Friday, July 31, 2009

My Round the World Adventure

My Round the World Adventure


Would You Contiki?

Posted: 31 Jul 2009 07:48 AM PDT

Contiki Tour GroupA few weeks ago, Contiki Holidays put up a message on Facebook that “you can literally save hundreds of dollars going with Contiki over doing it on your own” and that backpacking was “so 1997.” Amused, I tweeted how that wasn’t right since independent budget travel is always cheaper. Contiki tweeted otherwise.

Whether or not you believe backpacking is “so 1997″ (it’s not) doesn’t change the fact that Contiki is NOT cheaper than independent travel and I found it completely disingenuous they even tried to make that point (twice!). The Contiki tweeter pointed out that they get group rates and thereby can get better deals. I don’t believe so. I’ve been on tours before. I like tours. They have their moments when they are needed and can be especially good for first time travelers who want to go places but are scared to do it by themselves. But even the best companies are never cheaper than solo travel. This is because these companies have to pay for guides, buses, insurance, and administrative costs.

But the reality is in the numbers. For example, let’s look at one of Contiki’s “budget” European tours. I called Contiki to make sure all my information was correct. And it should be noted that their operator said the rules by which the budget tours operate are the same as the others. The difference between budget tours and other tour classes is simply accommodation standards.

European Horizon Tour (12 day tour)- Contiki calls this a 12 day tour for $1415 or $117 per day. The tour includes 10 nights accommodation (3 to 4 people per room), 9 breakfasts and 6 dinners. However, Day 1 is the day you fly to Europe and the last day is a transfer to the airport, making this really a 10 day trip at $141 dollars per day. Now, let’s assume your average budget meal in Europe is €8 euros, which adds another $145 dollars onto your trip (10 lunches, 3 breakfasts). Moreover, no entrance fees to any attractions are included. Most people spend about €20 per day($280) on attraction entrance fees. Additionally, the average cost of a flight to Europe right now is $600. Adding the numbers up, the total cost of this trip is now $2,440 dollars without counting alcohol, any optional activities, or anything more than a budget meal. So for 10 days you are really spending $244 dollars per day not $117.

Contrast this with doing it on your own. For ten days of travel, you get numbers that look like this: Flight= $600, Meals = $280 (€20 euros for 10 days), Sightseeing = $280 (€20 per day), Transportation= $250 (local train travel), Accommodation = $420 (4 bed dorm, shared bath at €30 per night) bringing your total to $1,830. Note: For accommodation, I used Amsterdam prices. This tour goes to many places but Amsterdam is one of the most expensive cities in Europe thereby making sure I am not accused of trying to “lowball” estimates for literary effect.

That is a $600 dollar difference, not including the fact that most hostels include breakfast (lowering cost), you can Couchsurf (lowering cost), or make your own meals (lowering cost). Even if backpacking is so 1997, you clearly can’t save hundreds of dollars by going on Contiki.

What do you get for your costs? Well, in my opinion, nothing I want. I’ve never taken a Contiki tour. I’ve thought about it many times but I’ve never been able to justify the cost and pace of being shuffled through Europe quickly just so I can party more. Geared to 18-35 year olds looking for a good time, tours on Contiki tours tend to be filled with parties, young people, and alcohol. Most of the travelers on these tours have just a few weeks in Europe and are their to have fun before going back to work. Friends of mine have gone on Contiki and they all come back with the same story: It was fun, they met a lot of people, and they partied hard.

I generally avoid tours because I don’t like spending a day here and one day there. And Contiki is that type of tour company. Now, I’m not here to blast Contiki. Contiki travel works for many people and they have a clearly defined audience (of which I am not apart of). However, I found it disingenuous of them to state they are cheaper than doing it on your own. Because they aren’t. In fact, no tour company is- they all have administrative costs to cover that you don’t.

I am a huge fan of Gap Adventures as well as Intrepid Tours. Both of these companies take the planning out of travel for you while giving you an environment as structured as you want. You can go on highly structured tours or tours where you get days and days to yourself to do what you want. The people on these tours are looking for a good time but they aren’t looking for a booze filled time. However, even though these tours tend to be cheap, they are still not cheaper than independent travel.

There are many good tour companies out there. Every company, including Contiki, has a certain audience and is right for certain types of travelers. But don’t be under the impression tours are cheaper. And don’t buy into the sales pitch that they are.

© Nomadic Matt- visit the Nomadic Matt's Travel Site for more great content and got a travel blog? Learn to make money with your travel blog.

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20 Amazing Reptile and Amphibian Anomalies

Posted: 31 Jul 2009 02:29 PM PDT

Amazing Reptile and Amphibian Anomalies
Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, nature throws a curve ball, in the form of abnormal reptile and amphibians. From two-headed turtles and snakes to multi-legged frogs and much more, it’s safe to say that the following animal anomalies aren’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill creatures. With that said, casting these genetic castoffs as freaks or mutants would diminish the unique stories around their origins. Like Siamese twins, conjoined reptiles and amphibians occur when a developing embryo starts to split into identical twins but then stops. They may also develop multiple limbs when the embryo is damaged.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Don’t Compare

Two-Headed Turtles

(Images via: Flickr, Fisherwy,Kwami Nyamidie, Wasp)

Having two heads is not advantageous for most reptiles. However, of the rare reptiles that have two minds, turtles seem to respond the best. Both heads are able to eat at the same time and surprisingly cooperate very well. Even more surprising, these abnormal turtles tend to live for long periods of time, specifically 15-20 years.

Snakes in the Grass: Multiple Personalities

Two-Headed Snakes

(Images via: Fire Retardants, Japan Probe, Ask A Biologist, Telegraph)

As opposed to two-headed turtles that are more adaptable to surviving in the wild, two-headed snakes aren’t so lucky. As these snakes share the same stomach, they often fight over the same prey. They also go different ways, making it difficult for them to survive in the wild if they needed to flee from a larger predator. With that said, two-headed snakes have shown promise when taken out of the wild. Specifically, one two-headed, king snake lived for 17 years under the care of researchers at Arizona State University, according to National Geographic.

Conjoined Crocodiles: A Very Rare Sight

Two-Head Baby Alligator

(Images via: Jack of Spade)

Earlier this decade, a pair of conjoined crocodiles were hatched at a gator farm in Bangkok. Named Chang and Eng (in honor of the world’s most famous Siamese twins), the conjoined crocodiles shared the same body and had four legs each. Unfortunately, the conjoined crocodiles only survived for a week.

These Frogs Have No Chance with Miss Piggy

Mutant Frogs

(Images via: The Sun, Pegasus News, Flickr, Flickr)

Over the years, more and more frogs with multiple limbs have been discovered in North America. One researcher has linked this development to a runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous from nearby farms and ranches. As a result of these nutrients entering the water supply, parasitic flatworms develop and often form cysts in tadpoles. This attachment of the flatworms to the tadpoles can lead to wild deformities, including legs sprouting out from the strangest spots.

Hardly the Geico Lizard

Mutant Lizards

(Images via: Wunder Kabinett, World of IQ 90,LH3,Flickr)

Developmental deformities are not just limited to the turtles, snakes, crocodiles and frogs mentioned above. Some lizards have also been plagued by two heads, including at the front and back of the body. Amazingly, the condition of having more than one head (polycephaly) is nothing new to reptiles. The first-known reptile with two-heads was named Hyphalosaurus and lived 120 million years ago when dinosaurs ruled the earth during the Cretaceous period. Like the two-headed crocodile, Hyphalosaurus did not live long.


Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World


The Receding River of Ice (Juneau, Alaska, USA)

Posted: 30 Jul 2009 11:13 PM PDT

Only a few miles outside of Alaska's capital (on the only road out of town) is the blue-white icy travel wonder of Mendenhall Glacier. As a poster-child for global warming, this river of ice has receded almost three kilometres in just fifty years, creating Mendenhall Lake at the front of the glacier. Slowly bulldozing its way down the valley, creaking and groaning, it's beauty among the trees and

Read the full story at http://www.travel-wonders.com.

Travel Photo: Mesjid Raya, Medan - Indonesia: itravelnet.com Travel Blog

Travel Photo: Mesjid Raya, Medan - Indonesia: itravelnet.com Travel Blog

Link to itravelnet.com Travel Blog

Travel Photo: Mesjid Raya, Medan - Indonesia

Posted: 30 Jul 2009 05:31 PM PDT

Location: Medan - Indonesia
Photo: Mesjid Raya

Mesjid Raya


Mesjid Raya, the main mosque in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Travel Photo Gallery: Medan Photo Gallery