Thursday, September 17, 2009

How to: Use Toilets in the Middle East and Asia

I created this blog to address travel issues that other websites or blogs wouldn't normally cover. And one topic that you never see anything about is how to use bathrooms in the Middle East and Asia.

Here is what you will see: either a porcelain bowl (for you to sit on) or a wooden/earthen/porcelain cover over a hole in the ground (for you to squat over). You are also likely to see: A) a small basin built into or out of the wall of your bathroom stall with water flowing into it or B) A bucket and a hose.

What you are not likely to see is toilet paper.

What you should know is that toilet paper is a relatively recent and wholly American invention. It was created by us only 150 years ago (made of aloe-infused hemp) and even that didn't catch on until a softer version was put onto rolls. Believe it or not, it took a couple decades for the rolls to catch on, people buying them only after they had been heavily marketed to hotels and gas stations.

What did they use to wipe their asses before? Anything: corn husks, magazine pages, and, as is still the case in the Middle East and Asia, their hands.

So this is how you do it: take your hand, scoop some water from the basin (or bucket) and use it to wipe your ass clean. Think of it as a manual bidet.

Will you get poop on your hand? Yes, you will get poop on your hand. Use more water to clean it off. After, clean your hands in the sink with water and soap.

Oh, and use your left hand for this. If you've noticed, people in these regions will never shake hands or touch food with their left hands. This is why.

Think this is disgusting? They think it's disgusting that you dry wipe your ass and leave bits of poop to crust on your bunghole. This is why you have itchy ass. This is why you get track marks on your underwear.

Do I agree with wiping my ass with my hands? No. I just carry toilet paper with me whenever I travel to these regions.

I'm just explaining how it's done.

Happy pooping.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Make Thousands of Dollars by Converting an IRA While Traveling

If you plan (like me) to take significant time off of work for a long-term trip or you've been laid off for a significant amount of time or you're going to join Peace Corps, you can make thousands of dollars by converting an IRA when you're not generating income.

Don't know much about IRAs? Read here: All about IRAs

What I'm going to walk you through is slightly complex and would leave a lot of people shaking their heads, but since I'm actually doing it, I can assure you that it works.

1.Open a traditional IRA. If you already have one, this is going to benefit you beautifully.

2.Contribute as much as you can each year up to the legal limit of $5,000.  This will let you save a thousand dollars or more in taxes each year.

3.After a few years, take a year off to travel (using those tax savings to help pay your travel costs, of course) and convert your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA during the tax year that you are traveling.

4.After five years, take out the money tax and penalty free.

5.Need the money sooner? You can take it out penalty free if you A) buy a first home, B) pay un-reimbursed medical expenses, or C) become disabled (try not to do that).


Bob already has $5,000 in a traditional IRA and will contribute $5,000 a year for 2009 and 2010. Since he's in a 25% tax bracket, every $5,000 that he puts in the IRA is an EXTRA $1,250 in his pocket because he's not paying that in taxes to the government.  As of 2010, Bob would have $3,750 more in his pocket to put towards travel than if he had not contributed to his IRA.

Now let's say it's 2011. Bob is chilling on a beach in Thailand after having emailed his mom and asking him to convert his IRA.  Since he gave his mom power of attorney before leaving on his trip, she is able to convert his traditional IRA into a Roth IRA.  Because Bob has been traveling for the year and has only been making a little money from passive income (more on that in future posts), his taxes are pretty much limited to the IRA he has just converted.  Let's say it's $15,000. 

The marginal tax rate for a single filer is 10% of the money between $0 and $8,350 and 15% of the money between $8,350 and $33,950. With basic deductions, Bob's taxes are $165. Already he's saved $3,585, but since Bob also take deductions for his travel-based business (more on that in future posts), Bob just gets to keep the full $3,750.

After five years, Bob can take out that $15,000 penalty and tax free, or can let it grow as long as he wants.  Even if he grew that money to $80,000 over 30 years, he won't even pay taxes on the $80,000.

And that is sweet.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to: Buy Antiobiotics Abroad and Use Them

If your ass has been turned into a rectal firehose after dining in a third world country (or maybe just at a McDonalds in France) and you desperately need antibiotics, the last thing you want to worry about is finding a doctor/making an appointment/fighting through language barriers/having enough money to get a prescription.

Luckily, most undeveloped countries don't require prescriptions. You can walk into almost any pharmacy in, say, Central America or Southeast Asia and simply buy them. And having them can save your vacation.

I'm frustrated it's not the same in America.  I once was on a road trip when a sore throat that had only mildly bothered me when leaving Oklahoma became Freddy Krueger masturbating my esophagus by the time I was in Arizona.

I knew, 100% knew, what I needed: a course of Amoxicillin. But of course I couldn't buy it on my own, and a walk-in clinic (which prescribed me exactly that) later billed me $247. My insurance didn't cover it because I was out of network, and I had to grit my teeth and pay it. All because I needed someone else's permission to treat myself.

Fast forward to the Peace Corps and suddenly I felt like an adult. Since a quick medical response was unlikely at our far-flung work sites, we were each given antibiotics to take with us and taught how to use them. Finally my health was in my own hands.

So I can now pass on my knowledge to you and you can take your health into your own hands.

When you get abroad, pick up: 

1.  Thirty 250mg tablets of Amoxcicillin
2.  Ten 500mg tablets of Ciproflaxcin.

Amoxcicillin is a penicillin class antibiotic, and you should take one three times a day for ten days for:

A.  Bronchitis and pneumonia (you're coughing up yellow or green phlem)
B.  Throat infections (it burns to swallow)
C.  Urinary tract infections (it burns to pee)
D.  Gonorrhea (it really burns to pee; and you've recently slept with a drunk Canadian)

Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone class antibiotic and you should take one twice a day for five days for:

A.  Infections diarrhea (particularly if water is coming out of your ass)
B.  Food poisoning
C.  Skin and wound infections (redness is spreading or red lines start progressing away from the wound)
C.  Urinary tract and bladder infections

If in doubt--particularly about food poisoning--, I recommend taking the Cipro anyway. I wouldn't recommend that in America, but time and health are so important while traveling that most of us can't afford several days or even weeks of being out of commission. Be prepared and you'll find that while the guy in the next bunk is groaning and clutching his stomach, you'll be ready to slip on your shoes and see more of the world.

And hopefully you'll be nice enough to prescribe him some antibiotics.