Episode 08 – Why carrying a GPS device is more helpful than a smartphone

Your front row seat for conversations with two computer hackers turned travel hackers – living globally, financially independent and semi-retired, both following their dreams and helping you to do the same. You can also find us on iTunes, YouTube or however you listen to podcasts, and we love getting your 5-star reviews. Follow the conversation with us on Twitter @GTFOutcast and stop into the blog often to read the latest and give us comments and feedback.

On the October 8 episode of the GTFOutcast, Beau Woods and Taylor Banks talk about their upcoming travels, discuss what traveling in an RV is like, before closing out the show with the usefulness of GPS devices when traveling to parts of the world where internet connectivity may not always be available for your smartphone.

Watch GTFOutcast Episode 08:

0:21 – Beau kicks off the show with some molé, a type of sauce commonly used in a lot of Mexican dishes, from pastry to salads. Taylor asks about the availability of a gluten-free food in Mexico City.

2:38 –  The duo then dive into the topics. Taylor describes his first big trip in his RV, from Atlanta to Louisville (in Kentucky). A 7-hour drive full of lessons learned about riding and parking a 13,500 pound RV. Taylor talks about how the living conditions were for four people inside the RV.

10:18 – Beau brings up the issue of bringing only the essentials when staying in a confined space. Learning how to live with only the things you really need when traveling in an RV.

12:40 – Taylor asks Beau about his next trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

14:16 – Beau then takes the discussion into how a traveler could better plan for a trip to a part of the world where information on getting around, where to stay, etc., isn’t easily put up online by the local population.

16:58 – Taylor interjects with the important fact the prices quoted online are often far higher than what may be charged if you were to contact the hotel directly.

20:15 – Taylor questions Beau about the safety of hostels, especially when traveling with expensive electronics and safety for women in general.

24:27  – Guidebooks can be outdated because it was written once from one visit, which implies they aren’t updated as much. Beau points out this can be an issue for a rapidly developing country and why sometimes relying on travel forums is a better option.

25:32 – Travelers have become quite reliant on their smartphones when traveling, but in regions where you may not even get internet connectivity on-the-go, Taylor recommends carrying a Garmin or TomTom GPS device. He recalls his time in Costa Rica when a refurbished GPS device came in handy when riding towards a volcanic spot.

How to Setup Your Mailbox While Traveling

No, we’re not talking e-mail or your office mails. We’re talking about how you can receive your physical mail (letters and bills) and other packages while being away from home for extended periods of time. Like when you are traveling or away on a long vacation.

Mail forwarding services

Did you know the US Postal Service has a mail-forwarding service? For a weekly fee, USPS will hold your mail, package it up, and reship it to you at a given address each week by Priority Mail. The Premium Forwarding Service costs $15 to enroll and is a temporary service that can be used from 15 days up to 1 year. This way, you can continue to receive your bills, and avoid incurring late fees and penalties for non-payments.

Mailbox clipart
Image Source

Did you know you can even use your local UPS or Fedex stores as a mailing address? In addition to the privacy you get in not putting your home address out there, the secondary benefit comes when packages delivered need a signature. Often times, packages are not delivered when the person to whom the parcel was specifically addressed to was not home to sign for it. This means having to physically visit the UPS store or call the delivery guy to come back to your house. Something you can do only once you have returned from your travels.

Using a UPS or Fedex store as your mailing address, which are legally authorized to offer such services, they will receive the package and even sign for it on your behalf. The downside is, once they receive the package, it remains with them until you personally go and collect it from the store. UPS will not forward the package again.

Then there’s Pak Mail, who offer mailbox rentals, mail forwarding, faxes, and even notary services.

If you are an RV owner, there are several regionspecific operators and RV clubs that offer mailbox rentals at RV parks and mail forwarding services to your next destination. They can even receive faxes on your behalf.

Receive it, Scan it, E-mail it

What if you wish to read or see the contents of you mail/letters as soon as you get them? For that there are services like Earth Class Mail. They will accept your mail, open it, scan the letter and make the contents available to you online. This is a service that comes in very handy for receiving important letters in paper format and need them scanned and e-mailed to you. For physical goods and other packages, Earth Class Mail have forwarding options where by they will then send the package to any location you desire.

Virtual Post MailVirtual Post Mail is a service where, for as little as $5 a month, users get a US-based virtual mailbox that’s secure, reliable, and easy to use. Virtual Post Mail receives the member’s mail and makes hi-res scans of its content to the member. Members can view their mail and packages in high resolution images online using only either their browser or mobile phone. Virtual Post Mail users claim they receive fewer junk mail and none of those unsolicited mails. Virtual Post Mail can even physically send all your mails and goods in bulk. If not, they will even shred all your mails on request.

As much as we love these services, GTOutcast still advice our listeners to move as many of their bills and statements to e-bills wherever possible. This way you get your bills delivered via e-mail, which can be accessed anywhere you go — and you save on trashing paper. And while you can set up many of these services even after you have left home, it’s best you do all necessary paper work and reassurances before setting off on your journey.

Selling foreign goods to fund your vacation? It’s possible

One of the joys of walking around street markets of the world is coming across beautiful, artsy pieces of cultural artifacts and other souvenirs unique to that particular country. Silk clothing in East Asia, clog shoes in Netherlands, ornately designed lamp shades in Istanbul. We could go on, but you get the idea. Ever wondered about buying and selling these pieces back home to raise money and fund your vacation(s)?

Holland shoes Clogs
Image Source

It’s one of the ways we like to think a traveler can make money while still on vacation. It’s something we at GTFOutcast have thought about a lot and even done at a few occasions. Buy high quality, authentic goods from local markets in Latin America or Asia, and then sell them on eBay or through a vendor back home.

Take for example if you plan to sell your foreign merchandise back in the United States. As an American tourist, we are allowed to bring in anywhere from $200 – $1000 worth of foreign merchandise, all depending on the country* we bought the goods from. That is unless you managed to sneak in much more through customs without suspicion. Not that we endorse you do that. (Ahem)

Even if you did have to pay customs duty, it is generally less than 10% of the total bill amount you paid (converted to US$). Not to worry, this additional value on top of the price you paid for the goods is negligible if you find buyers still. Say if you bought trinkets from Thailand at $2 a piece, and you find buyers back in America are willing to pay up to $10 or more for something exotic, and definitely an item not easily found in America. Now imagine you bought a 100 pieces of trinkets at $2 a piece and sold them at $10 a piece. At an 80% mark-up, the profits alone come to $800. Sell 200 pieces and you could cover an entire travel budget. Beau Woods is currently in Mexico City and he has been trying to find how to get fresh designs on shirts in Mexico City, ship them back to the US and sell for a profit.

Mexican souvenirs market
Image Source

Selling goods in your home country back from your vacation is one thing, but how can one sell these goods while they are traveling? By using third party fulfillment for arbitrage to simplify the process. You handle the shipping of goods to a third party vendor, and the partner handles the sales process. You can even do this online by partnering with the right vendor on eBay or via Amazon Marketplace. The third party vendor will charge a fee, but it still saves you money and the headaches of handling sales transactions while on the go. And as per the stipulated agreement, the vendor simply wire transfers the money you are owed.

If online isn’t your thing, try contacting your local consignment stores. Just ship the goods via a postal service (or even the expensive courier services) to the consignment store, and they display the goods at their store and act as an agent to conduct the sale.

If the foreign country you are in allows it, you could even set up a small booth or a spot at a local flea market to sell your own goods. For example, hippies who came to Goa (in India) used to be famous for selling their creations and unused valuables in a bid to raise money to fund their stay — or even a ticket back home. That’s how the famous Anjuna Flea Market got its start!

However you sell the goods — by yourself or online using a third party — you really need to be sure of the demand for such goods. To be safe, for starters, only pick products you know can be easily sold through your network of friends back home. Like all businesses, there is some risk involved. What you find cool, others back home may not. You really don’t want to have a backlog of unsold inventory of goods that have no takers. On the flip side, if in the case you are unable to meet demand, or you end up working with an unreliable third party vendor, that’s a lot of dissatisfied customers. A situation hard to handle when you are in the middle of travel.

But if successful, this a great way to make use of your time in a foreign land productively and a means of earning an income while vacationing. Our only advice is you refrain from selling common souvenirs (like fridge magnets, figurines of popular attractions, etc.) that bear the names of a city or country. That’s simply cheating the travel experience for many.

Useful resources:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Duty-free exemption, Gifts
Learn more about Amazon Marketplace