adventures (say it like an ad announcer for full effect), and some village touring in the land of scowls. Plus some good and bad new travel books as well as some old and new world music.

Marco Ferrarese finds himself in the middle of a bizarre street festival while visiting the town of Berestagi in Sumatra, Indonesia. He’s warned not to look anyone in the eyes and is transfixed by demonic creatures putting people in a spell. See Street Walking Demons in Sumatra.

Huasteca adventure

I wrote before on this blog and posted some pics from a crazy adventure travel trip I went on during the summer in the seldom-visited state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. That was a dashed-off blog post, but now you can read a more literate narrative with some different photos. Check out Taking Adventure to the Next Level in Hidden Huasteca, Mexico.

James Dorsey often writes on Perceptive Travel about interesting tribes and expressions of spirituality, but he finds little of either in modern-day Russia, where even a celebration day is dour and devoid of life. See A Grim Commemoration Day in Modern Russia.

Susan Griffith takes on the book reviews again this month, with one she wished she’d never read and one most parents of gap year kids should probably avoid. See the December travel book reviews.

Laurence Mitchell spins a batch of world music albums, from a dub Christmas to a classic Cuban collection to a mash-up of India and the Sahara. See the December world music reviews. Steripen Freedom purifier

As always, we’re giving away something cool to one of our regular readers and this month it’s something I’ve used and preached about a lot: the SteriPEN Freedom water purifier. I’ve kept hundreds of water bottles out of the ground and streams by using this in countries where you can’t drink the water and this one is both small and USB rechargeable. Sign up for the monthly newsletter to always be sure you get the announcement. Or act like your in Vegas and follow us on the Facebook ad generation platform. You may see our newsfeed one day after that if you get lucky and can enter.

moving abroad

Definitely not Kansas

The early reviews I’ve gotten so far on A Better Life for Half the Price echo something I heard a lot when I put out Travel Writing 2.0. In essence, “Don’t expect a lot of sugar-coating.”

I like sugar. I probably eat too much of it. But I try not to spoon any onto the information I’m giving out, especially when someone could be making big life decisions based on what I’m telling them.

cheap living abroadLife is like a box of chocolates as Forest would say, but part of the appeal of escaping your boring predictable life and moving somewhere completely new is, you get a much bigger box. You get a huge variety of surprises on a regular basis instead of one or two a month at home. (Ooooh, a new TV series with my favorite actor! Look at that, a new Chipotle at our strip mall!)

Thailand is not Nicaragua and Bulgaria is not Mexico, but here are a few commonalities expatriates or location independent nomads run into when they move from the familiar to the new.

Upsides to Moving to a Developing Country

You spend far less on living expenses and have more disposable income.

The costs of restaurants, clubs, and entertainment shows are lower so you can enjoy them all more often.

Domestic help is drastically cheaper, so you can afford a maid, tutor, gardener, frequent taxi rides, or a weekly masseuse.

The weather will probably be better—unless you already live somewhere warm and sunny.

You’ll probably be healthier, due to less stress, cheaper healthy food, and lower medical bills. Most non-U.S./Canadian cities are also more pedestrian friendly, so you’ll probably walk more.

You’re not deluged with the constant negative and bickering non-news that the 24-hour cable channels dish out every day.

Your life will get much more interesting. Every day you’re hit with new and different stimulation of all five senses, and you’re regularly meeting new people who aren’t like you.

USA beer selection

Portland, not Pokhara


Downsides to Leaving Your Rich Country Home

You won’t be able to buy 24 types of mustard and 48 kinds of beer in a local supermarket.

You will not have the breadth of clothing or cosmetics shopping variety you have in a typical first world city.

You will pay more for electronics than you do in the USA unless you move to China.

You may not have the lightning fast internet service you’ve gotten used to.

You may have to communicate in a different language.

You may have to put up with more garbage, more graffiti, more paperwork, lazier bureaucrats, corrupt policemen, and sewage systems where you can’t flush the toilet paper.

You may not be able to drink the water from the tap.

You will probably miss some things about home that feel like a part of you, such as:

– The greenness, the mountains, the changing seasons, or the colors of changing leaves.
– A lush garden full of plants you know and recognize.
– Your local friends and community.
– Your favorite grocery store, the local bar, your regular restaurant.
– 248 channels of TV in English plus a DVR with a terrabyte of storage.

overcoming obstacles abroad

Are You a Good Hurdler?

In the end, no matter how many things you have in one column and how many things you have in the other, a lot of it comes down to attitude. Are you someone who wants an interesting life and thrives on adventure? Or are you someone who prefers routines and predictability? Can you deal well with uncertainty and a need for patience? Or do you get flustered when things move too slowly for your tastes and when everything is not prim and neat?

Most things worth doing in life require some work, and the overcoming of obstacles. Staying put and doing nothing is the easy choice, of course. Making a big move requires some commitment and a willingness to meet new challenges.

That attitude can be influenced, of course, by finances. If you spend most of your time figuring out how to reduce your tax bill and where you’re going to dock a larger yacht, you are probably just fine staying where you are. If you have trouble finding enough cash to pay the bills each month though and never seem to get ahead, cutting your expenses in half could have a life-changing impact on your future.

If you’re in the latter camp, follow this link.

Louisiana travel

Are you my mother?

The November ’14 issue of Perceptive Travel is out, with some of the best travel stories on the planet from book authors on the move. This month we’ve got tales from Louisiana, Greece, and Southeast Asia.

Judith Fein goes traveling in order to put aside the recent death of her mother, but keeps finding reminders of not-so-dearly departed mom when she explores the swamps of Louisiana. See Did I Have an Alligator Mother?

James Dorsey ventures to the top of a rocky outpoint in Meteora to find a gifted Greek monk creating religious masterpieces in obscurity. See Painting as Prayer in Greece.

ziplining Laos

Michael Buckley goes zipping through the canopies in Southeast Asia and even zips to and from his treehouse lodging in one spot. He finds that ziplining in Thailand and Laos may not be the worry-free soft adventure pursuit it is in countries that have been doing it a lot longer. See Zipping Into Big Trouble.

William Caverlee checks out two new travel books on long-term journeys and one on the rape of Tibet (by Mr. Buckley above).

Graham Reid spins some new world music albums worth listening to from Mali to Mongolia to Scotland.

Win Some New Luggage!

granite-gear1Each month we give away something cool to our loyal readers at Perceptive Travel and boxes of Kind & Strong bars are on their way to three people who entered last month.

This time we’ve got a brand new, just-came-out, hybrid carry-on bag from Granite Gear. It’s a suitcase, it’s a backpack, it’s a rollaboard duffel/backpack! If your sad suitcase could use an upgrade before your holiday travels, check your inbox if you’re on our newsletter list already. Sign up here for future ones if not. Meanwhile, you can follow us on Facebook and see the entry details there several times in November.

And don’t forget, several times a week our regular writers post something new on the travel blog. It’s full of stories you won’t read elsewhere, whether that’s a Portland Brewcycle tour, the mountains of Nebraska, music-focused North Ireland road trip, or where to eat in Canggu, Bali.


It’s time for the October issue of Perceptive Travel, home to interesting travel stories from wandering book authors. This month we visit three exotic sounding places with lyrical names but go beyond the usual lyrical waxing about attractions and icons.

Beebe Bahrani returns for another tale from Spain, this time in Tarragona. She and a friend sit down for a lovely lunch in an outdoor cafe, where all goes great…for a while. See A Spanish Death in the Afternoon.

After years of talking about it but never making it there, I finally spend some time in the Mexican city that is a dream destination for food lovers, mezcal aficionados, and handicraft buyers. See Handmade in Oaxaca.

garnache Oaxaca

Darrin Duford visits the Caribbean island of Martinique and tries to trace back the places music heritage while ignoring the smog in paradise. See Following the Grooves in Martinique.

Susan Griffith checks out new travel books on Asian food, motorcycling and memorable walks.

Laurence Mitchell spins some new world music albums from Europe, the USA, and South America.

Perceptive Travel Readers are Winners

Each month we give away something cool to our readers who take the time to enter our contest (not a ton, so your odds are pretty darn good). Last month I gave away a Committed package and a book copy for A Better Life for Half the Price. Congrats to Brenda R. and Mark G. who came out of the randomizer.

savory snack barsThis month we’re giving away something that everyone with a mouth can enjoy: three, yes three readers from the USA or Canada will win a box of 25 Strong & Kind savory snack bars from Be Kind. Hey, get your 10 grams of protein every day and they’ll last you almost a month. I tried these at an event where they were pairing them with different beers and I can attest that even if you don’t think you like healthy snacks, these are delicious.

As always, if you’re on our newsletter list, you just watch your inbox (or check your bulk folder) to find the monthly newsletter. If not, you can follow Perceptive Travel on Facebook and hit the “most recent” option on your timeline so you’ll actually see the notices.