How I Can Afford To Travel!

My most REVEALING post to date! If you've been wondering how the hell I've been able to last traveling this long, well here it is! All secrets are out in the open! This post tells you how I do it, and how YOU can do it too!

Read More

Working On A Cruise Ship

I somehow managed to get myself a job working at a Cruise Ship. This post is an inside look on what it's really like to live and work below deck. You never know... You might be enticed to work for one too, and travel the whole world like me! Read on to find out more...

Read More

Scotland: My Favorite Country In The World

I've been to many places in several different continents, and have seen spectacular beauty... But every time I visit Scotland, every other country pales in comparison. Read this post to find out why at this point, Scotland was and still is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on Earth...

Read More

On Finding My Bliss In Italy

When you go on big trips like this, however cheesy it sounds, you always do end up 'finding yourself'. And there are moments... difinitive moments when you achieve clarity, contentment, and pure happiness. This all happened to me in Italy. Read my most soulful post to date, inspired by the full moon in Italia...

Read More

On Being Featured In A Documentary

I somehow managed to get myself featured in an upcoming documentary about "Voluntourism". This may be the big break I've been waiting for! The trailer is out - and I'm in it! It looks so good, I'm so excited! See for yourself... watch it here!

Read More

An Epiphany At Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy. We hiked 5 villages in one day, and it was breathtaking! But something completely unexpected happened on the hike... An encounter with a complete stranger made me realize possibly one of the most important things I need to do with my life...

Read More

My Ayahuasca Experience

Ayahuasca, is by far, the most INTENSE thing I have ever experienced in my life. I died and was reborn. It is both horrific and beautiful at the same time... I can't explain it in a few words. You HAVE to read my story to believe... I promise it will be worth your while...

Read More

Search

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Earth2Eartha's Travel Hacks: Nifty Tips for the Practical Traveler




While I was still working for the ship, I held a series of talks for the crew, called, "Travel Talks with Eartha". It was a mini event arranged by our Crew Enrichment Director, open to anyone who's ever wanted to learn about how to travel smart, and on a budget, straight from a professional cheapskate like me.



I didn't expect the turnout to be as great as they were, that I actually had to do the events a few times to accommodate everyone that wanted to participate and learn. 

It was also really great to be able to share my story with everyone... Letting them know about alternative ways to travel, and getting out of their comfort zones.

I figured, since people were interested in the little tips and tricks I had to share, as well as the things I did on my travels that helped me stretch my dollar, I may as well write a post about it!

So to those of you on the ship who missed my talk, and to anyone else who's interested in the knowledge I've gained over the years of traveling, I bring you:


Earth2Eartha's Travel Hacks! Nifty Tips For The Practical Traveler!



ON BOOKING YOUR FLIGHTS


Google Flights

...is a revelation. It is my go-to website for looking at the cheapest flights available. It gives you a snapshot of the cheapest days to fly in a month, therefore giving you the best option, money-wise! I don't know about you - but I almost ALWAYS base my travel plans around the cheapest days.




For instance - above is a snapshot of the monthly/daily price comparisons of a one way flight out of LAX going to London (my usual destination). If you look at the month of December - it already highlights the cheapest days to fly out of the month. You may not see it, but December 5 and 6 are the cheapest at $180.

If, for instance, like me, you don't usually have a solid destination yet, but are flexible enough depending on the cost of the ticket to get there, Google also has this "Explore" feature that gives you an idea of price comparison per country/destination, coming from your home airport.

For example - On December 5, if I'm not satisfied with a $180 one way ticket to London, I can just type "Europe" as my destination, and this is what Google will show me:



It has all of the cheapest flights to all of those countries on the day that you pick, to give you an idea of cost.

Which brings me to my next point.

If You Want to Fly To Europe - Fly to London!

Not a lot of people know this, but flights to London from the US are usually very cheap (if you live in a big city). It is, in fact - the cheapest flight you can take to get out of the country to get to Europe (As I have illustrated in my previous example, prices start at $180 for December... And the flight I booked earlier this year only cost me $160 coming out of LAX)

Norwegian Airlines and Wow Air are two of the most affordable airlines at the moment. They are both International budget airlines, the latter of which came out more recently and is cheaper, but always has a stopover in Iceland. I, for one, am a very big fan of Norwegian Airlines because of their direct flights to London, and I've been flying with them for years! But on my upcoming trip this November, out of sheer curiosity (and blogging purposes), I decided to test out Wow Air to experience it for myself. (Watch this space for a review!)


When you get to London, the flights out of there to mostly anywhere in Europe is very cheap!

For instance, last year, I knew I wanted to go to Croatia. Instead of flying straight from LAX to Zadar and spend a little over $1000, I flew to London first, then took a flight out of there instead, thereby saving me about $500! Hurrah!


Set Up Price Alerts


Websites like Hopper and Airfare Watchdog notify you when the prices for the flights you are watching out for, drop! You can give them an estimated time - perhaps the week you'd like to travel, and where... And they will send you alerts when the prices go low!

Hopper in particular lets you know whether or not the prices are expected to rise after a certain date, and will give you solid advice by saying - "This is probably the lowest it will be, and so I'd book this now."


Airline Email Feeds and Frequent Flyer

A lot of airlines send you emails regarding "Flash Sales" or Promo's that Google Flights won't be able to show you (JetBlue, Southwest and United are examples). Signing up for ALL of the frequent flyer programs of any airline that you fly with is a good idea, too! Any trip that you take without accumulating some sort of miles is money wasted. 



Using Websites For Multi-Destination Travel

If you are planning to travel to a lot of destinations for a significant amount of time (6 weeks to a few months, maybe?) and you already know the countries/cities/places you'd like to visit - it may be worth it to use websites like AirTreks or BootsnAll. They make round the world or multi destination travel easier and simpler.

I used AirTreks on the first leg of my Round The World Trip where I traveled to about 7 or 8 cities in the span of 7 weeks. I find that it is best to call them to talk to an agent. They work with you regarding your dates and your destinations, and they give you all of the cheapest/practical options - considering not only price factors, but flight times and layovers as well.

I saved a LOT of money using their service, and they saved me a lot of time and effort figuring all of that stuff out myself.


DELETE Cookies!


A lot of the travel websites use your search history against you, and when booking flights - sometimes raise the prices based on your flight searches. "Cookie Tracking" is for realz. This has happened to me several times, (my laptop showed a significantly higher price on a flight than my friend's mobile device --- I did an experiment!) and so I have often made it a habit to delete cookies (or go on incognito mode!)and delete history on my phone and laptop!


Stopover Programs

There are several airlines that offer free stopovers - so that instead of waiting for a connecting flight, you are able to explore that city for a few days at no extra charge!

For instance, if you booked a flight to go to London via Icelandair or Wow, they will always have a layover in Reykjavik. Since you're already there - they will give you the option to "stopover" to explore Iceland for a few days, free of charge! And you can just hop on the flight over to London a few days later. 





The Airlines that I know of who offer Free Stopovers are:

Icelandair, Wow, Etihad, Hawaiian Air, Thai Air, Copa, Turkish Air, KLM, Air Canada, TAP Portugal and Finnair.


ON BOARD AND LODGING

Rather than staying at a hotel (which I am notoriously known to avoid), I have explored all other options, including the following:


  • Staying with Friends and Family

    • It really pays to know people all over the world! Be nice to everyone and you will be rewarded tenfold! :)

    • This is the option that raises a LOT of eyebrows, but I have had some amazing experiences (and one bad one) and met SO many interesting people through this website. The house or couch that you'll be staying in may be a hit or miss - so you'll have to be prepared for this, but the experience itself (because of the people you meet) is rewarding. Plus - it's absolutely free!
This is the home of one of my Couchsurfing hosts in New Zealand!

    • When I was traveling by myself - I LOVED staying at Hostels. It's a great way to meet people, it's cheap, and it's always so much fun. I always made friends, staying at hostels... and some of my most exciting adventures while traveling happened with people that I've met at a hostel! Could be a roommate, or the staff, or just random people that I've met at the common area! There's a common misconception about hostels being really nasty --- but that's where your researching efforts come in! I myself only book hostels with raving reviews on Tripadvisor or Hostelworld... All you need to do is make a little effort.
One of the best hostels I've stayed in - Home in Lisbon, Portugal

    • Probably my favorite thing ever! It's a cheaper alternative to a hotel, it's has a very homely touch, you can choose to either be in a private home all to yourself, or book a room in a house and interact (as much or as less as you want) with the hosts and or other guests, you get a local/inside scoop on the city you are visiting - from a local's perspective, I mean - it's everything. (Airbnb, if you're reading this... would you hire me?)
This is one of my favorite Airbnb houses - Location: Bruges, Belgium


PACKING HACKS

First of all - do not over pack. Whatever you think you'll need, you'll most likely only use half of those... What I do is I lay out all the clothes and things I want to bring, and then once I think I have everything, I toss half of them back into my closet and stick to whatever I have. I've gotten so good at being an "underpacker", but even then, there are a few articles of clothing that I think I could have done without on previous trips!

  • Use a BACKPACK

    • It's easier than lugging a wheeled luggage around - especially in Europe.
      COBBLESTONES.

  • Use Packing Cubes

    • They keep things nice and organized

  • Use Vacuum Sealed Packs

    • They really REALLY give you a lot more space. And if you don't have a vacuum cleaner, it's okay... you can roll the air out of it manually!

  • Use Compression Sacks

    • Similar to a vacuum pack, only round, and squishes everything into a small ball.

  • Roll. Don't Fold.

    • You save a lot more space this way

  • Dryer Sheets

    • I leave a few sheets in my backpack to keep things laundry fresh!




VOLUNTOURISM (WORK EXCHANGE)

I call this my secret weapon. If you have at least a few weeks of vacation time and want to experience an alternative way of traveling, consider Volunteering via websites like WorkAway, HelpExchange, or WWOOFING.

You can work for a few hours a day in the location of your choosing, in exchange for board & lodging and food. I've written about my experiences on several of my blog posts. You can check them out here.


You don't get paid - but you're not shelling out any cash either. What you get in return is a wealth of experience and a big wad of fun! You get immersed in the culture, you learn first hand about their language, their food (my favorite bit!) and the way they live. Way more than what you would get from a random excursion, or from a guide book. My experiences voluntouring are some of the most memorable and unforgettable I have ever had. 


ON EARNING SOME MONEY FOR/WHILE TRAVELING

The key to making some money on the road (if you need it, or if you are traveling that long) is to USE YOUR SKILLS. Some of the things you can do - that I have seen other people do to earn a little bit of cash on the road are the following:


  • Street Performing

    • Are you a musician? Do you know how to play an instrument? Do you have rhythm? Use it! Throw down a hat and play for some cash on the streets. I have done this once myself, and in a country where no one knows who you are - It's a lot of fun!

  • Sell Handmade Goods

    • I've encountered a lot of people on the road who sell handmade jewelry, hair ornaments, etc! I have recently taken up knitting, and I fully intend to use my new found skills to use one day!

  • Bartend 

    • You'd be surprised, but a lot of hostels, and bars/restaurants hire skilled bartenders and pay them under the table.

  • Teach English

    • I have taught English (without a TOEFL certification) in Brazil, was paid cash, and was able to make a living and survive! I have a training background that helped me out - but honestly, what really got me hired was my American Accent. Brazil is not the only country that hires foreigners to teach English, either! And if you want to do it the legal way, well - I hear China, Japan, Korea and Prague are in need of English Teachers right now. It's a pretty good gig!

  • Seasonal Work

    • Check out websites like Cool Works to learn about seasonal employment. Get hired to work at a resort for 4 months, earn some cash, have fun, get some experience... and at the same time - explore the city/town/country that you're in on your days off! (This is exactly what I'm about to do this winter in Alaska!)

  • Cruise Ship Work

    • Ok - I know I just quit this job. But even if it's not for me anymore, doesn't mean it can't work out for you! Everything is paid for while you're working at the ship. You get to save all the money that you earn... And if you're lucky, you get assigned to a ship that goes to your dream destination, like Australia or The Baltics, or Western Europe! Then you go on vacation for months at a time --- and if you want to keep traveling, you can!

  • Work Online

    • Everyone is a digital nomad nowadays! Try to check out websites like Upwork or FlexJobs for online work! You can get a part time or full time gig, depending on the hours that you can give. There are also a lot of online English Classes that you can do (VIP Kid or 51Talk are a couple examples), and the hours are very flexible! The sky is the limit!


And there you have it! These are some of the things I've learned along the way that I thought maybe could help anyone who's interested in practical travel! I hope this helps get your foot out the door!

What are your own personal travel hacks? Please share by posting in the comments section below. :)




Thursday, October 26, 2017

On The End Of An Era And The Start Of Something New




ALOHA!!!

Yes - That's me coming out of a pit! I have come back from the dead (It's almost Halloween after all), stretched my chubby little fingers, and decided to start writing again!  

I know... I know... I realize that with  more than a year of being on hiatus, I may have lost most, if not all of my readers. I also am not amiss to the fact that I would almost have to start over, to gain everyone's interest again - and I'm fine with that. It's my fault I stopped writing :(

However, I am back - and I'm hoping that with the recent changes in my circumstances, I will be able to continue writing as I have in the past. I have missed my blog... a lot. So much so that in the last year, I've been going through my old posts, feeling like I'm reading about the life of someone else. 
(*tear*... Who is this Eartha person?? I want to be her frieeeennddd... Waaaaah!)

LOST AT SEA


Okay, let's go back, shall we?

When you all lost me, I was working at the Cruise Ship, as most of you may remember.


In this job, and everything that came with it (i.e. rules and regulations, stress, toxicity, lack of sunlight, lack of time, etc) I feel that I may have lost myself a little bit. 


Everyone has this glamorous (and fun) impression of #cruiseshiplife -- and for a lot of younger folks, it actually *is* a pretty cool career. (I've even written about what it's REALLY like to work for a ship here.


I mean, I can't blame people for thinking that, really... Because all I do is post photos of myself riding dolphins and turtles all day.




However, regardless of how fun it was exploiting those awesome animals, my position held a lot of responsibility. And with responsibility, came a lot of stress. There is also something very peculiar about the ship I was working for, that made me feel like there was a Dementor, hovering above me all the time... sucking my soul out, little by little. 



And what did I do to make myself feel better? 
Like a true Harry Potter fan, I ate chocolate. 

(And other junk...like bacon...and...and... I really don't want to talk about it.)


And so for years, I was stressed out, my soul was being sucked out by a (fictional) invisible hooded shadowy thing, and I was gaining a crap ton of weight.


Your common sense really has a tendency to emerge in moments of extreme clarity... (and for me, it was the 3rd time my button popped out of my uniform, combined with a twitching left eye and a migraine that wouldn't go away) After that, it didn't take a lot of time for me to realize that the job wasn't for me anymore. I definitely wasn't happy. 


I realize I'm making it seem like the job is godawful - and it's really not. I had a lot of fun, too... (i.e. LipSync Battle) But I've outgrown the job and the position in so many ways... And I think what it really was, was that I was constantly missing the ME that I have come to be when I was out there, traveling the world. I was carefree, inspired, apeshit happy - and - I can't believe I'm actually going to say this, but - incredibly fit! Yes. I was sssmokin' hot!!!

I didn't think so back then (which is a stupid shame), but compared to my current Michelin Man womanly figure, I was rockin' a pretty great and healthy body back then without even trying! 


Earth2Eartha got lost... (at sea.)


But the job/career/lifestyle of working at the ship served me pretty well, too, because I got to travel a lot during my vacations... And if I'm being completely honest, I think that was the reason why I held on for so long. The fringe benefits of the job outweighed the misery of actually working my job.


Anytime I thought about quitting, I thought to myself - where else could I find a career that allows me 4 months of paid vacation in a year? And so I stuck it out...

But then I started rationalizing the quality of life that I was sacrificing 8 months out of the year. If I was in complete misery for 2/3 of my life - does that even make anything worth it anymore?

And the answer is no


So after a long internal deliberation, I finally decided to exercise my freedom of choice, to take myself OUT of a situation that didn't make me happy anymore. I chose to be responsible for my life and my happiness (like we all ought to). I put my foot down, and in true Earth2Eartha fashion, decided to take yet another leap of faith.





Last May, I turned in my notice, gave them a few months to figure out what to do about my replacement, and on October 14th, 2017 - I said goodbye to the ship (and Hawaii) one last time.


Read: I'm FREEEEEE!!!!


INTO THE WILD


When I decided I was done and I wanted to resign, I didn't have a plan. It truly would have been the first time I decided to leave a job without some kind of fallback. When I quit to travel the world in 2013 - the plan WAS to travel the world. This time, I had nothing. All I knew was that I was done - and knowing I didn't want to do it anymore was enough for me. But because the Universe is kind, and she knew that I was on the path to following my heart once again, an opportunity manifested!

And so come this winter, I will be working at a Ski Resort in ALASKA!





Is that a plot twist or what?

That's right. I'm going from Hawaii to Alaska. I'm trading volcanoes for glaciers... wild chicken for wild bears... and rainbows for --- wait for it --- Aurora Borealis. ;)


Well, it is a SEASONAL employment, so I'm only going to be working there from December to April. In essence, this job just buys me the time that I need to figure stuff out. I'll be working at the front desk in Guest Services, living at their employee housing facility across the street (in an apartment with a living room and a kitchen), with two days off. I know this sounds completely mundane to the normal - but this is freaking AWESOME for a former cruise ship worker! For someone who used to work 7 days a week, stuck in a tiny room in a ship and hardly ever got out, this sounds like a dream already! :)


I admit. I probably could have chosen a more enticing snowy photo. But there it is.

Why all the way North, you ask? Let's see... I've spent the last 3 years in the scorching heat, gallivanting around the Caribbean and Hawaii, donning flip flops and a tank top. If I'm looking for a bit of a change... I think the question should be - Why the heck not Alaska? :)




Earth2Eartha Resurrected

Now that I have a lot of time in my hands - I actually might be able to do this again on a regular basis! Like I said - I've traveled a lot on vacation and I never got to share any of those trips... and I've gone to some really amazing places. I'm getting ready to go on a few trips in the near future, too... So I'll keep you posted ;)

I fully intend to share a lot of the past trips I've taken, as well as keep everyone in the know on the adventures up North in the blistering cold. 


But for now, I leave you with this beautiful quote from Bill Haley and His Comets...

"See you later, alligator...

    After while, crocodile..."





Thursday, June 29, 2017

On What It’s Really Like to Work for a Cruise Ship


I’ve been asked this question a lot lately. And although working for this industry for the past couple years doesn’t necessarily make me an expert, I think I may be credible enough to shed some light on this very mysterious and elusive career.
See – the problem is that quite a few people probably have a very misguided idea of what working on a cruise ship is like. Some think it's glamorous - for good reason. The ships are beautiful… they travel to all these exotic places… there’s constant booze and entertainment… overflowing with delicious food… Which is all true.

For the guests.

Not for the crew.

On the other hand, some of you may have the misconception that crew members are treated like slaves in a floating prison. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration too.

It's a little better than prison.

So please allow me to set things straight – both for the curious cats who are interested, and also for my fellow crew members who are wrongly perceived. It’s time they found out the truth.



Let’s Start With…


THE PROS


1. THE VACATION.
 



Truly, for me, the best part about working for a cruise ship is THE VACATION. If you are living in the United States – you only get about 2 weeks of paid vacation per year. With tenure, some lucky folks get to accumulate more the longer they stay with the company. Still doesn’t beat this though.

My rotation is 4 months on, 2 months off. Which means I get about 4 months of vacation total per year. The majority of the crew members on my  current ship work 5 months on, with a 5 week vacation right after.

But I have to admit, my ship is a little different from the rest.

The crew members on the other ships usually work 6-9 months on, 2 – 3 months off.
Still not bad, right?

2. YOU GET TO SAVE MONEY --- If you’re smart.

When you’re at the ship, everything is paid for. Food, lodging, laundry, EVERYTHING. I can technically go for a full contract without spending a dime.

I do not have an apartment or a mortgage. Sold my car before I did my round theworld backpacking adventure. I don’t have any utility bills or insurances that I need to worry about. Nada.

So for me, this set-up is ideal. That even if the salary is lower than my previous corporate job, my take-away or my “cash on hand” is either even, or a little higher because I am factoring out the bills I used to have to pay.

If you are in the Philippines, or somewhere in South East Asia, or Eastern Europe, or South America, or the Caribbean– the salary is even better because you earn in US Dollars, not in your currency. Great opportunity to save and send money home to your families and loved ones. 

Now – if you are American, and you still have a mortgage, or an apartment, or bills to pay, and nothing changes in your lifestyle, and you decided to work on the ship --- this may not be the job for you if your sole purpose is to try to save some money. I would whip out a calculator and make a huge analysis before I take this job. Some positions make this worth it though… say if you were a higher ranking officer or a manager. Otherwise, I would think and calculate.

3. IT IS DIVERSE 




It is seriously a United Colors of Benetton advertisement, when you are sitting at the crew mess having dinner with a dude from Jamaica, a chick from Peru, a guy from South Africa, and a nice lady from Nepal. These companies take on crew members that hail from all over the world, and it’s really super fun to get to meet all these people and learn about their cultures.


 When I just got started and I was working on one of our International ships, meeting people from all over the world was definitely one of my favorite things about the job --- it made me feel like I hadn’t stopped traveling. 



My current ship is sort of unique in that we are the only US Flag ship in the world, so by law, we are required to have about 75% American workers, and 25% International.

But… it’s still fun… you know… getting to know someone from… uh… Delaware…




Shenanigans at the Crew Bar

4. YOU GET TO TRAVEL

And I mean this in 2 ways.

1st – If you get assigned to a ship that has an amazing itinerary, then it’s a win-win! Some of our ships go to Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and pretty soon – China. You may as well toss out your piggy bank because there’s no way in hell you’ll be able to save money if your itinerary is any of the above. How can you resist NOT seeing those places if your ship takes you there? You have to take advantage of the opportunity – I mean I would. I took this job so I could continue to travel! And being assigned to see those places is a dream.
My first ship took me to the Caribbean - and I hadn't seen any of those places before, so --- score!
This was in Cozumel, Mexico


I think this may have been Costa Maya or Roatan in the Honduras. I can't even remember anymore.


2nd – If you get assigned to a ship that has an itinerary that you don’t really care for, then you can save up the money you earn and travel during your 2 month vacation! Which is exactly what I do!

I am permanently assigned to our Hawaiian ship, and it’s pretty spectacular! But if you’re there year round, you can hardly consider that traveling anymore, especially if you look like a local. So after my 4 month contract, off to wherever-else-I-haven’t-been-to I go!


Beautiful photo I took of the Napali Coast in Hawaii

THE CONS


1. YOU WORK 7 DAYS A WEEK – NO DAYS OFF.


I’m not kidding. This is basically a 24/7 job. No rest for the wicked, type.  On average, a crew member works about 10 hour days, 7 days a week. You’d think it’s all fun and games, but it’s really not. It’s hard work.

In fact, some days, I find myself staring into the ceiling of my small cabin, wishing for at least one day off - out of my 4 months. I was wishing for 1 day out of 4 months!!! And my contract isn’t even that long. The other crew members who are working 8 – 9 months are probably wanting to throw their shoe at me right now.
It’s a lifestyle that you have to get used to. No weekends. No “Happy Friday’s”. Those don’t mean squat.



2. LIVING ARRANGEMENTS – Dorm style.
Like in college, only worse.

It’s not going to be easy for most to have to adjust to living with 3 or 4 other people in a small confined space, especially if one has never lived with other people before.
Because of the position that I am in, I am one of the more fortunate ones who get to enjoy the privilege of having a solo cabin. It’s small – but it never really bothered me as long as I was by myself.
This is my current cabin. And that's Falcor, my dog.

 The majority of the other crew members live with 2 to 3 other people in a very small living space, and that could be a major issue for some people. If you are lucky, you get roomed with people who are fun and you actually get along with. This is the dream. 

Essentially, this is what a (contraband) Cabin Party looks like, in a normal Crew Cabin :) It's nice and snug.

If not… If you get roomed with someone weird, or messy, or OCD, or someone who is downright crazy --- then, good luck.

A friend of mine said she woke up in the middle of the night to her roommate staring at her. Naked.

This story gave me nightmares for weeks.

3. CABIN FEVER

Sometimes you're too busy, and you have a crap schedule, that you don't really have time to get off the ship. And sometimes because you're so busy, that even if you do, you'd rather sleep. Living and working and eating and breathing inside the ship can make one go a little crazy if one doesn't take care of one's self. You don't really have the luxury of driving out to a pub to meet up with your friends after a hard day's work. All you have is the crew bar. And you have to watch your alcohol intake, because cruise ships have a very strict alcohol policy (Your BAC can't go over .04). 

Let's see... What were my favorite things to do on land after work, that I couldn't really do while I'm on the ship:
  • Grocery Shop and then Cook
  • Go and watch a movie
  • Happy Hour Thursdays with my friends
  • Happy Hour any day with my my friends
  • Boxing & Muay Thai 
  • Watch a concert/show
  • Go have a picnic in a park
Yeah. I miss all of that. But at least I don't do the dishes. And I don't do my own laundry.
Silver lining!

4. MISSING YOUR LOVES

It's definitely difficult being away from your loved ones. I have a relationship with my phone, which is reliant on WiFi on the ship that is expensive, even for crew. I've seen my little nephew grow up via photo messages and video chats. I can't even imagine how much harder it is for crew members who have families and kids back home, being gone for months at a time. It's definitely a sacrifice.


Look at that CUTIE!!!

IN CONCLUSION


This job is not for everyone. It's a lifestyle choice, and it either suits you or it doesn't. Having said that - I really do think that the experience of working at the cruise ship is what you make of it. I know a lot of people who have made a lifetime career out of it, that allowed them to pay off debt, buy a house, and send their kids to college... not to mention, travel the whole world!

I also know people who quit after working for a day. Claustrophobia or something. And good for them... better quit earlier than endure something you clearly don't like. 

As for me -- at the moment, it works. I think at the beginning I resisted the idea. I thought I was only going to do one contract... and now I'm on my fourth. Time flies...

I don't know how long I'm going to be able to do this, but I'll stay as long as it works for me and my chosen lifestyle.

My first instinct on my first few days on the ship was to quit. So I went from hating it... To tolerating it... to appreciating it... to -- now, not thinking it's so bad after all. I focus on the perks... The reasons why it's great... I focus on the PROS.

Besides... once you've gotten used to the long hours, the 70 hour work weeks, the cabin fever and the sea sickness... Working at the ship can actually be a lot of fun.

Well, I... at least make my own fun. ;)







Have you worked for a cruise ship? Are you interested in working for my ship? Leave me a comment below and I'll help you get started!





Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Worst Travel Experiences




On my previous post about traveling alone, I've mentioned that my purse was stolen in Buenos Aires, and said it was probably the worst thing that's ever happened to me while I was on the road.

Uh.. That's actually..... debatable.

Even though I did lose about 500 USD, my credit cards, ID, and phone, and I felt completely violated... there were actually a couple more "unspeakable" incidents that never made it to this blog... and i didn't write about it then - for several reasons. The biggest of which is that I didn't want anyone to worry about me, especially my family.

Why write about it now? Well - I guess I thought maybe people could learn a thing or two from what had happened to me. I used to have a little shame or embarrassment about it in the past because I wanted to encourage people to get out there and see the world, or at least get out of their comfort zones ---- NOT scare them away.


Looking back though, I guess they weren't THAT scary anyway. And if anything, I'd like to make sure that everyone understands that with good preparation, a proper mindset and sheer willpower (OK, and maybe a little bit of luck), there's always a way to get yourselves out of danger. 

THE ONE ABOUT THE ABOMINABLE AUSTRALIAN BOGAN



I was in Uruguay doing the backpacking route down the coast of the country jumping from one beach to the other when I came across a really nice and fun hostel by the shore.

It was one of those places where everyone that was staying there just became quick friends because of how the bar and the lounge was set up. It was conducive and encouraged "participation". 


In my dorm room of 6 beds, I only had one roommate -- The Abominable Australian Bogan (AAB). Huge guy, about 6 feet 5, a little older, but with a young spirit. 

Him and I hung out by default, just to keep each other company. We joined the other hostel guests for pre-dinner drinks down by the lounge, but decided to do dinner somewhere else.

We walked a little bit, found a nice restaurant, had a great dinner, great conversation. He even paid! Said he really appreciated the company. I thought it was sweet.

OK I would like to make it clear that there was absolutely NO flirting involved here. Not on my part, at least. And IF he was (and I doubt he did), then I never picked up on it.

In fact, when we went back to the hostel, him and I hung out with different groups of people. I went over to the young exchange students, and he went over to the adults. He must have turned in early because I didn't see him for the rest of the night. 



This was my crowd at our hostel under the moonlight in Punta Del Diablo, Uruguay

I came back to the room, he was still awake, just playing with his phone. I said hi, talked his ear off about this young college dude that tried to hit on me just then, and we both laughed about his failed efforts with me.

Everything was completely platonic, totally friendly.

Until a few minutes later when the lights were out and we were both just fiddling around with our gadgets that he freaking crawled onto my bed, and said something lame like - "So I want you to show me your blog from your iPad."

"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" I yelled as he sort of tried to maneuver his way on top of me.


He was like, "Come on, it will be fun."

Thank goodness for the little self defense trick I learned from one of my friends --- I was wearing a little hair tie on my wrist, attached to a key. I call this move, the "Deadly Key Fist". (I wrote about this on my Self Defense Article)





I slipped the key into my fingers and aimed it (sharp edge) at his eye and said,
"I swear to GOD, Dude, if you don't get off of me, I will fucking stab you in the eye! I'll do it!!! Get off of me!"

He went a little cross-eyed as he tried to focus on the sharp weapon about to poke him in the eye, and then backed off.

"Awww Really?" he said as he jumped out of my bed, laughing to himself - I think to mask his nerves or shock. 


"Oh my God, Abominable Australian Bogan! Jeezas!" I said to him angrily, but he said nothing. He just went back to bed as if nothing happened.

I, on the other hand, packed my stuff with lightning speed, and dashed out of that room. I went down to the receptionist and said - "Listen, I cannot stay in that room. That dude is an asshole. You need to put me in another dorm."

The receptionist, seeing my disheveled hair and wild eyes, looked like she wanted to say something or ask what happened... but I stopped her and said I just would rather not talk and just to please give me another room.

She didn't say another word and handed me another key.

I left before anyone in the hostel even woke up, to catch my very early bus ride back to Montivideo... Thanking my lucky stars that I didn't use that hair tie to pull my hair up that night.




THE ONE ABOUT THE JACKASS COUCHSURFING HOST NINCOMPOOP


When I went to Rio for the 2014 Rio Carnival, I couchsurfed at this place in the center of Rio, owned by 4 Brazilian guys. They were, apparently, the premiere Couchsurfing Hosts/Spot in Rio. I had to "apply" to surf with them by submitting some kind of essay about myself and what I could "contribute" to the group -- as apparently they were hosting a whole bunch of people, and I was fighting for my spot.

Really.
I know, right?


To my defense, they had about a million excellent reviews, and the idea of coming into Rio with a whole house full of surfers/travelers really appealed to me, especially since I was traveling alone. Which is why when they "approved" me - I was over the moon excited! It was such an ideal scenario, coming into Rio for the Carnival with an instant group of friends!


THIS was the apartment. THESE were the boys, their friends, and the surfers.

Well, when I arrived, it was all I ever imagined and more. I got there, and already there were about 12 people in the apartment, already drunk, giving me hugs and shoving caipirinha's in my hand! It was a shock to my system - but it was Carnival, and I was out to have a great time!

I think there were about 6 or 7 of us Couchsurfers in that apartment. All girls from different countries, all single, all cute.


Hmm...

4 Brazilian Guys who opens their apartment up for female cute Couchsurfers only....


That should have already tipped me off right there.

The boys who lived there will each have one girl in the room, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and the rest will sleep in the living room in either the hammock or pull out couches or extra mattresses.

It was, in essence, the ULTIMATE Couchsurfing Experience.


I was assigned to one room - and yes, you guessed it, it was the Jackass Nincompoop's room.

It was fine at the beginning. He seemed nice, very respectful, kind, and super accommodating. 

Slept the first night fine, woke up to follow Bloco's the next day (Blocos = Samba Moving Street Floats), stayed up till 2am in Copacabana, drinking and partying with the rest of Brazil.

It got ugly when we all went home to crash for the night.

What I didn't realize is that the Jackass Nincompoop (JN) wasn't just drunk, he was high out of his mind -- and I'm not even sure what kind of substance he was on, but he wasn't all there.


I was already on the floor on my mattress when he came into the room and plopped onto his bed. All of a sudden, I felt his hand rubbing my back - and it wasn't a very "friendly" rub, if you know what I mean.

"So... How are you..." he mumbled.

I moved his hand away from me and said - "I'm good, JN. Just trying to sleep. Good night."

But - he did it again. This time, he started touching my hair, too.

"So... How are you..." he said again. I don't know what his problem was as I was sure he knew more English words than that.


I took his hand away again and said, "JN, you don't want to do that. Trust me. We're friends right? Let's just sleep. We had a long day. Boa Noite."

He started massaging my back again and said, "Why... Friends can have fun, right? I was nice to you, right?"

OK he wasn't getting it, so a little more forcefully, I threw his hand away from me and said, "Dude! STOP IT. No!" --- I think it's important to note that at this point, my free hand had already found its way into my bag and on my pocket pepper spray.

I looked at him and he was totally out of it. Drunk or stoned or high - whatever it was, he didn't look right.

He kind of stumbled out of bed and left the room... my hand still gripping the pepper spray. I was nervous - but I think I was more annoyed. Sooo annoyed at myself for being naive enough to land myself in that kind of situation.

I calmed myself down for a bit and just tried to go to sleep.

But JN came back about 15 minutes later. Plopped himself on the bed. His hand went and rubbed my back, and said....

"So.... How are you...." as if nothing ever happened. I swear, I thought I was in the twilight zone.

"Jeezas Christ, Jackass Nincompoop!!!! What the fuck is wrong with you???" I yelled, and I stormed out of the room.

Obviously, I couldn't sleep after that, and the wheels in my head were turning. I was formulating a plan to get myself out of there.


Now - THIS is when Travel Magic Happens.


About 6 months prior to that, while I was staying at a hostel in Rome, I met this Brazilian guy, George.  We were roommates, spoke only long enough for us to add each other on Facebook (as travelers usually do), and went our separate ways. We literally only spoke for 2 seconds. Our relationship after that was just "likes" on each others photos on FB.

Well, when he found out via my posts that I was headed to Brazil, he shot me a message and very kindly offered for me to stay with him and his partner for when I went to Rio. He did warn me that his house was about an hour away from the main city via the Metro, but wanted to put it out there anyway.

I told him that it was so very kind and sweet of him to offer, but that I already found accommodations in the city --- however I would love to see him and hang out!


Well - in my desperate moment, curled up by the hammock after the gross incident with JN, I sent George a message. I said something like, "George, I know this is completely last minute... I need your help. It's a long story and I will tell you all about it when I see you - but if the offer still stands, can I please stay with you? I cannot stay here anymore..."

And without any questions or hesitations, George just said - "YES. Stay here with us. I'm coming to get you."


My Brazilian Angel.


This is my hero, George!

May I please reiterate that at this point, I had only met George that one time in the hostel in Rome, 6 months prior, and we hadn't spoken to each other apart from him offering his home to me.

And so no matter how horrible my experience was with JN, George and all his kindness, just made EVERYTHING worth it.


I stayed with George for the rest of my trip in Rio, going back to the couchsurfing house only to hang out with the girls that I met, JN completely oblivious to the fact that I had moved out.

I spoke to one of the 4 guys who was living there and told him about what JN had done. He was livid! I told the girls about it, too, and they told me that something similar had happened to a couple Chilean girls that came in previously. Apparently, JN had tried to get one of the girls in bed, and when she refused, he basically kicked both of them out - saying they don't have room for them anymore.

What a dick!

I was mortified, thinking again how lucky I am that I had George to save me.

In defense of the other 3 boys - who were all completely different from JN, when they found out about the incidents, they totally slammed JN, apologized to the girls and to me on behalf of JN's behavior... And I found out a few months later that they kicked him out of the apartment. 


LESSONS LEARNED


1. Whenever one finds oneself in compromising situations (like examples above), one MUST be firm in saying "NO" or "STOP". One must be strong, and never be afraid to show strength or fight back if necessary. 

2. Will never again stay in a "Mixed Dorm" hostel, unless I had no other choice. 
(On a side note: I did end up staying at a mixed dorm by accident when I booked a room via AirBnB recently in Manhattan - but my roommate was a little person, auditioning to be one of the Elves at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. It was, apparently, his lifelong dream to be one. 




I know we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I think he was pretty harmless. There was a twinkle in his eye....)

3. Will never underestimate the power of good self defense. Will continue to carry defensive weapons like pepper spray, and/or deadly key.

4. Will always remember to ask for help, when needed. 


I have completely put these incidents behind me. I'm actually still really good friends with one of the 4 dudes in Rio - Obviously not JN - and we just roll our eyes when we talk about it. Considering the fact that their apartment was very small and there were about 12 people in the house at the time that JN tried to harass me, we both agreed that I was in no real danger because anyone could have woken up to seize JN if anything were to have happened -- assuming of course that I haven't already beaten the shit out of him.

Did I mention I was a boxer?





And even in the hostel with the Abominable dude... The hostel was small, the walls were thin, packed with people... I could have easily been able to produce a bloodcurdling scream to alert anyone within 3 miles of us, if he continued being a stupid imbecile.

So - these were definitely nerve-racking experiences, with a danger level of - I'd say 2 and a quarter stars out of 5?

Were they awful? 
Heck yeah.

Did they turn me off from traveling alone or CouchSurfing or staying in Hostels?

Eff no.

If these were some of my worst travel experiences, then I'd say George coming to rescue me was one of my best. It just really proves that sometimes, the brightest light appears even in the darkest moments. I have always believed in the magic of kindness, and it manifests in the times you need it the most. At least it has for me, on many occasions.




I was practically a stranger to George, but he took me in at a moment's notice... and so even if I was still really peeved off by JN, George's act of genuine goodness really touched me, and it turned my experience around... That when I think of Rio, I think of him, and it makes my heart happy.


I think it was my chubby friend, Buddha, who said - life is neither good nor bad... it just is. (Not sure if Buddha actually said that, but let's just go with it)

Perhaps I shouldn't look at these as my worst experiences - but rather just see everything that I've been through as a collection of experiences that make up my so-called life. 

I learn more when I stumble... and my joyous and most grateful moments often happen after terrible times of despair and gloom. 

At the end of the day - I keep moving forward... as we all should!

I have lived to tell these tales after all...
(Mom - if you are reading this, don't freak out!)

I sincerely hope that none of the things I wrote about has put anyone off from traveling or taking an adventure. Things happen, you get challenged sometimes, and you deal with it. You move on.

If you're not convinced - next week I'm writing about my FAVORITE travel experiences, and I'm sure I'll change your mind. :)

Aloha!