All posts by Carl (Your Sherpa)

Where In The World…?

Sorry.  My disappearance is two part.  1.  Everest Base Camp kicked my ass.  2.  Nepal takes being a third world country very serious.  I find it hard to complain about the lack of internet, which far exceeds its absence on Koh Tao, because of it’s lack of electricity.  Getting online is a fine balance between their city wide electricity schedule and hunting wifi.

However I’m starting to get my energy back and planning my next destinations.

Also, Everest story up soon!

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Everest Base Camp And Happy Birthday Mom!

I made it.

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I’ll get back to how the trip to Everest Base Camp went soon.  All I’ll say for now is this; the title for the trip has been playing through my head for five days – “The Trek to Everest Base Camp, A Most Beautiful Nightmare” …Stay tuned.

Second.  Anyone who travels for an extend period of time misses plenty back home.  One day supersedes all others.  The Mom’s birthday.  The day I ascended to Everest Base Camp on the 12th happened to line up with that important day, and according to the Gorakshep Evac Team, “a mom’s birthday isn’t a satellite phone worthy emergency”.  So, for now I hope this will do.

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Happy Birthday Mom!

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Post #1 Busy On Everest – The Picture You See Every Time You Log On To Backpackers Union, Australia

Every time you log on to Backpackers Union (on a computer) you see a picture of me at the top of the page*.  It’s not random.  That picture was from the first trip I ever took overseas and taken within the first few days of arriving.  It was also that trip that inspired the other trips and eventually the Backpackers Union.

A few seconds before the picture was taken I almost died and didn’t find out why until months later.

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I was on Noosa Head, an infamous surf spot in Australia and hiking along some trails with a few buddies.  We were told very clearly to stay on the paths by a local surfer.  To get that picture, I not only jumped off the path, I scaled over a fence and climbed down a rock wall to get to the ledge where the picture was taken.  When I landed I was greeted by a charging snake I couldn’t see until it was staring at my ankle.  But it never bit.

Completely oblivious to what type of snake it was, I told my friends to take a look before jumping back to the chain link fence and shimmying about ten feet away and jumping back down to take the picture.

Months later I found out I was staring at the #2 most venomous snake in the world which infest that area.  The Northern Brown Snake.  The reason he didn’t strike and I lived to talk about it;  I was naive enough to stand still to see, “what stupid animal was charging towards me instead of away?”.  Little did I know, they are attackers and charge their threats.  Standing still is what saved my life as they respond to movement and it assessed me as not a threat.

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In the end the picture came out great but I almost died for it.

I’m really glad he didn’t bite, the trip clearly became amazing.

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*This is the picture that was at the top of the first version of the website.
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I’m So High Right Now I Shouldn’t Be Writing This…

I’m at the last real town on the way to Everest base camp, and although I’m at 11,600 feet, the internet is surprisingly strong (I guess going online at $17 a day keeps people off Facebook).  However, this will be the last time I’ll see a real town or internet for over a week as we trek further up.

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The welcoming party at “Tenzing Hillary Airport” in Lukla Nepal.

While this post is proof that our turbulent flight to the worlds most dangerous airport landed safely, I will be offline for several days.  Probably a good thing as this altitude and trekking turns your brain into mush (and we’re not that high yet).

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To keep everyones attention I devised a plan;  While I’m trekking I’m going to select a few post to go up automatically.  Not sure what yet… but know it’s going to be epic!

So hang in there!

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Our Team (The Misfit Hunters): Flower Bandit, Rubber Man, DP, Locks-A-Nator, Bimbo Baggins and Me (Schmidt).

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Hanoi Vietnam To Kuala Lumpur Malaysia To Kathmandu Nepal, 23 Hours…

Hanoi – Left

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Kuala Lampur – Had 15 hours and 10 minutes to do everything that had to be done.  So, I grabbed a hostel and threw my stuff in it.  Jumped on a bus, met four girls.  Went out to dinner with them.  Saw the towers with them.  Went home with them… jet lag, I guess the last part didn’t happen.

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Grabbed a beer with a good dude and his fiance from Kyrgyzstan who worked at two local hostels (Including mine).  They showed me around the city until about 4-5am then I took an hour nap.

Jumped on a second plane to Kathmandu and woke up on the tarmac.

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Kathmandu – Joined up with Tyler and Brandon and bought more fake North Face gear and other equipment then I have real cloths in preparation for the 14 day hike to Everest base camp.

Got on a 14 seater plane and flew to the most dangerous airport in the world with my bag of camera gear and a -20 degree sleeping bag.

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A Quite Little Monday; Party In Malaysia For The Night Then Head To Nepal To Hike To Everest Base Camp.

Again, I’m free!  No more waiting or whining about the package from hell.

Today I fly to Malaysia for one night, party, snap some photo’s, take some videos, power nap it, get on plane and fly to Kathmandu, Nepal before taking a puddle jumper plane into the mountains to start the a 14 day trek to everest base camp.

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Couldn’t be more pumped.  Meeting up with two canadians, Brandon and Tyler, I met in Vietnam for the trek, but I’m not sure if they’ll be any fun… we’ll give them a chance though, eh?

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I at least know Tyler (on the left) has his eye on the prize.

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The iPhone Just Got Better! “Backpackers Union” The Mobile Version And App

There’s a new mobile version of movie Backpackers Union that’s way better than before!  And to make things even more awesome, you can easily add it as an app to you’re home screen.

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To add it as an App, simply click here to go to the home page then follow these steps.

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Done!

You can also add just the section war stories, so you can add anonymous, awesome and funny stories about your travels from anywhere in the world by following the same four step, but starting here…  and because your writing is more likely better than mine… please add stories so we can all enjoy!  The section is completely anonymous if you don’t use your name!

Thanks again to everyone who reads and follows!

*After a few upgrades, the icon now looks likes this  Icon

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Just Pumped On Life!

So my energy is still through the roof from getting my package, which waiting for was like a South East Asia prison sentence.  But I’m finally free from the oppressiveness of hot women and the beer that flows through Hanoi Backpackers!

With that I have some exciting news!…  but I’m not going to tell you, yet…

For now, all you’ll getting is this.

Castaway… I went on again.  This time as a “staff member”, or in other words a dude with a camera.  Soon all it’s amazingness will be brought to you fully cut and edited with all it’s luster.  (This is assuming my computer can handle Final Cut Pro X much longer which has been a graphics card slayer; i.e. my computers not equipped to handle the files I shoot and record in, which is why you don’t see as many videos as I would love to show you, as they’re awesome!).

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Vietnam In 60 Seconds – The Backpackers Guide To Vietnam

Well maybe a few more seconds…  As with any country there’s a standard route that’s traveled.  In the case of Vietnam, it’s North to South coming from Laos, and that’s what I would recommend (over South to North).  So here we go;

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Hanoi – The Smaller yet more cultural of the two major cities.  Stay at “Hanoi Backpackers”; walk the city, see a museum, and get to Sapa or Halong bay (Read below).  Staying at Hanoi Backpackers will ensure you’ll meet many of the same friends on your trek south towards Ho Chi Minh City, as they know how to unite people through beer.

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Sapa – A beautiful rice step farming community that offers the opportunity to stay with a local family. You can do it on your own for cheap ($50ish), but expect a quiet, peaceful, beautiful trip.  If you’re a backpacker you probably want a quiet, peaceful, beautiful trip and good people with plenty of free rice wine to share the experience with (wink, you know who you are).  In that case, book through Hanoi Backpackers ($120ish, a lot of the extra price goes to a more expensive sleeper train ride, but it’s comfy as hell and includes a free toothbrush).  Also, don’t forget your hiking boots!  Fun Fact about Sapa; They originally applied to be an opium farm but were denied the license, so grew rice instead.

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Ha Long Bay – A beautiful bay with islands of shear cliffs rising from the ocean all round you.  Again, you can do a boat cruise for cheap through any local travel agency (they’re everywhere and will run you about $50-$100 everything inlcuded), or you can do it the backpacker way (It’s $210, very expensive! but read about Castaway and see if it’s right for you).

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Hue – Very significant during the Vietnam War with a many relevant and popular historic sites (i.e. the Citadel).

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Hoi An – Food, shopping and very pretty (I didn’t go).  Suppose to be some of the best food in all of Vietnam and great shopping.  Also, the place to go for custom suits and clothing.  Some tailors are dirt cheap and some are fixed and a little more pricey.  Ask your hostel/guest house for recommendations, as there are some very high quality tailors but plenty of ripoffs.

Hue vs. Hoi An – Many try to choose one or the other, as I did… either do that based on above, or choose option three;  Start at one and do one of the motorbike tours to the other.  You can ride on the back of a motorbike or rent your own with a guide (or go all solo, but if you do, don’t tell the bike rental shop your leaving the town.  They’ll charge 4x as much).  Everyone who chose this motorbike option loved it. 

Na Trang – A beach front city that has it all.  You can relax at the beach all day, go to a mud spa, or to the water amusement park for like $4, shop; whatever you want…  It’s a city with a beach.  It also has a very established backpacking culture which means booze cruises and backpacker bars.  While booze cruises are plentiful around Asia, the one’s in Na Trang do offer something a little different, making it worth it.  PS. Lots of Russian’s.

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Mui Ne – A pretty and small beach fishing community with awesome sand dunes.  Many go here to relax and see the beautiful sand dunes.  I did not go and regret it.  It’s a good stop in between Na Trang and Ho Chi Ming City;  it breaks up the bus ride and can be done in a day or two.

Ho Chi Minh City – The Vietnam’s largest and most modern city.  Most go and see the “Cu Chi Tunnels” which were part of the underground network of tunnels used to fight America during the war (Two hours outside the city and only around $15 for a day trip).  Some take two day trips to the “Delta’s”; A river network outside the city said to be beautiful.  At night most drink in the backpacker area where there are hundreds of child sized plastic chairs crammed together and beers are 50 cents.  A fun and funny experience for a night or two.

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I try to keep these overviews short and sweet, but ask any questions you’d like.  For instance; what was it like being woken up at 2am by two drunk, hot, half naked girls running around the dorm room wasted (an Aussie and English).  There were two more girl’s, but they were sober and kept their bra and undies on.

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Avoiding International ATM Fee’s And Make Free Call’s And Text’s Around The World

As a follow up to my last post and the mistakes I made;  read this and don’t make the same ones.

The ATM fee issue differs from country to country.  After hours of research, I found most countries have some pretty good options to avoid or reduce ATM fee’s;  USA has the least, but “one” of the best.

Avoid International ATM Fee’s:  The number one way to avoid international ATM’s fees is opening up a  Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account account BEFORE** you leave the USA.  It’s easy and their card offers fee rebates from any ATM worldwide.  This is the only card in the USA to do this with no stipulations.  For example, CapitalOne’s Debit Card “Does this” except you need to maintain a $5000 balance.  So, if you have an extra $5000 laying around to float your balance above this threshold, by all means go for it.

Do make this a priority as $hit [email protected] at Sovereign Bank charge; a $6 International ATM Fee + a 4% fee of the total withdrawn overseas + a 3% currency conversion fee, then you pay the local ATM’s fee ($0-$5).  Whats this mean?  Take out $200, Sovereign Bank gladly take $20 for themselves, this is not including the local ATM fee charge… multiply that by the total savings for your trip and all your withdrawals… it add’s up quickly.

**(See footnote at bottom if you’re already traveling and want the Schwab Card anyway).

Credit Cards:  Quick note; get a card that touts “travel benefit” stuff.  My CapitalOne Ventura Credit Card’s points count for double on travel related stuff.  I was able to “erase” a $137 flight with points I’ve accrued on travel related transactions. They also claim no foreign transaction fees which are common with other Credit Cards, however I’m unsure how they handle currency conversions (Some Banks, ATM’s, Cards, will skim a little off the top when converting currency’s.  It’s usually a 1% or 2% but watch out for it).  I would shop around for some options, but I’ve been happy with this one.

Free Call’s and Text World Wide:  Bring your smart phone!  Wifi is everywhere.  There’s a joke in Ukraine, “Wifi is a right, not a privilege”.  I was on my laptop in a Taxi connected to the “Free Wifi Kiev” network while driving around looking for my hostel.

With service like ViberWhatsapptalkatone* and a million others, you can make free calls and text anywhere there’s a wifi network, which is everywhere.  So, while in 2009 you were looking like a dork in an internet cafe with a giant headset and mouth piece talking to Mom and Dad at 40 cents a minute, you can now look like every other dork back home sitting around a bar table with your friends staring at your smart phones and chat for free.

Bringing your computer?  I personally hate having the responsibility, but LOVE having it.  The best trick with a computer is Google Voice.  You can use any phone number to set it up (I use my parents landline) and it won’t effect that number.  You can then make free ‘computer to phone’ calls and text from Gmail (to the USA).  The rates to other countries are reasonable and can be found on the Google Voice’s website.

*Update:  You can use google voice on your phone over any wifi networks and make free calls to, or within the US by downloading the free app “Google Hangouts“ (Talkatone no longer supported free).

This whole trip I’ve spent hours on the phone calling the USA and it has cost me $0 so far.

PS.  I get paid nothing if you click or take any of this advice, which I think makes me more stupid than benevolent, but I hope it helps.

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**Applying for a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account while overseas?  I tried this and I was not happy with Charles Schwab’s when the process was done.  I filled out forms, spoke to agents, linked accounts, transferred money, and even faxed special document’s so they’d mail the card to Ukraine.  They mailed the card and 5 days before it arrived the fraud department called and said, “they’d be happy to activate the card, just please fly back to the US and go to the nearest Charles Schwab Bank to confirm your identity……”.  

Not getting Ukraine’s US ambassador to confirm my identify, granting my family a power of attorney, or flying to their Hong Kong office was enough… I needed to fly home or have a “Durable Power of Attorney”, in other words kill myself, then they would activate my account. 

The way around this; The application process is online.  The fraud department flagged my IP Address (my computer’s location) as coming from Ukraine which is why they put a hold on my account. To get around this; get on the phone with Mom or Dad have them fill out the online form from within the USA.  Use your google voice number to talk to the representative when they call to confirm the information (It’ll show as a USA Phone number.  The representatives are unbelievably awesome, it’s the fraud policies that are not).  Then have the card mailed to you… this parts on you, but I’d say have it mailed to your US address on record and then have a friend or family member send it to you.  Boom, done.

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