All posts by Vago Damitio

Vago Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. He jumped ship from a sinking dotcom in 2000 and decided to reclaim his most valuable commodity, time. He bought a VW bus for $100, moved into it and set out on a journey to show the world that it was possible to live life on your own terms. That journey took him from waking up under icy blankets in  the Pacific Northwest to waking up under palm tress in Southeast Asia. Three years later, his first book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond was published. After diving into the Anthropology of Tourism and Electronic Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (with undeclared minors in film and surf) he hit the road again in 2008. Since that time,he's lived primarily in Morocco and Turkey, married a Moroccan girl he couchsurfed with, and become a proud father. He's been to more than 40 countries, founded a successful online travel magazine (this one!), and still doesn't have a boss. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

How to Not Have Bedbugs Eat You Alive

Ughhhh! Bedbugs! When I used to manage the hostels in Hawaii, we had a few run ins with bedbugs. Travelers coming down in the morning with bites covering their entire bodies. In some cases we would throw out all the mattresses on an entire floor, fumigate, and then re-open the rooms to travelers.

In fact though, not all hostels take bed bugs so seriously or even know how to deal with them. I realize, that because of my quick jaunt to Morocco to see my wife, things are out of sequence here, but this is important enough to let you know about a quick trip I took to Rome. I figured that Rome in winter would be an easy place to find accommodations, but I was wrong. Rome is always filled with people. My first choice in hostel was booked full. (and apparently so were all the couchsurfing hosts since even Roman friends of mine were packed with guests and couldn’t host me), so the first rule is to book ahead in Rome. I hate to do it too, but I think it’s essential.

bedbugs in Rome
The first hostel sent me to their sister property where I hadn’t read the reviews on Hostelworld. The Hotel Beautiful seemed like a great place, except in the night when I started to itch. I had looked at the mattress before checking in, but the mattress was black and I thought to myself, huh, maybe that keeps the bedbugs away. Wrong! I woke up feeling itchy but not seeing the bites yet. Luckily, I had put my bags on hard surfaces away from the beds, so none of the critters could hitchhike. A hot shower and a change of clothes and I was out of there.

Later, after finding other hostels full, I accepted the offer of the Hotel Beautiful 2 and thought, I’ll rent a private room and relax a bit. Within minutes of lying in the bed, I found, guess what, a bedbug biting my hand. They work fast, I wasn’t there twenty minutes and my right hand was covered with bites. This time, I hadn’t checked the mattress and I’m itching myself for it. both hands and my neck were covered with more than sixty bites. Again, my bag and clothes were on a hard surface away from the bed, this time I think it was the pillow that housed the buggers judging by the bites on hand and neck and face.

I grabbed my things and went to the desk to complain. “But it was just fumigated last week!” she told me. Later, on trip advisor, I saw more than a few complaints about bed bugs for this dump. I asked them to find me a different accommodation but the best they would do was give me a refund and send me out in the street. If you have aninfestation of bedbugs, for christ sake throw out the pillows!

Finally, after wandering the streets of Rome in the dark and finding nearly everything booked because of a coming festival and a rugby match, I checked into the Hotel Charter, a two star place that deserved three for their magnificently redone bathrooms, incredibly comfortable beds, and great staff. The price was out of my budget but they dropped it to 45 euros per night which i was glad to pay. A scalding shower, my clothes into a plastic bag, and myself in the clean, new sheets on a great mattress with no bug signs.

I would have preferred paying 90 Euros for two nights there than the 20 and 35 I paid at the bed bug hostels. The moral of the story is twofold. In Rome, book ahead and read the reviews on HostelWorld and on Trip Advisor.

The nightmare of every traveler is to become afflicted by bedbugs. In recent years even some of the top hotels in the world have suffered infestations of these nasty little creatures. Many people think you only find them in dirty or cheap hotels, but the truth is, they can be found anywhere. However, you find them in the cheap places more often than the quality ones. Don’t worry though, learn from my bad experience and miss out on this awful travel nightmare.

With a few easy precautions you can make sure to keep them out of your life. First of all read the independent reviews of hotels you plan to stay at using third party sites like Trip Advisor. If there are bedbugs there, someone will have mentioned it. While it is possible to get rid of infestations, it’s difficult, so your best bet is to avoid places where bed bugs are mentioned.

Once you check into the hotel, you want to also check the room and the beds for signs of the pests. Pull the bedding off the mattress and look for the black eggs or reddish marks left by bedbugs. The eggs are usually in the seams and look like black sand or coffee grounds. Don’t put your luggage on the bed or couch. Use the luggage rack or hard furniture instead. Pull the headboard from the wall and look for the exoskeletons which have been molted. Don’t forget to check the box spring seams too!
bed bugs suck
If there are bedbugs, the chances are that you will see some sign of them (but if the mattress is black, beware!) . One last thing, when you get back home, be sure to unpack on a hard, light colored surface (even the bathtub!) just in case you managed to pick up a hitch-hiker. You wouldn’t want him to get in your bed!

If I had followed my own advice, I wouldn’t be so itchy right now. Sometimes a little planning makes a big difference. Plan ahead using the Vagobond Hostel Planner. or better yet, find a luxury hotel in Rome

Bulgarian wine tasting

Sofia, Bulgaria Night Life the Kicks Ass

The nightlife in Sofia is incredible. There are no shortage of bars, pubs, great restaurants, clubs, shows, and interesting people watching abounds on just about every corner. This is the capital of Bulgaria and in a word, Sofia rocks!

Sofia is filled with all kinds of trendy cafes, pubs, and bars which boast outdoor seating in the summer and warm interiors in the winter.

Whether you choose to partake in the offerings of the National Opera and Ballet or to go and check out the biggest Bulgarian cinema multiplex, the bonus, if you are an English speaker is that most of the films are in English with Bulgarian subtitles, no dubbing, thank god.
Bulgarian wine tasting
The prices for everything in Bulgaria are beyond reasonable. The currency in Bulgaria is the Lev which is about 2:1 for euros. A beer usually costs about a lev, plural Leva. Bonus is that credit cards are widely accepted so you don’t have to carry a big wad of leva with you when you go out.

One good place to find nightlife is Vitosha Boulevard in the heart of the city, if you want to go here, you should bring plenty of cash or plastic with you since it’s the most expensive street in the city (and that means in the country too!)

Street food like pizza or borek is usually 1-2 leva, so when you leave the bars you can find a decent snack on whatever is left in your pocket.

As to the places to drink? Tim took me to a great wine tasting in a fancy liquor store where two Bulgarian chefs were demonstrating how to cook with aphrodisiacs…the upside…free food and drinks…the downside, my wife wasn’t with me and if she had been she would have disapproved of hanging out in a liquor store drinking wine….lol.

bulgarian wineSome of the favorite drinking holes in Sofia are Happy’s Bar and Grill which is near Sveta Nedelya church. This is a nationwide chain with English-language menus and hot young waitresses that all know at least how to say, “What would you like to drink?” It’s enough English, right?

Bulgaria PubIf you want to meet all the expats, go to JJ Murphys Irish pub, you’ll find embassy staff, Hash House Harriers, and more than one drunk Irishman (tell Charlie I said hi but I doubt he remembers me…)

One of the cool and happening places in Sofia is The Apartment, this is a sort of collective art/bar/cinema/ and scene. I didn’t go but my friend Katya recommended it and the website looks very cool

Popular among locals as well as foreigners is the “apartamenta”, some sort of private club in the second floor of a turn of the 19th century mansion: There you find a series of rooms, all in different styles and wall-drawings, colourful tapestries, etc. Go to the right, get a drink in the kitchen (everything non-alcoholic is 4 lv), and just pick and choose a room which looks cozy enough (shouldn’t be too hard to find one with all the couches lying around). If you love the music, there are Mac computers in most of the rooms where you can pick something else out of the playlist. Have a game of chess. There is also a Cinema room, if there is nothing running just go in, pick a movie out of the list and start the projection. There is also home- made chocolate and cream and all different kind of organic drinks like Himalayan tea, Kiwi nectar and much more…

Another popular side is Lodkite which is located in Borisova Gradina Park I’ve heard that on warm summer nights, this place is a must-be.

Most of the discos in Sofia are Studentski grad lin the south of the city and cost between 1 and 5 leva. My friends said that the best discos are Avenue, Tantra, Orient 33, Jeam Beam, Maskata, Stroezha – but to tell the truth, I hate fucking discos. I’m a jazz bar guy.

Near the World Trade Center and Russian Embassy was a great coffee shop Jazz bar called One Coffee. I loved it. Laid back, chill, great music, great gin and tonics. Other jazz bars in Sofia I look forward to trying out are:

Franky’s Jazz Club 15 Karnigradska St.

Satchmo Jazz Club. 34 Stamboliiski Blvd, Sofia, Bulgaria Cell (reservations): +359 88 827 74 09 -Located in the center of Sofia where you can enjoy jazz music with your friends while having a bottle of good old Bulgarian red wine. The service is on a good level. Usually there are different bands playing at weekends until 1AM.

La Strada Jazz Club. 6 Septemvri St.

Social Jazz Club. Slaveikov Square 4. Tel: (088) 462 22 20

So, if you head to Bulgaria and want to find a great and vibrant night life, head to Sofia. Now, what were the great spots I missed?

the most useless degree - Anthro

What do those with Anthropology Degrees Do?

A degree in Anthropology is interesting…but as this short excerpt from an article in the Guardian shows…most anthro grads do what they might have done with no degree

Of the anthropology graduates who left university in 2008, 51% were in employment after six months in a diverse range of careers such as advertising and sales (8%), business and finance (6%) and public or private sector management (12%). However, a large number were working in catering (15%) or in clerical roles (20%).

Anthropology graduates also commonly pursue careers in the civil service, conservation and heritage management. “Working for charities and museums, or lecturing, would also be potential options,” adds Holbrough.

Don’t forget about Teaching English in foreign countries, since nearly a third of all the foreign teachers I’ve met thus far hold degrees in Anthro. Of course, teaching is actually great field work since you have to encourage students (subjects) to speak and the easiest thing to get them to talk about is their culture.

Sadly though, this opportunity is no longer what it once was because of the rise of “Voluntourism” in which retired baby boomers are paying hefty fees to go to foreign countries and teach English and because the shriveling of the global jobs market has created an excess of graduates (of all degrees) with no opportunities for a career at home who see teaching English as a foreign language as a means to travel and see the world (which it is).

The result? The average salary for TEFL teachers has dropped nearly 50% over the past four years while the cost of living in most host countries has risen at the same time. In addition, the glut of candidates has made it increasingly difficult to find positions with reputable schools thus leading to situations like the one we recently encountered.

What can you do with an anthropology degree? Well, you can do what I’m about to do. Take a long walk in Izmir and enjoy a sunny day – even if the coal smog is a little bit bothersome. On my walk, I will probably think about money, observe some Turkish culture, and weigh my options- among them – paying for that very interesting degree in Anthropology. :)