Pssst…. Come Hang Out at My New Place!

Hey ya’ll! I see some of you are still subscribed here at the Traveling Turtle and haven’t yet made the big leap over to Alex in Wanderland.

Alex In Wanderland

If you’re one of the guilty ones, you’re missing out! So far you’re behind on a Scottish wedding, the start of my photo of the week project, and a heartfelt goodbye to my New York City home. But fear not! You can catch up entirely at AlexinWanderland.com

Come by and introduce yourself, I can’t wait to see you there!

I’ve Moved!

Big news today on The Traveling Turtle… this turtle is no longer! I have officially moved to my new blog, Alex in Wanderland.

Alex In WanderlandHonestly, I outgrew this blog a long time ago but between school and work and preparing for my trip I moved at a snail’s pace deciding a domain name, finding a hosting service, and putting together a whole new site!

New features include refreshed About Me and The Plan pages, search bar, a contact form, new menus, links to my social media accounts, and a whole fresh new look.

I couldn’t be more thrilled, and my only fear is losing any of my much loved readers in the move. So I beg of you, re-subscribe, refresh your bookmarks, update your Google Reader, and get thee over to AlexinWanderland.com! I’m so excited to start this journey in my new blog home.

When The Traveler Goes To Art School: La Red

Welcome back to my series sharing a little bit of what I’ve been up to for the past four years, other than globe-trotting. Big surprise! It’s dreaming about travel. Well, and getting my degree in graphic design. Combine the two and you get a portfolio full of wanderlust driven assignments.

When we were asked to create a Senior Project (kind of like a mini thesis for art school kids) around the word “migration” I thought of course of recreational migration, or travel. I was inspired by my recent trip to Honduras and also companies like Baz Bus in South Africa and Kiwi Experience in New Zealand which are hop on hop off bus services for backpackers stretching across an entire country.

I wanted to create one with a twist: La Red (the network in Spanish) is a social business, a company designed to address a social objective, where profits are reintegrated within the country’s borders, promoting and sustaining the tourism industry and the natural resources that comprise it. The root of La Red is a network of pre-existing locally owned and operated transit, accommodation, and sight/activities. The funny thing is at this point in my travels I feel quite comfortable doing things on my own and wouldn’t really utilize a service like this, but if I were a first time traveler I would enthusiastically sign up! And that’s who I designed it for: first time travelers, young travelers, those who are enjoying their first trip outside first world countries.

What follows is an excerpt from the six page website I designed. I apologize for the blurriness of the images. If you click to enlarge, they are clear. My internet naiveté strikes again!

Honduras Tourism Website


Honduras Tourism Website


Honduras Tourism Website

Then, my favorite part, I created a series of ads for the service. These are postcard size inserts intended for travel and adventure magazines. After a summer in heavily developed Grand Cayman, I was struck by the raw beauty of traveling through Honduras and wanted to highlight the authenticity. The best part? They all feature my own photos from my time in Honduras.

Honduras Tourism Ads


Honduras Tourism Ads


Honduras Tourism Ads


Honduras Tourism Ads


Honduras Tourism Ads

You can see more of my design work on my portfolio website, or you can stay tuned for the next week as I share a few more of my favorite creations!

Previously in this series:
Sea Snaps
ID Magazine

When The Traveler Goes To Art School: ID Magazine

Welcome back to my series sharing a little bit of what I’ve been up to for the past four years, other than globe trotting. Big surprise! It’s dreaming about travel. Well, and getting my degree in graphic design. Combine the two and you get a portfolio full of wanderlust driven assignments.

I am an avid magazine reader across all genres and for a time fancied going after a job in the industry post graduation. This was one of many  layout assignments I undertook at Pratt, and they are as challenging as they are fun. Specifically, we were to design a special issue of our choosing of the International Magazine of Design. Can you guess what I chose? My favorite detail here are my magazine logo with the globe in it and the back page featuring different world currencies.

Feel free to click to enlarge!

Travel Magazine Design
Travel Magazine Design
Travel Magazine Design
Travel Magazine Design
Travel Magazine Design

You can see more of my design work on my portfolio website, or you can stay tuned for the next week as I share a few more of my favorite creations!

Previously in this series:
Sea Snaps

When The Traveler Goes To Art School: Sea Snaps

Something funny happens when you take a passionate traveler and force them to stay more or less tethered to one location for four years: they start to fascinate. Towards the end of my last semester at art school I ran into one of old professors who excitedly asked me “Are you still doing travel design?!” I had never thought of myself as a “travel designer” but as I began to put my portfolio together I realized I did have quite the repertoire of projects that I had steered with my wanderlust.

With graduation behind me and a shiny new Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts hanging on my metaphorical wall, I thought I’d share a some of my favorite travel related art I created over my four years at art school.

The first assignment I’m going to post is one I call Sea Snaps. The assignment was to redesign a disposable camera, and with my passion for diving my mind went straight underwater. I bought a disposable underwater camera, pried it apart, and made this, one of my favorite projects of all time:

disposable underwater camera
disposable underwater camera

In addition to my travel motif, I tend to use pattern a lot in my work, and I love this one. My fingers were covered in gold spraypaint and I was itching to go diving, but I remember presenting this in class as one of my proudest critiques.

You can see more of my design work on my portfolio website, or you can stay tuned for the next week as I share a few more of my favorite creations!

The Departure Lounge: Managing Money Abroad

Welcome to my ongoing series, The Departure Lounge! Here I’m delving into the preparations for long-term travel, from what gear I’m packing, to how I’m going to stay healthy, to downsizing.

Foreign transaction fees. ATM withdrawal charges. Credit card commissions. They all add up to chunks of your travel budget mysteriously disappearing from your bank account. Two years ago, an innocent call to my bank to alert them to my travel plans led to the discovery that my bank charged a SIX DOLLAR foreign ATM withdrawal fee, plus whatever fees the ATM charged, plus a 3% foreign transaction fee. I was horrified as I pictured fruity Thai cocktails literally disappearing from my hands on the beach. I vowed to get my act together and find a better way to access and manage my money abroad. Here’s how I do it now:

Cayman Currency

Credit Cards
Credit cards are not widely accepted on the backpacker trail, but they still come in handy for flights, car rentals and other large purchases, especially if you are building frequent flyer miles or other rewards. However, many people are shocked to learn that most credit cards charge a two or three percent fee for foreign transactions, plus an extra percent tacked on from Visa or Mastercard. It might not seem like a lot, but if you have $15,000 saved up for your trip around the world, you can say goodbye to $450 of that! That’s quite a few Thai massages on Koh San Road.

There is one exception to the rule: Capital One. They charge no fees of their own, and they even refund Visa or Mastercard’s 1% charge. I opened a card two years ago with the purpose of building my credit and though I rarely use it, it works as advertised. I recently upgraded to Capital One’s Venture One card, which Creditcards.com named the Top Pick for Travel Rewards Cards and Money Magazine named “Best Rewards Card if you aim to rack up airline miles.” I received a 10,000 mile sign up bonus plus two miles for every dollar I spend, which can be redeemed on any airline, any time. Hopefully this will lessen the physical pain I feel every time I buy a flight and see my bank balance drop!

Cayman Currency

Debit Cards
With traveler’s checks becoming obsolete and credit cards rarely accepted for budget travelers, debit cards are best way for traveler’s to gain access to their money abroad. After my incident with my first bank, I quickly changed to TD Bank, which refunded ATM fees worldwide. I was a loyal customer and their biggest fan for two years until they changed their policies this February. I was devastated as I love their banking, but its a good reminder to check in and make sure your bank’s policies haven’t changed before a major holiday.

For my primary checking account I now use Schwab, famed among travelers for its worldwide ATM fee refunds and no foreign transaction fees! You do have to open a brokerage account at the same time but its minimal hassle and you don’t have to use this. I may have a new banking love affair!

Lempira

Cash
Once you’ve got your bills out of the money machine, there’s still work to do. Personally I am a passionate budgeter; I get an odd thrill out of tracking my every transaction. Cash slips so quickly through your fingers, I think I just like to look back and remember what I spent it on once its gone. I hadn’t yet caught the bug on my first trip to Asia and now I wish I had as it would be helpful for planning purposes to look back on.

Traveling with another person can complicate things. It can be nit-picky and exhausting to split every bill and purchase down the middle, but its also easy to feel that one person is chipping in more than the other if you don’t. During our two week trip to Honduras this summer Mark and I used a simple system. We brought along a large envelope and each put in the same amount of cash. Every time it ran low we hit the ATM and each put in the same amount again. All joint meals, activities and purchases were paid for from the envelope and recorded on the front for my records. Any solo purchases (such as souvenirs or separate activities) were to be paid for out of our own pockets, but I we didn’t end up doing anything significant on our own. I highly recommend this system to any couples or friends wondering how to manage their cash on a joint trip!

In conclusion
All of this can be exhausting just to read, and I’m sure some readers are wondering if it all is even worth the hassle. I put in hours of research before opening each of my accounts, and I would do it again twice over if it would keep my money flowing freely from my bank account into the hands of the person handing me a banana pancake on the street rather that into the coffers of a credit card company. You worked hard for that money, keep it for yourself! So go forth and research. Find the right system for you managing your money abroad. Enroll in online banking, check it often. Call your banks and alert them to travel. Don’t buy one of those money belts. And never change currency at the airport.

Do you have any tips for managing money traveling that I missed?

Downsize Yourself! Ebay Tips

On Wednesday, I shared an overview of how I made $1,800 selling stuff I no longer wanted or needed. Friday, I went into detail about what I learned from my garage sale. Today, I’m sharing my top tips for Ebay, where I made $945 over the past year. Ebay can be a lot of work, from taking photos to creating listings to shipping your items. Yet there’s not other marketplace like it and you’re guaranteed to reach more customers than in any other venue. Let’s get selling!

Ebay Tips

1. Take Good Photos
Taking great photographs is the number one thing you can do to increase your sales in any online market place. Use a solid black or white backdrop if possible, and try to shoot in natural light. Show items from all relevant angles, and if you are selling a used item with some sort of defect or imperfection, make sure to include a photo of that as well. Ebay includes one photo free, and the rest are 15 cents each.

Ebay Tips

2. Write Good Descriptions
After photographs, descriptions are the most important factor in getting your item sold. Add as many details as possible especially including the condition. I find that if I don’t include measurements of clothing and other items, people write in and ask for them anyway, so I advise including them from the start.

I also try to add a little personality to my listings to instill a little confidence for first time buyers. It can be intimidating to buy used items online, a little warmth goes a long way!

Ebay Tips

3. Resist Add-Ons
Ebay offers tons of options to make your listing stand out, from subtitles to listing “designers.” I say skip them all. At over $1.50 for a subtitle alone, you could easily increase your fees to the point that you barely make a profit! Be confident that those who are looking for your item will find it, bold title or not, and focus on great photographs and descriptions instead.The only exception to this is buy it now, which can be attractive to buyers who want to, you know, buy it now! However, it means more trips to the post office compared to a group of auctions ending on the same day so be sure it is worth the hassle.

Ebay Tips

4. Start Your Auction Right
Seven day auctions are the best as they give you the longest viewable time without charging an extra fee. It also means that the time you list your item will be the time your item ends. I have had mixed results but the expert opinion is that weekend auction endings are the best. One thing I can solidly agree with is the best time to end your auctions is in the evening when people are home from work.

Ebay Tips

5. Rank High in Searches
To increase your ranking in ebay search results, make your handling time one business day. I usually aim to ship out items within a day or two of cleared payment, but occasionally have run beyond that and I still get frequent feedback on my fast shipping! So don’t be afraid that the ebay police will come after you if you mark one business day and really end up taking two. Its worth the search results returns.The other search engine tip I give it to keep your shipping costs reasonable. In the past sellers listed very high shipping fees in order to sneak by ebay’s percentage based final value fees, but they now charge a percentage of shipping fees as well so it benefits you to be realistic about your shipping costs.

Ebay Tips

I learned what worked best for me and Ebay through many fruitless Google searches and a lot of trial and error. If you are getting serious about selling your excess belongings, I recommend you invest in Man Vs. Debt’s 171 page ebook guide to selling on Ebay. If I had found it earlier in my journey I’m sure I would have made an even greater profit!

So, have I inspired anyone to start selling? Happy downsizing!