Browsing Posts in Making a difference

Krabu leather daypackCould you use a daypack upgrade? How about a nice waxed leather one for…$10?

If you put in a $10 bid at Passports with Purpose, you could do some good in the world and also receive this Krabu backpack from Oliberté, retail value $240. It’s a fitting prize since this bag is made in Ethiopia and Oliberté is (so far) the world’s only Fair Trade certified footwear maker. (Check out their shoes here.)

This is how it works: you go to the Passports with Purpose site and bid on whatever you’d like to win at $10 an entry. One hundred percent of that money goes to charity, for a specific project. This year we bloggers and sponsors are collectively going to raise $115,000 for buildOn to construct three schools and fund three adult literacy programs in the Sikasso region of southern Mali, Africa. Here’s more info on the specifics. I’ve participated every year but the first as a blogger and in the past the organization has built wells in Haiti, a funded school in Cambodia, libraries in Zambia, and a whole village in India.

Oliberte leather backpackMy thanks to Oliberté for donating this $240 Krabu leather daypack to the cause. You can see it’s a quality, hand-made bag and the winner will have a choice of colors. They will ship to the USA or Europe, so if you live in either of those regions, you’re all set. There’s an outside pocket, an inside pocket, adjustable leather straps, and an always-useful carrying strap on the top. Since it’s waxed leather, your stuff won’t get wet if you get caught in a drizzle.

There’s plenty more to pull out your credit card for at the Passports with Purpose site though, including the Briggs & Riley rolling backpack we’re giving away over at Practical Travel Gear. Besides gear, you’ll also find hotel stays, villas, exciting vacation packages, and more. Some of these are from sponsors who put in some up-front cash as well. Big thanks to Expedia, DK Eyewitness Guides, Rough GuidesTBEX; HomeAway, HostelBookersGo With Oh, and Eating London.

Donate and win! (Bidding starts at midnight on Nov. 25 and goes through December 9.)

It’s July already and time for the new issue of Perceptive Travel webzine, bringing you three new feature stories from three continents plus  some interesting new books and music collections.

First up, how do you hide a giant lake? Let a water hyacinth run wild, leaving once-blue Lake Victoria in Kenya covered by a carpet of green. Luke Armstrong walks the banks, looking for answers in Victoria: The Lake That Wasn’t There.

Clearing out invasive plants is hard enough, but what about clearing out old explosives that have sat in the ground for decades? James Dorsey goes out with CNN Hero Ak Ira for a sweaty day of mine sweeping in the tropical heat: Soldier and Savior in the Cambodian Minefields.

I spent a blissful week pedaling around the Alentejo region of Portugal this past May, seeing the hills ablaze with color and drinking wine that came from the vineyards we passed. See Wildflowers & Wine: Biking Through Castle Country in Rural Portugal. I had way more good photos than I could use in a two-page story, so here are a few more in a slideshow.

As usual we highlight some travel books worth checking out, including Dizzy in Karachi from one of our former award-winning contributors. Graham Reid circles the globe virtual with four new world music albums that came out recently, including a Psychedelic Bollywood anthology.

Are you on the monthly Perceptive Travel newsletter list? That one e-mail you open could send some new travel gear your way. Each month we give out something cool and in June it was an Innergie Duo charger to keep your devices going when you’re not near an outlet. This month we’re giving away some nice boat/water shoes for summer from Adidas. Next month a whole Pickpocket Proof outfit. Are you in or what? Sign up here or follow Perceptive Travel on Facebook and pay attention to see the contest details.

privacy online

When it comes to privacy, we’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves for the lack of it. Should we really be surprised that the government has tapped into the wealth of data Google, Facebook, and our mobile phone companies have on us? In the name of convenience and giddy connectivity, we asked for this. Don’t blame the U.S. government for walking into your virtual house. You probably handed them not only the keys, but the alarm code, the blueprints, your dog’s favorite snack, and the combination to your safe.

As the authors of Big Data point out, “The ability to capture personal data is often built deep into the tools we use every day, from websites to smartphone apps.”

There are some heavy-duty things you can do to truly protect your privacy if you’re willing to put a lot of effort into it (see the last part of this post), but for painless ways to keep at least a modicum of your secrets from the government, insurance companies, and big corporations, here are some easy things to do now.

9) Don’t automatically give up location info.

Many apps and software programs ask to track your location, without really needing it for the functioning of the app/program. Uncheck that box or say no!

8) Don’t talk loudly on your cell phone in a crowded place.

Besides this being bad manners, it’s stupid. A few months ago I heard a guy in an airport lounge give his social security number, credit card number, expiration date, 3-digit code, and address over the phone. Loud enough for at least 20 people to hear. Because you have to talk really loud into a cell phone mic for other people to hear you on the other end, right?

preserving privacy

7) Erase your cookies (preferably each day).

Do you realize how much privacy you give up by leaving 7, 14, 30 days worth of tracking cookies in your browser cache? If you don’t even know what a browser cache is, think of cookies like this: Someone is walking behind you as you go down the sidewalk, following you into each store and taking notes on not only what you bought, but what you looked at and how long you looked at it. A cookieless society is a better society, no matter what the advertising guys say.

In Firefox go to Tool>Options>Security and under the cookies part check “Keep until I close Firefox.” It’s similar for other browsers, though Google makes it much more difficult since they have a vested interest in tracking your every move and they own Chrome. The best you can do in the settings is choose “Keep local data only until I quit my browser,” but really you need to still delete your cookies periodically. Go to Tools> Clear browsing data.

6) Turn off GPS when you’re not using it.

This saves battery life too—a bonus. In Android you can turn off the cell tower triangulation too. They’ll still have a rough idea where you’ve been but not every step, every day, for the past month…

5) Don’t post your every action, medical condition, and purchase on social media.

You’re making it way too easy to be charged more, targeted more, hacked more, scammed more.

4) Don’t use Gmail as your primary e-mail address.

You didn’t think it was a bit creepy that when you pulled up your e-mail you got ads based on what you just told your girlfriend in an e-mail? Really? And you think that info isn’t going to show up on some NSA server somewhere, ready to be pulled when needed? Big Brother makes you sign up for their e-mail to access any of their services, including posting to YouTube or Google Docs. But that doesn’t mean you have to use it for anything else.

3) Don’t log into Google or Facebook when it’s not necessary to access their services.

Same for Amazon. And Yahoo. And anyone else who’s watching your every move. Then log out when you’re done. They make that sign-out link hard to find, but it’s usually somewhere top right, near your account or profile arrow. Remember, when you log in with Facebook to another website, you’ve just shared a whole host of data. Do that 10 times a day and someone you’ve never met knows more about you than your spouse probably.

Oh, and use Bing at least half the time too. It’ll split your search data to two companies and you’ll probably notice you’re getting more content, fewer ad-spending commercial companies in the first page results.

2) Treat every e-mail like it’s a postcard.

As many pundits have pointed out, if the head of the CIA couldn’t keep his affair a secret—even by writing draft e-mails that never went out (they both accessed the drafts)—you can’t assume anything you write is truly secret. If it needs to be a secret, let Tony Soprano show you how that’s done.

1) Don’t use Foursquare.

Otherwise, you’re just telling people Please Rob Me! And giving anyone who wants to know, including the government, precise details on where you go and who you see.

Really freaked? Going to Spy Level

If you really want to keep your movements to yourself, check out this MIAMobi Silent Pocket that goes over your smartphone. The paranoid know that the only way to keep your cell phone from continually emitting data (including your location) is to remove the battery. This $68 sleeve blocks out all signals, however, so you’re incognito until you remove your device from the sleeve. Of course that also means you won’t receive calls, texts, or e-mails.

This article will tell you how to stay anonymous online. I’ll admit I don’t do any of those things listed in the article except using a proxy server abroad—and I’m doing that so I can still use Netflix, iTunes, etc without issues more than for privacy. Though the latter is a bonus. I think I’ll check out The Onion Router now and then though just to get Big Brother Google off my trail now and then.

Google glass no privacy

How to be sure of being tracked and having everyone you look at be tracked too:

Buy Google Glass when it comes out. You’ll be an instant walking surveillance camera. And a glasshole.

mpowerdThe 4th edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations has gotten great reviews and comments from writers and bloggers, but usually by this point in the release I’ve got more readers chiming in on Amazon.

Lantern for your thoughts?

I’ve teamed up with MPowered, makers of the very cool Luci solar lantern I reviewed at Practical Travel Gear to offer an incentive to five people. If you’ve read the new edition of the book in any format, write a review on Amazon and let me know. The first five people who do it will receive their very own inflatable solar lantern that packs up small and shines for hours. It’s a great remedy to those dim-bulb cheapo guesthouses. No outlet required.

Just post a review of at least a paragraph on Amazon’s U.S. site. Send me at e-mail at this address with your name, shipping info, and the name the review is under if it’s different. If you’re in the first five, Luci is coming to join you.

This offer will run through the end of June, 2013, or until all five are handed out. (And no, I’m not telling you what to write, just to go on the permanent record with your thoughts.)

Don’t have a copy of The World’s Cheapest Destinations? If you’re a fast reader you can get the Kindle, Nook, or iPad versions instantly and start right now. They’re all under $10.

Or get the paperback just because you’re ready to travel well for less. Saving a few thousand dollars is incentive too, right?

cheap local wine

Wine in Bulgaria – $1 to $2 per liter

The “locavore” and “slow food” movements have taken off bigtime in the last decade, but budget travelers have been following them for ages for economic reasons: eating local and drinking local can save you a small fortune.

Sure, there are high-minded environmental and social reasons for consuming what’s produced locally. Less fuel is used, more locals get employed, more of the money stays in the community, fewer preservatives are needed, etc. If you’re on a $30-a-day travel budget though, those things are icing on the cake. The real driver is lower costs.

Almost every country has a group of items that are cheaper because they’re local and not imported. The most prominent are usually include locally grown food items, as well as drinks produced from local ingredients. Here are a few random examples of screaming bargains I’ve found over the years:

eating local in Mexico

Eat what the locals eat (35 cent tacos in Mexico City)

Oranges in Portugal
Wine in Eastern Europe
Yogurt in Bulgaria
Coffee in Colombia
Bia Hoi (sidewalk draft beer) in Vietnam
Cashews in the Philippines
Rum in Nicaragua
Vanilla in Mexico
Watermelons in the southern USA
Bananas in Honduras
Any fruit or vegetable in Ecuador
Tea and vegetarian thali meals in India
Beef in Argentina
Sticky rice and mango in Thailand
Fish in Indonesia

Part of the reason I found Portugal so inexpensive on my recent trip is almost everything I ate and drank came from Portugal. Well, apart from the coffee. When I’m in Southeast Asia, I eat Asian food. I don’t order a Jack Daniels when I’m somewhere that makes great rum.

Also look at utilitarian items produced for local household use (like wooden cooking utensils), as well as clothing items made for domestic purchase.

The idea also extends to transportation methods that working class people use. Upper class people and executives shun the metro in many cities for example (including Mexico City), so join the masses and you’ll get from A to B for cheap.

When fuel itself is a local commodity, that may be the greatest bargain of all. Filling up a rental car in the Gulf states or in Venezuela is not going to set you back very much.

What kind of great local bargains have you found in your travels?