December 2016


A guide to busking Europe- the “to’s, not to’s, how to’s and who’s who”

Busking. The modern day activity of the traveling minstrel, singing for his supper, charming the fair maids and locals in each town he passes through. I’ll give you a few tips from my 8 years of playing streets, squares and corners in almost every European country and the U.S.A.

3 helpful tips
  • Be engaging!
    If you are interested in making more than pocket change in your case, you gotta learn to engage.
    I have found making eye contact, smiling, standing up while playing (If at all possible) moving/dancing while playing, speaking to people between songs, playing familiar/popular music and limiting the number of sad/slow songs I play to less than 1/4 of my set has helped my engagement.
  • Know the difference between real police and street police.
    There are usually two types of police in Europe. Street police and real police. Real police, although they appear much more intimidating, are usually less likely to shut you down for playing music in the street. The local city council often requires a permit to busk. Acquiring one of these permissions slips can be quite a process. It is much easier to ask forgiveness than permission.  I have not been fined yet for playing in the street even when I was told it was not permitted.  DO NOT use the local language with police even if you know and understand it. ENGLISH=IGNORANCE. 🙂 use it.
  • Watch out for “territorial” performers
    Seriously. It’s not always a dream to tour Europe street performing. You will often find gypsy or Roma people to be very pushy and accuse you of taking their “spot”. I assure you in these situations EVERY spot in the city is their spot. If you are alone, you may want to back down or at least give a look at surrounding street corners. You can make sure there is not an accomplish of your competition waiting to follow you home.

Just be a friendly and respectful person to all who you encounter and most issues resolve fairly quickly. Listen to, and reach out to friendly and approachable street artists for some tips on good places to play around the city. Click here for a more detailed guide about busking from Do you have any tips or experiences to share of your time on the busking circuit? Share in the comments below.




Paid vacation teaching english in the Ukrainian mountains

Oct 20, 2014…
a random facebook message comes into my inbox from a stranger.
“Hi, I am looking for a native speaker to invite on a paid vacation to communicate with the kids at the Camp in Carpathian mountains. The problem is that it starts in only a week October 27-31, would you possibly be interested?”

This began my relationship with a wonderful Ukrainian friend of mine Olesya. She and her husband Viktor started an English language school in L’viv Ukraine called “Linguistic Center Boyar.” They also arrange weeklong intensive learning camps for young Ukrainians eager to expand their knowledge and practice of English.

Paid vacation teaching English

I responded to Olesya’s facebook message and told her I was interested in hearing more about what this week in camp would look like. Although I wasn’t completely sure if I had just started a conversation with my future kidnapper, so I decided to proceed with caution. I requested a skype interview with Olesya to make sure this friendly and innocent looking blonde woman’s profile pic was in fact, a REAL friendly and innocent blonde woman and not a shaved head former KGB agent running an international kidnapping ring.

After my Skype interview, Oleysa no longer felt threatening. I took an overnight bus to Ukraine a week later. My hosts gave me a tour of a beautiful school they had built in L’viv and shortly after we were boarding some small busses with a few young teachers and lots and lots of kids aged 7-15. We arrived at a beautiful lodge/resort tucked away in the Carpathian mountains. I spent the next 5 days there teaching and participating in some basic English classes and activities.

There were a few overwhelming moments I needed to remind myself of what Olesya had said to me early on  “this is a vacation, not a job.When I saw my time spent in this light it helped me focus on the value of my time. After a week with these lovely teachers, I saw the amazing future they are providing their young students by giving them access to the world of English. This experience easily convinced me of the value of this time spent and it encouraged me to keep a more healthy perspective. Check out the fb page of Boyar Camp for pictures and videos that give a better idea of the excellent work they are doing there.




Have teeth, will travel (medical tourism in Poland)

The title doesn’t sound like much fun other than the clever phrasing. But, saving a couple thousand dollars and getting to enjoy a trip abroad opened my mind and mouth to the idea of medical tourism in Poland.

My story of using dentistry in Poland started with making friends with a dentist’s’ daughter while street performing in Krakow. I was in my early 20’s and never had my wisdom teeth removed. My dentist back in the states took an x-ray and recommended I have them removed. Because I did not have insurance that covered dental services in the USA surgery to remove 4 teeth cost $2500. I mentioned this to my friend Ewa who told me her mother knew a surgeon who would likely be happy to take a look at my x-ray’s and give me an estimated cost.

$60 per tooth!

Off to Poland!

I booked a 2.5-week flight from Chicago to Krakow for around $500 dollars arrived in the morning took a bus to the clinic the same day and had my teeth pulled. I had two days where I didn’t feel like doing much, but after half a week I was already taking self-prescribed medicinal shots of pure polish vodka which served as a pain reliever and bacteria killer. 🙂

Just an interesting angle to look at when considering your next operation dental or medical. For example, Poland has E.U. standards without E.U. prices. An English publisher “The Guardian” wrote an interesting article online a few years back about UK citizens traveling to Poland for medical tourism with some helpful info on how to arrange a trip like this for yourself. Click HERE for a link to the article.

I had a total cost of around $740 dollars for flights and tooth work. I was able to spend another $750 on enjoying Poland. Having surgery in the USA would’ve cost $1000 dollars more! This left me with a clean financial conscience, extra dollars in my pocket and a few less teeth. Getting teeth pulled is never fun. But it can be if you get to travel to another country and save money while doing it!

L’viv orchestra at National Hall for $2.00 / champagne and hot dogs

Would you like to live high class at a low price? Look no further than L’viv, Ukraine.

I had the honor of visiting there a few times in the past couple years. I will write more about other amazing and interesting things I saw there in other posts but this particular experience really stood out to me!  Near the center of L’viv, you will find The National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet. This building is beautiful inside and out. Click HERE for a 360-degree virtual tour. My story is written below.

I was enjoying some time with friends in L’viv when they suggested we go to the National theater that evening. I know how costly these “high brow” events can be in other parts of Europe, but what a surprise I had when we got to the ticket counter.

There were tickets available from 50 UAH (less than $2) or the BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE for 300 UAH ($12). These professional productions included the Nutcracker among others and certainly offer a treat for the eyes and ears. Not only was the performance excellent, but the architecture as well. In keeping with high society I indulged myself in the finer offerings of L’viv. Champagne and hot dogs. Yes, it’s real, click HERE. Only 5-minutes walk from the National Theater.

L’vivs’ National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet is a MUST for anyone with even the most basic interest in the arts. You can also experience a part of local culture for a fraction of the cost in most other European countries.

There are a variety of clever, amusing and beautiful sights as well as activities waiting for you visit in L’viv. I have yet to visit the other major Ukrainian cities of Odessa and Kiev, but the word on the street is they are equally as enchanting.

Photo of Lviv Opera house from Alex Yurko

Tricks for traveling cheap

Want to hear how I got to Europe and back for the cost of a pack of gum? Here are some tricks for traveling cheap!



This is a great way to rack up a pile of miles without spending much more money than you would typically. From time to time credit cards would grant you 40-50k bonus miles after your first purchase made on the credit card. I remember a few years ago literally buying a pack of gum as my first purchase on one of these cards and getting 40k bonus miles. This was enough to fly to USA to Europe and back during off season. I believe I paid 50 cents for the pack of gum and around $5.00 in taxes and fees when I booked my ticket from my local (very expensive) airport here in Michigan to Krakow, Poland.

Although these small-spend huge bonus cards are harder and harder to find some of the best promotions can be found at  The “hot deals” section at the top of the page gives a pretty good overview of what is out there. There are many creative ways to get to the “3k spent within the first 3 months” threshold including paying income taxes on the card for a small fee, or property tax or car and house insurance. Get creative!


There are many, many low-cost carriers these days, especially in Europe. If you are willing to be flexible with your days of travel you can find flights as low as 1 cent tax and fees may be 5 bucks. But you get the idea. If you have an open mind and let the lowest cost flights guide your next travel move you will be more likely to explore new places and be surprisingly satisfied as you may have NO expectations about the place your low cost flight is taking you. Also this often leads to a focus more on the locals and their culture, and less emphasis on tourist attractions. A spontaneous and engaging conversation in Lviv can be more memorable than a 1000 paintings in the Louvre. For some guidance about low cost airlines see below




Borderland (standing on the edge)

You can see the walls and wire in the distance; heavy defenses with the threat of injury if you choose to go further into the borderland.

the unknown.

Your friends told you “don’t go”. Your parents say “it’s dangerous” but you know that the only wrong move would be to “make no move at all”. The consequence of staying put equals death to your soul, the consequence of leaving into the unknown is a definite resistance from many around you who tell you they have your best interest in mind. You are in the borderland.

This choice to shift places or “step across the border” in your life may never take place geographically. It doesn’t have to.

There are so many daily “uphill battle” choices to make that require a movement of mind more than of location. Maybe it’s the choice to quit your day job and start your own business, or the choice to end an unhealthy but familiar relationship. Maybe it’s choosing to forgive and put justice second, or a choice to shake up your daily routine, leave the familiar behind and find more fulfilling and purpose orientated ways to spend your time.

No doubt if you manage to live a few decades more you will likely come to regret things you did NOT do far more than things you did. This process can involve reaching out to your inner child and listening to why you may not have the confidence to take these important next steps. You can click HERE for a brief overview of the “inner child” concept.

4 ways to electrify/ passionate living

There is a light bulb in your brain, full of potential to shine, radiate light, creativity, and ideas. But without electricity flowing into it, it will remain a dull, unlit, useless piece of glass. How can we find our way back to passionate living? In my own experience, traveling has helped me find new, creative and helpful thoughts that have pushed my personal development further ahead causing a “breakthrough” in my emotional gridlock or triggered an avalanche of business ideas that are just waiting to hatch into success.

I ask myself why it is so easy to have these thoughts and feelings while abroad and so difficult when I am in my hometown back in The States? Is it really the new sights, smells, and experiences that cause this inspiration? (It’s true well-made tiramisu and flavored polish vodka do inspire) but maybe it’s something more… something else that happens to me while traveling that “allows” these new and fresh thoughts? To oversimplify… Make useful space in your life. Here are 4 ideas to add electricity to that bulb in your brain.

1. Leave.   There is nothing like “leaving” that can free your mind. The old adage “out of sight out of mind” certainly holds true in this area. When you do not see your office, have business phone calls, or a “to do” list staring at you from the fridge it becomes much easier for your mind to create its own independent fresh thoughts. Leave your familiar surroundings and DON’T plan every moment of your travel. Don’t plan to sit idle in the sun on the beach ALL day either. Make sure there are a minimum of a few hours each day unscheduled and unplanned to walk around, observe, reflect or read a book that will not only entertain but inspire.

2. Be intentional about having quiet time. The second best thing to leaving the distractions of life behind is making time to be quiet. It requires much more discipline to schedule quiet time and observe these holy hours while at home surrounded by the distractions of your daily routine than it does while traveling. If you commit to the idea of setting aside a bit of time each day to have NOTHING scheduled You are on your way to exercising your mind in a way that will bring new experiences (internal and external) into your life.

3.Prioritize a healthy emotional state. There is nothing that can sabotage creativity and motivation faster than unhealthy relationships. These kinds of relationships oppress and distract our minds. They don’t allow much “space” for dreaming up the next million dollar invention. Or more valuable yet, the next steps towards self-awareness and understanding.

4.Pursue an art. Studies have shown that art in a variety of forms increases intelligence, emotional well-being, creativity, attention, and cognition. There is an exploration that takes place in art. While we create, we explore our emotions and minds to find “something” to say. Whether it be with a brush, a voice, and instrument or a pen. It will start you down a path of exploring corners of your mind you may not have visited for a long long time.