I’m asked often, “how do you figure out where to go next?” or “how do you come up with these crazy itineraries?”… most importantly, “how do you afford it all?”

Let’s get into each question – I’ve been to 29 countries. Not a lot by many European standards, but a ton for the average American. I’ve also been to every state in the USA. My goal is to get to 50 countries by the time I turn 50…. And I’d like to hike to highest point in each state by the time I’m 50. I have until 2030 to make this happen.

HOW do I decide where to go? I try to break it down few ways… Personal aspirations, did Bourdain go there? And lastly, who am I following and where have they been?

I follow several Instagram accounts devoted to travel and photography and this is where geotagging comes in handy.

If someone tags a location, I open it up in Google Maps and then star it for future use. See below for my “wishlist” in South America.

How do I come up with some of the itineraries? I travel with a plan, travelling with me is exhausting. I go with the attitude that I may never return to a place, so “SEE ALL THE THINGS” – With that, I still pick the Must-do sights and sounds. Example, I personally couldn’t go to Peru without going to Machu Picchu, or in Thailand, there was no way I was going and not seeing the Phi Phi Islands…. after that, I refer to the what’s on my Google Maps, then check to see where Bourdain visited or ate… and then lastly, I simply ask Google “what to do in X city for X amount of days” – Then I end up in a blog like this one!

Lastly, how do I afford all this? In my late teens, I was fortunate to live in Europe as my father’s job was located near London for 4 years. It allowed my family and I to tour all over Western Europe, and unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures from them… it was the 90s and not much has been digitized since. When I moved back to America, I focused on my studies in University and growing my career in the Automotive industry. Time and money to travel extensively just weren’t a luxury I had. From 1999 until 2012 I didn’t even leave North America! At least I chipped away at the states during that time. I was 32 when I made it back to Europe and went to the London Olympics and saw old friends. Since then the travel bug has been back with a vengeance. How do I do it? Well, I’m not rich, but I do okay, I travel a fair amount for work, which allows me to accrue loyalty points with airlines and hotels… but that still isn’t enough to travel extensively.

Flights: Hopper, Google Flights, Skyscanner. In that order. Additionally, there’s a blog I follow for my local airports that constantly posts amazing prices that you need to act on in about 72 hours. I’ve scored a few deal on it there before and constantly share their posts with my friends on social media.

Lodging: Depends to be honest. If I just need a place to sleep and store my stuff securely, airbnb and couchsurfing are my go-to’s. If it’s more of a beach holiday, then maybe I’ll burn my Hilton or Marriott points. If the above methods aren’t viable, then I look to hotel.com for a deal.

This is just a start of what goes into trip planning. After that comes spreadsheets and so much planning to limit any problems when I’m in a foreign country.