Being back in the states is exhausting. I've gone 6 months without small talk and it's been glorious! -That's 6 months without the Barista asking me how I'm doing. There's something magical about not speaking the language of the country. No one bothers you. Small talk is truly the bane of my existence. When I'm traveling I can say as little or as much to people as I choose because I'm ethnically ambiguous enough to be from anywhere. Until I open my stupid American accented mouth, I could be any ethnicity. Ignorant and removed from all social pleasantries. I relish those few seconds when someone tries to engage with me in whatever language and I just smile and shrug sheepishly trying to convey the embarrassment I pretend to feel for not understanding the language. When really, I understand every word and just prefer to pretend I don't.
I'm not an asshole; I like people, they just have to be enjoyed in small doses. Coming back to the states is an assault on my consciousness. Over the last 6 months no one grilled me about my goals or my plan or what I want to be when I grow up. It wasn't until I got back to America that everyone I came in contact with needed to tell me how they felt about my life choices. I tried telling them I didn't speak English but that didn't really work.
This is the longest I've been back in the states since fleeing in May 2014. I've come back every six months but every time I come back it seems to get a little bit harder. My friends have moved on with their lives and my family doesn't seem to be drastically affected by my absence. I don't blame them. I'm the one that comes back for a few weeks and then leaves again for 6 months. I love my friends and family and I don't fault them for not leaving a ton of space for me in their ever changing lives because, lets face it... by the time I get to know their partners or kids... I'm gone again. And maybe that's how it should be. Maybe I'm best consumed as a fleeting bolt of lightning that stirs up everyone's lives and forces them to think about the last time they were as spontaneous or reckless as I am.
Luckily, I now have something to offer my friends to help me get back into their good graces, extended absence be damned! Since writing and releasing my travel hacking eBook, everyone is coming out of the woodwork to ask me for details on how I do what I do. The process of writing a book was definitely strange. I had waves of feeling like I had no idea what I was talking about and being embarrassed that I was asking people to pay for my opinions. And the next day I'd be furious more people weren't willing to shell out the $9.95 it cost for a peek into my carefully curated travel tip brain. There's something sort of exciting about being a commodity. I went from being that girl tugging on your clothes begging you to pay attention to me, to actually offering something of value.
Before writing my book I really didn't think I had that much to offer in the way of travel tips. Sure, I've been doing this for 2 and a half years now, but it's become second nature to me and I never really thought of it as a skill. Even after releasing my eBook I still wasn't quite sold on my own expertise. It took sitting at my parent's kitchen table, surrounded by visa gift cards to realize I was doing something special. Something most people didn't know about, or didn't know how to execute. As I sat there, creating pins for my pile of $200 visa gift cards, my dad asked me what the hell I was doing. I could tell my explanation shocked him and both of my parents seemed genuinely impressed by my latest travel hack.
I had just been approved for a Chase Ink Business Card. (I don't actually have a business but I pretended "Sabrina Sabbagh Enterprises" was a thing for the purpose of being approved for the card.) After being approved, you have 3 months to spend $5,000 in order to qualify for the 60,000 point bonus. I already have plenty of travel cards that offer 0 international transaction fees and great points for travel, but I was in the market for a new card for the bonus points. I'm on a pretty strict budget so I definitely don't spend 5k in 3 months. But was I going to let that stop me? Of course not!
With the Chase Ink card I get 5X points on office supplies. I don't actually have a business, so office supplies are useless to me, BUT Staples happens to sell Visa gift cards. I simply bought enough $200 visa gift cards to fulfill my minimum spending requirement and then turned around and liquidated those gift cards into cash to pay my credit card bill. There IS a fee when you purchase these gift cards; I think a $200 gift card costs a little over $6. But when I'm getting 5X point on the purchase, that cost is easily absorbed. Not to mention; Staples also offers a $20 rebate in the form of another Visa gift card for every $300 you spend in gift cards. You have to work some alternate address magic to bypass the "one per household" rule, but it's very easy to make money simply buying gift cards and using them to pay off your cc balance.
I talk about these and other travel hacks and tips in my eBook and if you buy it, I offer some complimentary one on one guidance on implementing these travel hacks. Liquidating the gift cards into cash is a little tricky and requires one more step but explaining it here is a bit complicated. If you're interested in more info on that and other travel hacks, buy the book and email me for a consultation.
I am headed back out into the world this week. First stop: Mozambique and then some other countries in Africa. It's time to start chasing summer again. I love the option to swap hemispheres for warm weather when it's cold everywhere else. Japan and China are still in the works but I have to wait until it warms up a bit. I plan on hanging out in Africa and Southeast Asia until February. My goal will be Japan for cherry blossom season!