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!

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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!

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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...

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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...

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

At Home In Lisbon


After spending the longest holidays in the UK, it was time for me to get a move on! The next big adventure on the list is South America, and the cheapest way for me to get there was to fly from Madrid (I  did my research).

Awesome! I’ve only really ever been to Barcelona… so I figured it would be nice to explore Spain for a couple weeks.

Although, my good friend, Lea, just came back from Lisbon on a holiday, and she loved it! She raved about the city and the food and the people… I’ve heard really good things from other people as well… so I consulted the map and figured out a route.

Flying to Portugal from the UK would only cost me about 30 GPB… and from there, I could make my way through the South of Spain – the Andalucia region, before heading up to catch my flight to Buenos Aires from Madrid. Commuting via car or bus or train would be easy… and I get to see more of the beauty of Spain that way too… So… YAY! Portugal – Booked! Andalucia – Booked! Madrid to Buenos Aires – BOOKED BOOKED BOOKED! And off I went!!!

LISBON


A few minutes after I arrived – I liked Lisbon already! It just had a very welcoming atmosphere... Everything seemed easy and accessible, especially for tourists. A lot of it also has got to do with the hostel I was staying in, which I mentioned in the previous post --- Home Lisbon Hostel. Seriously, I cannot rave about this hostel enough. It’s centrally located, beautiful, super affordable, and just the best hostel I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering in all my travels. 

LOOK AND FEEL



The city itself is very charming, mainly because of the tiles. They’re called azulejos and they are found on both the exterior and interior of most houses and buildings. These things just make everything so colorful, that it’s such a pleasure walking around or getting lost. It also has a lot of uphill climbs, which make for spectacular views when you get to the top.


TASTY TREATS



It was probably not the best idea to be in Lisbon during my “No Carb January” diet, because there are pastries and pastry shops on every freaking corner! Lisbon --- Belem, in particular, is quite famous for these little treats called pastel de nata. It’s basically an egg tart pastry that sort of tastes like crème brulee to me… Crème brulee on a pastry cup! The original pasteis de nata, and the yummiest, can be found in Pasteis De Belem, a little restaurant in a town called Belem. Yes, I broke my diet just ONCE, to try ONE piece.

Tooootally worth it!

Belem, besides the treats, is actually a pretty good area to explore too. Check out the cathedral, the Belem Tower, and a few other monuments worth a snapshot!

NIGHT LIFE


So there’s this little area called, Bairro Alto. It’s Lisbon’s bohemian district and main hub for shopping and night life. It’s cute and really convenient because all the bars and restaurants are sort of clustered together. My new hostel friends and I had a really good time checking out the local scene… There are a lot of options, but we ended up in a teeny tiny little hole in the wall bar with live music, and we pretty much dominated the entire night with our inebriated states! Best night ever!


SINTRA


Visiting Sintra was my favorite bit of Lisbon… It’s a town about 45 minutes away from Lisbon’s center via the metro.  It’s a major tourist attraction because of all the palaces, castles, estates and beautiful buildings dotted around it! It’s so easy too… After the train, all you need to do is jump on a bus – The 434 or 435 bus takes you to all the major spots. It’s a hop-on hop-off deal too, so you either just pay 2.50 or 5 euro and you can use the bus as a shuttle that takes you from one attraction to the next!
It’s soooo beautiful….



HOME LISBON HOSTEL


I just can’t emphasize this enough. Home Lisbon Hostel was what made the trip for me. It seriously is the most amazing hostel I’ve ever visited. Great rooms, great price, amazing facilities and superb staff. Mama (the owners’ mother) cooks dinner for the guests every night (for an extra 10 euros). When she heard that I was on a “No Carb January” diet, she made me a special no-carb option meal! HOW amazing is this woman? I love her, and I love them. I don’t think this hostel could ever be beaten. So if you guys are ever headed to Lisbon anytime soon --- stay here. They are not paying me for this plug, by the way! This is honestly my opinion of the place, and I would go back there in a heartbeat. :)



NUTSHELL

Lisbon is a beautiful city. It’s so easy to be there. Everything is so accessible… It’s one of those places where you would welcome getting lost because every corner has something to offer. The food is great, transportation is efficient, and the attractions are spectacular. It’s the complete package, really! I would go back to Portugal to hang out at Home Lisbon Hostel, and maybe to also visit some of the other great cities over there, like Porto.

Next stop - Andalucia, Spain! :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hostels 101



This post is directed mostly towards people who have a preconceived notion about staying at hostels, perhaps due to bad experiences (in America), horror stories from the Internet or other people, or because of the really bad movie, “Hostel”.

My very own sister, for example, wouldn’t dare come near a hostel. When we were younger, we went and stayed at a hostel in Manhattan… and I think it used to be a hospital (or a mental institution) before it got converted. It was very basic, we were roomed with a crazy old lady, and there were no lounges where people could hang out. I didn’t mind, really. I was in Manhattan, one of my favorite places in the world… and the hostel was warm and clean. As long as I had a bed, I was fine. My sister on the other hand, upon seeing our dorm room, was on the verge of tears. It just wasn’t what she had expected… and I suppose she carried that “traumatic” experience with her all this time.

In all fairness though, that was way back in 2004. 10 whole years ago. The quality of hostels have definitely improved since then.  And if you are a traveler or someone who’s considering staying at hostel but never have, or just curious about what it’s really like --- Then this is for you. The inside scoop of hostel-ing. The good, the bad, the ugly. The TRUTH.

MY CREDENTIALS

I’ve been traveling and staying at hostels for years.  I’ve even worked at a couple of them (through Help Exchange) on this trip. In fact, even while I was living in LA, I’d hang out at the hostels in West Hollywood just to meet other travelers (and sing at their Karaoke Night on Wednesdays).  So – yes, I am a seasoned hostel goer, and this makes me an expert witness.

Home Lisbon Hostel, Portugal
Photo from their website

THE BASICS

Hostels are more affordable, less formal and more social than hotels. You usually get a dormitory type room, shared with 3 to 30 other people. You can choose between a mixed dorm, all male, or all female dorm (mixed are usually cheaper), and there are private rooms available as well. Bathrooms are shared. Sometimes there is a toilet/shower room for the whole floor to share, and sometimes if you’re lucky, you’ll have your own bathroom in your room! 
Oban Backpackers, Oban Scotland
Photo from their website

Kitchens are usually big enough for you to be able to bring and cook your own food, and a lot of the hostels I’ve been to organize dinners for their guests (if you pay a certain amount). Breakfasts are included most of the time – but it’s nothing fancy. Most of the time it’s just bread and cereal plus tea and coffee. If you’re lucky, you get some fruit, eggs and meat too.
They have guest lounges usually equipped with computers, musical instruments, TV and DVD’s, couches, books, games, etc… This area encourages camaraderie. Apart from the weird hostel my sister and I stayed at in New York, all of the hostels I’ve visited had one. If Wifi is not enabled on the entire hostel, the lounges will have it.

Home Lisbon Hostel, Portugal
Photo from their website

THE GOOD

Like I’ve said a few times before, when you travel, you hardly ever spend time indoors anyway… So as long as you have a clean bed and a bathroom (and a roof), you’re golden. So in general, that’s how you should expect hostels to be. BUT… Hostels all over have been sprucing themselves up lately… And if you’re lucky, like I have been, you’ll find yourselves in places that are waaay better than some hotels.

Caveland Hostel, Santorini Greece

COST EFFECTIVE

The range in cost of the hostels I’ve booked in the years I’ve been traveling have been anywhere from 13 to 40 US Dollars. I paid around 40 dollars in a hostel in Paris during high season, but the hostel was great. It was cute, centrally located, and really clean… Plus the price included a hefty breakfast. It was recommended by a friend, too! The cheapest hostel I’ve stayed in wasn’t bad at all… The worst one may have been the one in New York – and the US hostels don’t really compare to the ones in Europe anyway. 

St Christopher's Inn, Paris France

THEY MAKE THINGS EASY

When you travel solo (or even with friends) to new unfamiliar places, it’s nice to have someone to tell you where to go and what to do, which restaurants are good and cheap, which popular landmarks to visit, or which bars have the best and cheapest booze. The hostel receptionists are trained to do this for the guests… They give you a map, and encircle the areas that are worth visiting… They tell you which buses or trains to take, they point out great food locations, etc! Most of them organize walking tours or pub crawls for you too… If the hostel is big enough or if it's a party hostel, they have parties and events of their own...Which saves you the trouble of figuring out what to do and where to go for the day.  If you’re on your own, this is the best way to make friends too!


Toga Night at the Party Hostel, Pink Palace in Corfu Greece

NEW FRIENDSHIPS

Honestly, the friends I’ve made while staying at different hostels have been AMAZING. Some of them, will be my very good friends for life. FOR LIFE! It’s astounding how incredibly open these people are… I don’t even know why I’m surprised… because the people who stay at hostels are usually the people who are just like me… You know? Like-minded people who like to travel, are down to earth, easy, open… on a budget… Haha :)

My hostel Roommates from Rome

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said goodbye to people I’ve met – even for just ONE DAY, who have said something like – “Please, if you ever visit my country, you must stay with me…” or "Mi casa es su casa! You must visit me!" There have been times in the past when I get a little anxious traveling by myself staying at a hostel. I was always worried that I’d end up in a corner by myself with no one to talk to… But in all the years that I’ve been traveling, that’s NEVER happened to me. NEVER. You ALWAYS make at least ONE friend. If you’re a little shy and are not comfortable reaching out – Someone WILL reach out to you to say, “Hi! Where are you from?” --- this is a typical opening line at hostels, by the way. 

New friends from hostels in Greece and Israel

It will be easier to meet people in hostels that are a little smaller…
Sometimes when you stay at big and fancy ones with hundreds of rooms and several floors, it’s a little harder to reach out because of too much space. Which is why when I do my research, I usually search for the ones that are smaller, family owned, or with great reviews that say they make you feel like you’re part of the family… The more intimate, the better.  I check out Hostelworld or Tripadvisor for the reviews. They’re usually spot on…

AMAZING FINDS

Some hostels stand out… my favorite hostel, hands down, is the hostel where I’m in now. Home Lisbon Hostel in Portugal. 


It's really cheap, breakfast is included, the rooms are AMAZING, the staff are friendly, the location is central, and the whole place is absolutely beautiful. Mama, the owner's mother, cooks authentic Portuguese dinner for the guests every night (for an extra 10 euro) and it's sooo good! The lounge is spectacular, they have tons of DVD's and books, the TV is huge, they have a guitar... And I've made such good friends over here in the 3 short days I've been here. I LOVE this place. 

My favorite people in Lisbon

This is Mama <3

THE BAD


OK, obviously… it has a few downsides too. For instance – lack of privacy. Sometimes after a long day of traveling and walking, you just want to go to your room, strip off all your clothes, shut the drapes and pass out. BUT because there are other people in there, you can’t.
If there isn’t a bathroom in your room and you wake up in the dead of night, desperate for a pee, it’s a chore to have to get out of bed and slowly and quietly get out of your room (not to wake your roomies up) and walk to the nearest toilet (the farthest I’ve had to walk was 2 flights down)


30 Bed Dorm. Photo from Orient Hostel.

Sometimes you get roomed with weirdo’s. 

Sometimes you get roomed with people who have no sense of respect for other people… who come banging into your room at 4 am after a wild night out, drunk and loud and annoying. 

And sometimes… no matter how much research you’ve done… NOTHING will ever prepare you for the time when you wake up to your roommates trying to have sex – “quietly”. O_O


THE UGLY


I have been a victim of bed bugs. And it was UGLY. Seriously, the worst thing EVER! I reported it to the hostel as soon as I found out, and they acted on it immediately. Fumigated the room, changed all the mattresses, burned the sheets… etc. The good thing about it is that they take it so seriously. The bad thing about it is that no matter what they do to appease you, you’ve already been bitten, and you’re going to have to suffer for a few weeks. I have dark skin, so the marks from my bites took a LONG TIME to heal… and I was itchy for weeks!

It is as itchy as it looks. Sorry if it's gross... :(

The bed bug epidemic isn’t just exclusive to hostels though. I’ve been bitten while staying at a 4 star hotel in the Virgin Islands a few years ago. 

The good news is that a lot of the hostels nowadays use precautions against bed bugs. Some of them only give you your sheets when you check in. Sheets that you know are clean and freshly laundered. Some hostels inspect your backpack before you check in – because the bedbugs are “transported” by travelers. If a person stays at a hostel infested with bed bugs, the little critters crawl into their backpacks or clothes… and when they move to another place, it is very likely that the bugs will transfer to the new bed in the new hostel.
Believe me, when I was bitten, the first thing I did was empty my backpack, wash my clothes and dried them all in very high heat --- which is one of the ways to kill them if they crawled into your clothes and bags.

The best way to avoid it is to do your research well before booking. If there is a bad review about cleanliness or if someone mentions bed bugs, I usually avoid staying there. But like I said, sometimes you just get unlucky – like I did – and get bitten anyway, even if you’re staying at an expensive suite of a hotel.


IN CONCLUSION

I think in general, the good outweighs the bad. I know the bed bug thing probably freaked you out – but remember, I’ve been traveling on and off for years and I’ve stayed at a hundred different hostels and hotels. One incident in a hostel and one incident in a luxury hotel are pretty good odds. Nothing is perfect. Even if I suffered from the wrath of the bites, it didn’t phase me one bit. It didn’t turn me off either. It just taught me to be a little more cautious for next time… because seriously, I have SO MUCH fun staying in hostels and I LOVE meeting the people I meet while I’m there. Nothing could ever beat the price, which is awesome for a budget traveler like me. :)

So the next time an opportunity to travel comes up for you, you can now make an informed decision on where to stay. I doubt my sister would ever be convinced of staying at a hostel though - and that's okay. Some people like what they like, and if you can shell out a few extra bucks for a more luxurious option, then why not? I've had the opportunity to "travel in style" once or twice in the past, and I gotta say, nothing feels as good as sheets of Egyptian linen... or whatever it is they use on those beautiful tempurpedic beds...

If you're on a budget like I am nowadays though... at least you know more about hostels now, and you can decide if you want to give it a go!

I highly recommend it. Just do your research, compare prices, read reviews, be open... And you'll be fine. :)

Good luck!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How I Can Afford To Travel



The first thing people usually ask me when they find out that I’ve taken a year off to travel is --- “How did you do it?” “How much money did you need?” or “How did you acquire the money to pay for it?”
I don’t blame them. That’s usually the first thing I ask someone when I find out they’re traveling like me… Some of the people I’ve met on the road have been living a vagabond lifestyle for 2, 4, 10 years even! Now THAT’S impressive!

There have been so many articles and blog posts that come out, claiming to teach you ways on how to “Travel For Free”.  In my opinion, that’s false advertising. I mean, come on! Let’s get real! If you want to travel, you’re going to *have* to shell out some cash at some point! Plane tickets, transportation, food, etc…

 No, no, no. The question should not be – “How do I travel for free,” but “How can I afford to travel?” Or, “How can I stretch my dollar when I travel?” Or – if you want to get really straightforward about it… “How do I travel on the cheap?”

 

MYTH BUSTED

People usually assume that I can travel long term like this because I’m loaded. Richie Rich kind of rich. Even my own father thinks I’m wealthy! It’s hilarious, because they couldn’t be more wrong! I’m too cheap to even pay for my own hair cut (I found a salon that cuts bangs for free).  As a matter of fact, at this moment, I am writing this blog post on a bus as I am journeying from Cardiff to London. I could have taken the train, which is a quicker, more comfortable option… but I opted for the longer, more grueling bus ride, even if I suffer from motion sickness… because the bus fare was only 3 GBP, as opposed to the train’s 30 GBP cost.

No, people. I am not rich. Rich in experience, friendship and love… yes. In cash? No.  What I am is practical and resourceful. I’ve met so many other travelers on the road who have been on the road for yeaaars… Everyone has a different strategy… Everyone has a different story. And this? This is mine.

I SAVED


It’s not as exciting as finding out I had a rich great grandfather that magically left me his entire fortune on his will. Really, it was simple. I prepared for this trip, and I saved. In September of 2012, I gave my company a 6 month notice. I said I was leaving by the end of March 2013 to travel. I was completely moved out of my apartment by the end of the month, sold and donated all of my stuff, and I was Couchsurfing with my friend, Wriss, by October. 




Moving Out!

The money I would have used for rent just went straight to my travel fund. Add the money I got from selling all my furniture… Plus my tax refund…  Plus the little cash I had saved up before I even thought about doing this… Put it all together, and I had roughly  --- $20,000.

For a year, that’s not a lot. Research tells me I’d have needed at least $35,000 to survive for one whole year. Well… I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t a little stubborn or defiant. I was going to make $20,000 work. And so far, 9 months in… I’m still alive! The funds are draining, sure… but I’m still within budget!

I HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY ALL OVER


The Sydney Clan!

This is true. I have a BIG family in Sydney, a friend from church in Auckland, a friend from college in Wellington,  a friend from high school in Japan, a sister in Japan, friends from college in Dubai, a friend from church in Dubai, and best friends from all over the UK! And now that I’ve been traveling for a while, I’ve made even MORE friends… So when I go to Spain, I’ll be set. When I go to Brazil, I’ll be set. When I visit Peru, I’m golden. 


With my friend, Tina the Desert Fox in Dubai

I’m SO lucky to be surrounded by such amazing and generous people in my life. Every single one of my friends and family that I’ve stayed with have been great hosts to me, and I’m so looking forward to the ones I have yet to visit.
When I had my own apartment, I was a really good hostess too. I’d like to believe this is my good karma for being awesome. :)


COUCHSURFING

It’s safe, I promise. Just be smart about it, as with anything else. I’ve only had very positive experiences in Couchsurfing, and I plan to do more of it in South America this year! What I usually do is send my requests weeks in advance. I choose the hosts based on their reviews by other surfers, and I go as far as contacting those surfers to give me the real deal on the hosts --- just to be 100% sure.

This is the house of my first host in New Zealand. BEAUTIFUL, right?
This is me, my new friend and fellow couchsurfer, Dulce, and our host, Karen.
Be a good surfer as well by offering to cook for your hosts. It’s just polite… and a great way to show your appreciation for their hospitality. Don’t treat it as just a free bed – hosts hate that. Remember that a lot of these people open their homes to travelers for a reason… and mostly it’s because they like meeting and getting to know people from different cultures too! Swap travel and adventure stories and etc.  So be sociable and polite! This earns you great reviews, which will make it easier for you to Couchsurf in the future. :)

HELP EXCHANGE/ WORKAWAY



 THIS is the best idea in the world of worlds. Working in exchange for board and lodging in different countries… I cannot even begin to explain how this has single handedly changed the way people travel! I am SO lucky I found out about this!  It’s the best thing you can do for yourself when you’re traveling, I swear. You just LEARN so much… You meet so many people… You gain so many new LIFE SKILLS. That’s how it was for me, at least. I guess it’s like a very informal way to volunteer… its’ the easiest way to describe it. I’ve done it throughout Italy, Greece and Israel… working mostly for hostels and B&B’s. The tasks are varied, depending on the place you choose to volunteer in.  I have to say though that this isn’t for the faint heart. It’s REAL work… and it’s NOT glamorous either… So you must be willing to get down and dirty and clean toilets.


My hosts, Franco and Martina from The Shanti House in Italy

Other opportunities include working at a farm, at a vineyard, ski resorts, etc… It depends on the season, and on the demand. 
I’ve had 5 different Help Exchange experiences in those 3 countries and I’ve had an amazing time in all of them. I’ve honestly learned SO much, about the work, about the country and their culture, and about myself… AND I’ve gained SO MANY amazing new friends from it. 


My friends/fellow volunteers from La Preghiera in Perugia, Italy

Honestly, it’s the best thing since sliced bread. You work for a few hours a day… you stay and eat for free… so you therefore save money! I’ve even had instances where my hosts gave me some pocket money to spend on booze! Haha! How cool is that? :) Seriously though… if you have time and are willing to just work it… DO THIS. Use HelpX or Workaway… either one works. Different organizations, same purpose.  Go to their website, sign up, pay the fee (around 25 USD membership fee for 2 years), and start searching for your future hosts.
Just DO IT. It’s amazing. I promise!


With my fellow volunteers at The Overstay Hostel in Israel

I STAY AT HOSTELS

This was my hostel in Santorini. Caveland. 13 euro a night.

I LOVE staying at hostels. It’s just SO EASY to make friends when you’re there, especially for solo travelers like myself. They are SO MUCH FUN… There’s always something going on, like an organized tour… or themed nights… or group activities… You’ll never be bored. If you do, it’s your fault. And it’s SO CHEAP. Cheapest hostel I’ve been in only charged 11 USD a night. And it was decent!  

These guys were my roommates at my hostel in Rome

I mean let’s be honest… when you travel to new destinations, how much time do you actually spend indoors anyway? In my opinion, as long as the bed and the bathroom is clean, no matter what the size, and no matter how many people are in the room with me (I’ve been in a 30 bed dorm), all is right in the world. 

It is in hostels that I get to jam and share my ukulele-ing skillz with people too! Most of them have common rooms or lounges where people just hang out… I’ve been to a few who have musical instruments lying around for anyone to pick up and play too! I love it when musical numbers spontaneously combust out of the guests… And I love being able to jam or sing along. Music brings people together… 

An impromptu jam session in my hostel in Oban, Scotland

If this isn’t your style and you’d rather stay at a private room – you can do that at hostels too. And their prices are still cheaper than booking a room at a hotel.
FUN FACT: Just 2 minutes ago, I booked a 3 night stay at a hostel in Portugal. My total cost for three nights was about 8 pounds cheaper than my 5 mile cab ride in London earlier.

I TRAVEL SLOW

It is a fact that if and when you travel slower, you save more money. It’s the better way to travel anyway, because that’s the only way you could get acclimatized to the culture properly. I was in Italy for about 6 weeks, a month in Greece and another month in Israel.

When Karen and I did my birthday Eurotrip in March of 2012, we visited 5 countries in 2 weeks. Our money was well spent just on transportation costs alone… and I probably spent more in those 2 weeks all over Europe than I did in all three months of Italy, Israel and Greece combined.

I guess enjoying your trip depends on your travel personality. I used to love the fast paced travel I used to do… One to three days per country, then boom… on to the next. It was exhausting, but it was fun. But then all you ever really get to do is be a tourist.

When you spend a good amount of time in a particular place, you’re not just a tourist – you become an actual traveler… Because then you get to interact with the locals more… learn about their food… their language… participate in their culture… And it’s really great. It’s such a great feeling… to feel like you are included and you belong in a place that isn’t your home. Before you know it, you’ll get invited into their homes for anywhere from good conversation to good food to a nice warm bed (for SLEEPING, ok??)
I’ve definitely been able to hold on to the little cash that I have by spending a longer period of time in the places that I visit. You should try it too!

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT 

ladies and gents! All the secrets have been revealed! My life is an open book, and now you know EVERYTHING. It’s anticlimactic, isn’t it? There’s no stealth here… no foul play… no undisclosed bank account in the Cayman Islands…  Every penny that I used on this trip, I’ve acquired through perseverance and hard work. No mumbo jumbo of any kind…

At the moment though, I’m trying to come up with ways to actually make some money while I’m on the road. And there *are* a few options I can explore… I’m just waiting for the right opportunity to come along… Something that I’d be comfortable with, and something that I’d be good at. So if you guys have any ideas for me, please, by all means… Hit me. :)

Meanwhile… I hope this post helped those of you who are thinking of taking a trip… big trip, small trip, doesn’t matter… The point is, I hope this very practical “revelation” has encouraged you to go for it… because now you’ll know it doesn’t really take a fortune to be able to do something like this. If you have some money saved up, even if it’s not as much as what I started with… maybe you can take off just for a few months and see where it takes you.

Just remember… that travel is never a matter of money, but of courage. So be brave, little one. There’s a big and beautiful world out there. Go out and explore. :)







Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Backpacker's Backpack Review: Osprey Farpoint 55



I’ve been asked a few times about how my backpack has held up, and how my packing faired on my travels so far. Before I do a review on my backpack, let me tell you about the results of my RTW PACKING thus far…

MY RTW TRIP PACKING RESULTS

I have to say, I did pretty well! Everything I packed came in pretty handy at some point… (You can check out my Packing List on my post HERE) And all the clothes I brought have been used, and some even worn out! I’ve thrown a couple pieces and bought a couple in return (mostly tank tops and underwear)… There may have been one or two items of clothing that I could have done without – which proves that no matter how insufficient you think you’re packing, you are always taking more than what you think you need! :)


I did have one regret though - and that is, I should have brought my ukulele with me. I never realized that I'd meet so many musicians on my travels through hostels and B&B's... so I ended up buying a cheap one... Just so I won't feel too guilty about wrecking it in the journey. It does the job though! And I have had such a great time making friends and jamming with people along the way! I've even managed to teach a couple people how to play, and inspired them to buy a uke of their own! :)
Music brings people together <3
I also happen to be lucky that my family sent me a “Winter Care Package” that contains clothes and shoes I’d need to survive for the winter in the UK. They sent it to my friend, Abby’s, house, where I’ve been staying for more than a month. When I leave, I won’t be taking any of them though… I’ll be taking only the stuff I came with, plus a couple other items I received for Christmas :)
Would I have survived without the Winter Care Package? Short answer - yes. But... I LOVE Winter Fashion. I couldn't help it... An opportunity presented itself... so... Why Not? :)

OK… on to the Backpack. How has it held up, I’ve been asked...


My answer?

Excellent.
Excellent, excellent!!!

I absolutely LOVE my Osprey Fairpoint 55! In my opinion, it is the best choice for female round the world backpackers!  Here’s why…

LIGHTWEIGHT

It’s true what they say… Pack light. It’s easier said than done, I know… but after traveling for more than 9 months, I’m soooo glad I didn’t purchase anything bigger than a 55L (they come in bigger sizes). The Fairpoint’s main pack is actually a lot lighter/smaller than a 55L, because the measurements include the 15L daypack. I know a 40L main pack may seem small, but trust me. Your body and your back will thank you for not going any bigger. See, the trick is, the smaller the pack, the less stuff you’re likely to bring because of the lack of space.

Happy Camper! With my backpacks in Mykonos. I use a binder clip to secure my Ukulele on
one of the straps of the day pack.

STURDY AS A MOUNTAIN GOAT

For realz. It’s a miracle this pack is still in one piece after all the times I’ve tried to cram the most ungodly items in there! There were moments when I thought, for sure, the zipper is going to give…. I’ve stuffed too much stuff in there at some point and I’ve popped a vein in my attempts to close it…
And still, she lives.  She’s relentless, this one. Just like her mother… (Me. In case it wasn’t obvious.)

EASE OF USE

One of the reasons why I went with the Farpoint over the Ariel (which is the other backpack I reviewed) is because of the front loading feature.


It just makes packing so much easier if you can see what you’re doing, as opposed to a top loading duffel bag type, which is what the Ariel was.
Another favorite feature is – how you can zip away the back panel, to make it easily manageable when you check them in on your flights! So nice and neat!


A BONUS CLIP

I kid you not… I’ve had this backpack for almost a year, and I never knew it had this particular feature. You can actually clip the day pack on the straps of the main pack (like in photo below), so you can carry the day pack in your front, “hands free”!


AMAZING! All this time, I’ve been strapping the day pack on my front – and it’s uncomfortable because it usually falls off, as I don’t have enough shoulder space. Now, I’m relieved of this issue!!! Yippee!!!

SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

Absolutely. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with this pack. The size, the features and the overall look and comfort is an epic WIN for us female backpackers. It is one of my best purchases… and I’m sure I’ll be using this baby for years and years to come…


If you have any questions about it, please feel free to leave them at the comments section below.

Happy travels, everyone!