Category Archives: Life

How To Travel The World For Under $100

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Traveling is one of the most rewarding and thrilling experiences you will ever take part in. You see things you never saw, talk to people that are different than you, eat foods that you’ll never forget, while looking at scenery that you may only see once in a lifetime. Sadly, for most it’s nothing more than a pipe dream.

Many people had dreams of traveling Europe for three months, or a goal to visit every Major League Baseball stadium. They live in Kansas and want to swim along The Great Barrier Reef.  They long to see something tropical and maybe adventure to see an active volcano. But those dreams never become reality. There are many reasons for never traveling, family, work, or the biggest reason, money.

As someone who didn’t grow up with much money, traveling seemed so far out of reach. The idea of spending a summer living on the Florida coast wasn’t anything I imagined. Jumping on a plane to walk around the famous Seattle fish market wasn’t something that was in the cards for me. And I certainly wasn’t expecting to ever sit on Laguna Beach and watch the sun set over the Pacific. The best part is that I’ve done all those things and it cost me little to no money.

I’m not talking about getting good deals by using a booking agent. I’m talking about straight up free travel. How do I do it? Credit cards.

Credit Cards

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I learned about credit card points from a friend who was jetting off to city after city each week, just to “hang out.” It was a pretty simple concept, credit cards will give you enough points to travel the world and stay at great hotels just for hitting a minimum spend over a specific amount of time. For example a company might ask that you spend $3,000 over three months and in exchange give you 25,000 plus points to an airline or hotel.

While spending that amount may seem difficult, when you add up everything you buy each month, like groceries, clothing, or paying your bills, it’s easy to see how spending $3,000 over three months isn’t as hard as you think.

Some credit cards offer better points than others, like the Amex Starwood Preferred Guest Card. The card gives you 10,000 points after making your first purchase and another 15,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first 6 months of using the card. The card is nice because you can use the points for more than just a hotel. You can transfer points to use on airlines as well. I funded an entire trip to Seattle using this card and it only cost me $5 after using all the points.

The way it works is pretty simple. The more credit cards you get, the more you can travel for free.

But won’t having a bunch of cards hurt my credit score? 

Protecting your credit score is extremely important. There are people out there who say that your credit score doesn’t matter. Those people are straight up wrong. A high credit score allows you to get lower interest loans and more credit. Credit scores are made up mostly of past financial actions, but can be slightly impacted by what you are doing now.

One factor that determines your score is your debt to credit ratio. If a credit card allows you a $10,000 credit limit and each month you only use $2,500 of it your credit score improves. The reason is because a credit card company recognizes that you are being smart with your resources and not purchasing too much with credit.

When I first got out of college I had poor credit. I didn’t have any assets except a car which I missed a couple payments on, because I forgot to send the check. I then applied for a great credit card, so that I could start building up points. I was denied. I ended up getting a more basic card instead Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card.

Over time I was approved for more and more cards and now I have the top cards you can get and never get turned down for cards. The best part is since I have so many card with a high credit limit I use less and less credit and continue to build my credit score. Because of credit cards I have an excellent credit score, proving they don’t hurt your credit score.

It’s all about how you use your card.

Credit cards can get you into a lot of trouble. But that is only if you use them wrong. The first thing to do when you get your card is to setup your account online. Set the card to auto pay a certain day each month. Then use the card as a debit card.

Each time you use the card, deduct that amount from your checkbook. That is how much you have left to spend from you bank account. Then each month auto pay will take the owed amount from your bank. It’s a simple matter of watching how much you have in your bank account.

That’s how you build up points and don’t miss payments. When you miss a payment that is how you get in trouble with owing money and dropping your credit score.

If you use the card like a debit card it makes racking up points pretty simple.

Which card should I get?

The card you get depends on your goals and credit score. As I mentioned earlier, the better your credit score is the better your chance of getting a great card is. I have been turned down for cards that later I was accepted for once I built my score up. As far as the type of card you get, that depends on what you want to get out of it. Some cards are great for cash back, but since this is a travel site I assume you are looking for a card that allows you to travel more. The best cards for traveling are:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Benefits: 40,000 points when you spend $4,000 within the first 3 months and an additional 5,000 points when you add an additional cardholder. $95 annual fee waived for the first year. Points transfer 1:1 to Continental, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club and Amtrak. No foreign transaction fees.

Starwood American Express Benefits: Earn up to 25,000 bonus points. Get 10,000 Starpoints® after your first purchase on the Card, and an additional 15,000 after you make $5,000 in eligible purchases on the Card during your first six months of Card Membership. Redeem your Starpoints for flights with over 150 airlines with SPG Flights and stay at over 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries worldwide. You won’t experience any restrictions or blackout dates with your travel arrangements, either. There is a $0 annual fee for the first year, then $65.

Barclaycard Arrival Benefits: You receive 40,000 miles when you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days. There is an annual fee of $89 that is waived for the first year. You also earn 2x miles on all purchases and get 10% miles back when you redeem for travel.

Capital One Venture Card Benefits: 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel and the $59 annual fee is waived in year one. You receive 2 points for every dollar spent on everything and each point can be redeemed for 1 cent for travel.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Card Benefits: This might not be the best overall card, but it is much easier to be approved for than those mentioned above. 25,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months of opening your account. There is a $99 fee applied to your first bill. So you will end up spending $1,095 in the first 3 months to get the 25,000 points. You will also get 6,000 points each Cardmember Anniversary. A great starting point to those new to credit card points.

The credit card points world can be a rabbit hole. There are many ins and outs that allow you to get more points easier. Continue to check back to find new ways to travel the world for free.

 

 

 

 

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Your Purpose in Life According To a Drug Abusing, Alcoholic Genius

I’ve always wanted to try raw ether. I never will, but I would really like to try a bunch of different drugs just to figure out what the hell Hunter S. Thompson was talking about when he wrote ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. The opening of the book reads like this “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge, and I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.”

Seems pretty messed up. Of course I’m a somewhat normal, functioning adult, who has responsibilities. My main responsibility is to not die, which is the main reason I tend to avoid many of the things listed above.

While most of what you read seems to be a joke and not something an intelligent human being would allow into their body, it is no joke to Hunter S. Thompson. According to an article by Mental Floss the things listed above seemed to be apart of Thompson’s daily routine. Check out his routine:

3:00 p.m. rise
3:05 Chivas Regal with the morning papers, Dunhills
3:45 cocaine
3:50 another glass of Chivas, Dunhill
4:05 first cup of coffee, Dunhill
4:15 cocaine
4:16 orange juice, Dunhill
4:30 cocaine
4:54 cocaine
5:05 cocaine
5:11 coffee, Dunhills
5:30 more ice in the Chivas
5:45 cocaine, etc., etc.
6:00 grass to take the edge off the day
7:05 Woody Creek Tavern for lunch-Heineken, two margaritas, coleslaw, a taco salad, a double order of fried onion rings, carrot cake, ice cream, a bean fritter, Dunhills, another Heineken, cocaine, and for the ride home, a snow cone (a glass of shredded ice over which is poured three or four jig­gers of Chivas)
9:00 starts snorting cocaine seriously
10:00 drops acid
11:00 Chartreuse, cocaine, grass
11:30 cocaine, etc, etc.
12:00 midnight, Hunter S. Thompson is ready to write
12:05-6:00 a.m. Chartreuse, cocaine, grass, Chivas, coffee, Heineken, clove cigarettes, grapefruit, Dunhills, orange juice, gin, continuous pornographic movies.
6:00 the hot tub-champagne, Dove Bars, fettuccine Alfredo
8:00 Halcyon
8:20 am sleep

Thompson may not be as well known as a J.K. Rowling or a Stephen King, but he may be one of the most insightful, adventurous and unique people in American history. And really at the end of the day, isn’t that what we are all shooting for?

Recently, a letter Thompson wrote to his friend was uncovered detailing his thoughts on life purpose. It may be his genius or the drugs, but either way it’s worth sharing.

“April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ”

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called “Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre.” These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

your friend,
Hunter”

Don’t Argue With Me!

Argument

Don’t argue. Never argue. It’s dumb and it goes no where. I bet some of you even started arguing with that statement in your head. You’re trying to think of all the important reasons why you should argue.

But really, does it actually change a mind. Sometimes a mind can change for a little while. But then that person goes back to their old ways of thinking, after they have had time to justify their original thoughts.

Even worse. Sometimes that person changes their mind back and then hates you for disagreeing.

You know what changes a person’s mind? When you show them that your way is better.

Telling people that giving up your life to follow Jesus isn’t going to change anyone. If someone sees someone else fully living the Christian life, that may change them. That may convince them to follow Christ themselves.

Show them that your business model works best, by actually applying it. Don’t sit in a meeting room for hours discussing if it will or won’t work.

If you want to win the opinion of a person for the long term, show them that your argument actually works.

That’s tough to argue with.

The Best Day of My Life

Today, I had the best cup of coffee I ever had.  It was much better than the cup I had yesterday morning.  Of course that cup of coffee came hours before our car was slammed from behind by a truck.  It’s not just the coffee that is different today, it is life in general.

My legs flew up in the air.  My upper body went forward about to slam the dashboard.  Glass flew around me and then all I remember was black.  My entire body went numb.  As I looked over at my Mom in the driver’s seat she was shaken.  “Call 911!” she said.  I reached into my pocket happy that I could move again.  Then I dialed.

I saw our car today.  It was the first time I got the chance to really look at it.  No doubt the insurance company will label it totaled.  As I picked through the car trying to get what I needed, I had to avoid little shreds of glass.  I found a receipt that I had in my pocket from the breakfast from yesterday.  It must have fallen out of my pocket when I pulled my phone out to dial 911.  It was probably one of the worst breakfasts I have had.  The egg was like rubber and the fruit wasn’t fresh.  Today I had a donut and it was the best donut I have ever had.

Once I realized I wasn’t paralyzed during the crash I tried to make sure I wasn’t cut or anything.  My phone was still in my hand, so for no reason at all I felt urged to take pictures.  I guess for insurance or something. I wanted to prove that the wreck was the result of the truck behind us not paying attention.  I heard no squeal of breaks, just crunching metal.  We were stopped at the time.  The car in front of us was as well.  We were waiting for a Cadillac to make a left hand turn.  As the Cadillac finally got it’s opening to move through oncoming traffic that is when I heard my Mom say “You better stop” as she looked in her rear view mirror. As you can guess, the truck didn’t stop. He slammed us and we slammed the car in front of us.  The Cadillac happened to turn at that moment avoiding any damage.

As I sat in the coffee shop today I found it funny I was reading an autobiography on Theodore Roosevelt.  Just a few days ago I was reading a part describing how once, while riding in a carriage, Roosevelt was nearly killed when a trolley smashed through the carriage rather than stopping like it was supposed to.  After running the math, they found that 2 inches separated Teddy Roosevelt from death as opposed to walking away with scratches and bruises.  I’m not saying I would have died yesterday.  Luckily I was wearing a seat belt and I avoided some serious injuries like flying through the window.  I did realize how easily I could have snapped my spine and could be paralyzed today.  For that I am thankful as I sit tapping my toes to the coffee shop music.

“Holy crap! My hat went all the way back there.” In the picture below you can see my white hat flew backwards when I drilled my head on the head rest.  The truck behind us was the one that hit us.  We were hit so hard his airbag deployed.  Here is the terrifying part, where that truck sits is where we were hit.  Keep in mind our brakes were on the whole time as we tried to avoid the car in front of us.  The truck moved us three car lengths.  It would have been more had a car not been there to stop us.  EMTs and police started going to each car to check people.  All I could think was “I hope I don’t forget my hat.”

You can’t see it, but my Mom’s glasses she was wearing flew off her face back here too.

I’m sitting here on my second round of pain killers for the day.  Glad the only problem I’m facing is soreness.  As far as I know everyone involved in the wreck is ok.  Sure the cars involved are mostly totaled, but it’s just a car.  I’m glad everyone is ok, even the guy who hit us.  I could see myself in his shoes, freaking out.  He probably sat there and watched two people get taken away on stretchers wondering “Did I just paralyze someone?”

The police officer came to our window and asked if everyone was ok.  I was holding my Mom’s hand as she was in shock and I knew her neck and back hurt.  The adrenaline in me must have subsided, because suddenly my arm hurt, my neck wasn’t turning and my whole body became a buzzing sensation.  “Anything wrong with your neck?” the officer asked me.  “Uh yeah” was all I could reply with.  Next thing I know I’m in an ambulance on stretcher.

Today, I’m typing away, excited about my week, excited for life in general.  Thinking about how this week or my life could have been completely different because of a few circumstances.  Instead it turned today, soreness and all, into the best and most thankful day of my life.  I’m mostly just thankful I got my hat back.

Championships and The Spartan Spirit: Why America Will Never Love Lebron James

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Hand to hand combat is a thing of the past.  Wars today are fought with guns and remote control weapons. From a standpoint of creating minimal casualties this is a good thing.  Warriors use to feel a sense of honor in fighting hand to hand combat.  The best fighters were heroes. Soldiers today are heros as well but we don’t follow them in the way Genghis Kahn or Alexander The Great were followed, beloved and feared.

Unfortunately what we have now is sports. Our most beloved heroes put balls in hoops and score touchdowns. Sports is our new battle field. It’s where the great warriors of today prove who the greatest is. Kings had thrones to conquer. Now men have rings to win.

Now, the greatest warrior in basketball has conqured the battle field. He has now earned the title of King. That man is Lebron James. The city of Miami can sing their praises of him. His doubters will lower their heads in shame.  His jersey may even increase in sales. But he will still be the most hated man in basketball. But why?

To understand we need to go back in history. It’s 479 B.C. Sparta is under threat of being overrun by Persia.  I know you’ve seen “300” so I’m sure you understand the scenario. The Spartans had created a warrior culture. According to Steven Pressfield in his book “The Warrior Ethos” At the age of 7 years boys were taken from their mothers and taught to fight. From then on they were warriors. Anything less was unacceptable. Facing certain death the Spartan was not to run.

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In his book Pressfield tells a story of two brothers running from battle to save their lives. On the way to the city they see their mother who lifts her dress and asks if they are “running back from where they came.” In Spartan culture a warrior who runs from battle is publicly shamed as well as his family. He was no longer allowed to have children. They were expected to die for the sake of Sparta and all they held dear, it was privilege to do so.

Our culture today still to a degree idolizes this Spartan spirit. We don’t admire those who run from a fight. We don’t watch movies where a hero sells out his people for greener pastures. Imagine if William Wallace in “Braveheart” decided he wanted to be with a winner and joined the English. I don’t think the movie would have been the success it was. America wants to see the underdog who is fighting for his home or tribe or country victorious. It’s who we are as a country.

And that’s unfortunate for Lebron James. If at any point in Lebron James’s career you thought he was a terrible player, would never win a championship or was not worthy of the number one overall pick, you do not understand basketball. Lebron was going to win a ring sooner or later. He would silence doubters and accomplish the feat of being an NBA Champion. Then America would have been happy for James.  Lebron now has one championship, yet no one is happy for him. Why?

When Lebron’s city of Cleveland was under siege, much like Sparta in 479 B.C., he took an oath to defend it.   “I got a goal, and it’s a huge goal, and that’s to bring an NBA championship here to Cleveland,” said James. Yet when things got hard, his lowly championship deprived city needed him, he ran from battle to save himself. He wanted his ring. He wanted to be what they said he was “The Chosen One.”

But to our society he became what we hate. If Lebron had been playing for the Cleveland Cavilers in the 2012 NBA finals the whole country would have been behind him. Instead he got to enjoy his crowning moment with his Mom and himself. America will go on hating him. He may win another 8 titles, but they will all mean nothing.  Lebron needs to win one more title. That’s the only title that will ever define who he is and let him have a claim to be the greatest to ever play the game. Lebron must go back to Cleveland.

Whether or not Cleveland will take him back is the question. I would if I were them. But I am not an NBA GM. It’s James’s choice. He can have it easy or he can risk it all and gain back the underdog title. He needs to take his talents back to a place where hope is lost and championships are a myth and finish the magical story that he started.

People will continue to compare him to Michael Jordan. They will complain about his ring count, and how he sold out his home of Cleveland. But we can thank Lebron for one thing, teaching us that honor in fighting till the end is more important than being victorious.