Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes…

Okay.

I know I’ve been missing in action for a bit, but I have some reasons… be them good or not.

You see, I wrote you a post about being responsible with your money to make traveling easier, specifically about avoiding impulse purchases. So let me tell you how dense I am. After religiously avoiding all unnecessary purchases for several months, I decided to impulsively buy… a house.

Like I said: Idiot.

I wasn’t even intentionally looking at houses. I just saw a listing online and fell in love. I went to see it and put an offer in that day.

So that, dearest readers, is where I have been for the last month. Signing my name no less than 1,000,000 times. Reading over stacks of paper that have environmentalists everywhere shaking their heads in disapproval. Getting surveys for this, inspections for that and tests for something else.

So this process has been going on for a month… My closing date is tomorrow. TOMORROW. That is the day that I own my personal, private little piece of the world.

Except that my lenders called yesterday to explain that the condo association was upside-down financially and a few other things that make the property unwarrantable.

Like a punch in the stomach. Just like that.

So, I don’t have a house. And I won’t for at least a year or more. I will be better prepared with my savings by then.

I can also admit that I was a little relieved. A house is a huge commitment, and I was soundly questioning  the haste with which I had made my decision.

I would have loved to own that house, but alas, now is not the time.

PS. then April Fool’s Day was Cardigan Weather’s 3rd birthday. This blog that started as a way to keep my sanity has morphed into something that I hold very dearly. Thanks to all of you who read this.

Travel Crush

I have a travel crush.

His blogger handle is Nomadic Matt.

He’s lived the life (travel wise) that I aspire to live. He accidentally fell in love with travel around the time that I took my first trip to the UK and Ireland with AshBash. Difference? He came back and decided to do travel for real, and that thought didn’t occur to me until the last 6 months.

I have been blog stalking his archives for the last week and I am so intrigued. He has so much quality insight and his self-titled blog is a wealth of both short term and long term travel knowledge:

-Cheap flights
-Air miles
-Choosing hostels
-City guides
-Saving a lot of money in a little time
-Getting free flights fast
-Good travel stories
-Product recommendations
-Books, Books, BOOKS!

I don’t have a crush on this guy in the sense that usually accompanies the word… I just think it would be an incredible experience to tag along on a trip and learn all of his sneaky little travel hacking secrets.

Go take a swim in that pool of knowledge:

Nomadic Matt

How I Afford to Travel

Now, I would like to preface this post with this: I don’t have this mastered yet. I’m still working on saving the necessary funds for a long term trip, while still taking some smaller trips in the meantime. In full disclosure, it is going to take me twice as long to save 18-25k to see the world if I don’t stay put, but I’m going to be considering various route options and doing some planning, while saving, to stay focused. The things I want to talk about are not the full extent of things that can be done to save, but they are what I’m working on.

Trimming unnecessary expenses

I am the world’s worst impulse purchaser. I decide that I might enjoy making some video blogs, and within 48 hours I have purchased a $500 digital HD video camera. Problem? Have you see me post a single video blog? No. So then, I replaced my laptop (that I had gotten for free) with a new one with faster processing capabilities (for video editing, of course). $700. Then I had to buy a new HD, 1080p LED TV because my shiny new impulse purchases looked silly next to my second hand clunker. And what better to go with a new TV than a HD Blu Ray something-or-other?

Does this sound exaggerated and contrived?

Because it isn’t. This is my real life. It’s this kind of behavior that is detrimental to saving for travel.When I save, I make a spreadsheet with my total goal, progress toward and how much is left to save. Whenever I make a deposit into my savings account, I update my spreadsheet. I draw one of those obnoxious thermometers (like there was when you had to fund raise in elementary school) and post it on my desk at work. I set weekly alarms on my cell phone’s calendar to remind me to spend thoughtfully, instead of impulsively.

Rent: Now, I’m cheating on this one a bit at the moment, (I moved back to my parents’ home a little more than a year ago, to make it easier to save for a house.) but if I weren’t, I would be renting somewhere that I’m not on the hook for a lease. Subletting a room in a friend’s apartment or house would be my first choice, if living for free wasn’t an option

Eating Out: I eat out as little as possible. Point blank. Eating out is a money suck. I can generally get by on ~$50 in groceries for a week, if I avoid all of those silly impulse items. This week I have been doing really poorly at this, but my general rule is that I will eat out once every two weeks with my coworkers, and once with my family.

Movies: Redbox is incredibly cheap if you return them in 24 hours. Some theater chains have discount days, as well. The Rave chain of theaters in Louisville has $5 Tuesday for showings all day! I’m also not above bringing my own snacks, because it kills me to pay the 1,275% markup at the theater.

Clothes: Honestly? I don’t go clothes shopping. On the rare occasion that I do, I buy on sale or I don’t buy. If I need pants or jeans, I go get some, but I’m tighter than those weird vinyl bottoms that Miley wore at the VMAs. I do my very not to go perusing clothing stores if there isn’t something I need. Also. This girl? Not above second-hand stores.

Cosmetics: I paint my own nails, color my own hair and trim my own ends between 6 month cuts. I buy brands like CoverGirl and N.Y.C. over MAC and O.P.I. HELLO?! One bottle of MAC foundation is enough for a night at a nice hostel in most countries! A mani/pedi: a flight from Sydney to Brisbane. A cut and color: 4 FULL DAYS/NIGHTS in Athens(lodging, transport, meals, a couple of beers, and a standard priced attraction).

Planning ahead: Keeping an eye on fares for a while before going somewhere is going to get you a better deal. If I know that flights from Louisville to Paris are usually $1,100, and I see a flight for $699, I’m going to snap that up. I got my flights from home to Toronto to Jacksonville for <$275 in August by watching the fares.

Mailing Lists: Phenomenal way to watch your fares! I’m planning on going to Vancouver at the end of summer and I know that American just started a new route from Nashvegas to Vancouver for HALF of the price I was expecting to pay! WOOHOO!

Hostels vs Hotels: HOTELS are STUPID! You don’t meet new people in hotels. They don’t have people on staff with inside knowledge of things to do in their city that are off the usual tourist path. They are expensive. Most hostels are clean, have free wifi, cool people to go explore with, inside scoops and discounts for both unique and well known attractions. For the price you will pay at a budget hotel you could get a nice hostel, right in the city center, and they’ll probably have free breakfast, as well!

Some great ways to save that aren’t an option for me at the moment, or that I just don’t want to do:

Cell phones: You don’t really NEED that smart phone with it’s $100/month price tag! Downgrade! Voice and text only will save you about 70% on your phone bill.

Transportation: Public transit is not an option for me. Living on the outskirts of a medium sized city, it just isn’t an option. You had better believe that if I lived in Philly or Boston, I MIGHT own a cheap car, but I would make public transport work for me.

Cut Coupons: A dollar here. 2 dollars there. Money saved adds up quickly, I’m just a bit too disorganized to do it. I am working on it though. Keeping a regular grocery list and meal plan make it easy to cut coupons and avoid impulse buys. If it isn’t on the list, it isn’t in the cart. Suck it end-caps.

5 Things I Hate About Traveling Solo

I told you all why I love (and sometimes prefer) traveling alone. As we all know, or should know, for every opinion there is an equal and opposite opinion.

That is how that goes, right?

Right.

One of my life skills is playing devil’s advocate. (it’s right behind writing toasts to people, falling down without hurting myself and remembering absolutely everything about a person, except for their name.)

I never wanted to travel alone. I don’t generally like to be alone in new situations. I’m serious. I make my mother come with me when I join a new gym because I hate walking into an unfamiliar place alone. Call it co-dependency if you must; I prefer to think of myself as inclusive. The reason I started traveling alone? I got tired of waiting for my friends to be ready to go with me! After no less than 84 planned trips that were cancelled once they got to the booking stage and people had to actually commit financially; I was sick and tired of letting my life depend on other people. The week immediately following my breakup with a boyfriend who flat-out refused to travel with me, I booked my  first sort-of solo trip. I flew to London to spend a week with Stephanie, James, Belle and James’ lovely family, then I flew to Berlin to do a two-week Contiki. Not the epitome of solo, but you’ve got to start somewhere. These are the worst bits of traveling alone and, mind you, they’re not bad enough to deter most people.

1) You WILL get lonely.
Spending anywhere from 10-40 hours in transit is boring when you have someone with you… when you don’t? It can be grueling. I need to talk to people. My vital organs start to shut down after about 2 hours without conversation, so that leaves me wandering around the airport, looking at groups of people with envy,  searching for someone to talk to. I can usually find someone, but there will be times when you will go 15 hours without having another human so much as acknowledge your existence. I won’t lie to you: that part is tough and a bit discouraging.

Barack 8 at Sachsenhausen  Concentration camp.

Barack 8 at Sachsenhausen Concentration camp.

2) Like it or not, there are some places that are unsafe.
I. Am. NAIVE. I encountered gypsies multiple times in Berlin. If I hadn’t had Liam there to remind me that I cannot, in fact, read English, I might have ended up without any form of ID, bank card or cash. Some guy tried to snatch my purse in Prague. In Newcastle, Ashley and I ended up in a relatively scary situation, lost in the less safe end of town. Even if you aren’t naive like me, some places are not safe, even for street smart women, like some areas in Egypt, India, Russia or Indonesia. Not even having another girl with you will make a huge difference in places where there are huge discrepancies in gender equality.

Perhaps you should avoid areas like this...

Perhaps you should avoid areas like this…

3) Sometimes, there are experiences that are so incredible you really want someone there to understand the magnitude.
Seeing the Aurora Borealis. Walking the path to the ovens or mass graves in a concentration camp. Riding a camel past the Pyramids. Watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat.  They’re experiences that words fail to describe. It is an incredibly intimate moment to share something that Earth shaking with someone, even a stranger. In that moment, I always find myself thinking, “I wish XXXX was here to see this too.” It is very overwhelming to experience something like that alone.

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4) Getting sick.
Getting sick when you are in a hostel dorm with 20+ strangers is a freaking NIGHTMARE. I ate a bad cheese steak in Philly and found myself driving the porcelain bus for about 6 hours. No one was going to bring me any medicine, so I had to drag myself 4 blocks to a Walgreens for Sprite, Pepto and Excedrin. I ended up sitting on a stoop with a guy named Victor, sharing my peanut butter crackers, on the verge of tears because I felt so bad.

Memo says, No one cares that you're sick.

Memo says, No one cares that you’re sick.

5) You are responsible for EVERYTHING.
Did you remember to buy travel insurance? Arrange for tickets to that booked solid attraction? What if you roll over on your phone and don’t hear your alarm on the morning you have an early flight? There is NO ONE to pick up your slack and save you. You can’t even get mad at anyone for screwing something up, it’s all you! It can be a heavy load to carry when it comes to important things like visas, immunizations, or local laws.

I'm in the airport and I've forgotten something...

I’m in the airport and I’ve forgotten something…

That may seem like a daunting list, but it truly has not put me off traveling alone. You learn to prepare for anything you can and just have faith that you’ll figure it out if something unexpected crops up. Each thing on this list helps you develop a new skill, or precaution. You get really good at making new friends, judging situations for risk factors, journaling and photographing things you want to share, keeping the most necessary first aid items on hand and keeping track of everything that needs to be handled.

Do you have something that you hate about traveling by yourself? Or is there something that scares you so much it’s keeping you from getting out there?

An Ode to Valentine’s Day: My Best Break-ups

Those who know me, or feel like they know me from reading the stuff I post here, probably think that my interactions with the opposite sex are at least entertaining, if not comical. I don’t know how I ever got to be so predictable, but those people are 100% right. Here is a post for those singles out there not really ‘feeling’ all the mushy, gushy junk on this day of corporate profit love.

I think it all started with my made up boyfriend in 7th grade. I was having this existential crisis about being the ONLY 13 year old on the planet without a boyfriend. I thought, “I can’t make anybody be my boyfriend, but I CAN make people believe I have a boyfriend.” I did my research: watching whatever made-for-tv movie marathon Disney channel had going on, and based my fictitious relationship off of that.

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GENIUS.

I walked into class the next day and, when the topic of boyfriends came up, I joined the conversation. To which one of the girls replied, “Sara, you don’t even have a boyfriend, so your opinion doesn’t matter.” (eyeroll) So I said, or screamed possibly, Yes! I do too! At that point, my best friend, with whom I always had a very open and hilarious relationship, started asking questions. And I answered them. Name. Age. What he looked like. Where he went to school. I pulled that mess off.

Until approximately 3 hours later when she turned around in her seat and said, “I don’t believe that you have a boyfriend. I know that you’re making it up because your mom would NEVER let you have a boyfriend who has a tongue ring.” To which I graciously replied (and this was completely normal in our friendship), “Yeah? And I know that your boobs are really a WonderBra, so shut it.”

Sad part is that she was TOTALLY right.

Sad part is that she was TOTALLY right.

Thus began my comedic dealings in the dating world. I’d like to share with you my most entertaining, embarrassing and eyeroll worthy break-up moments. Some of them I am getting dumped, and some I’m the one doing the dumping, but none are probably considered ‘healthy’. Some are boyfriends and some are guys I was casually dating, or (my favorite) ‘he’s not my boyfriend, we’re just hanging out’… (everyday, alone, texting CONSTANTLY, and occasionally using pet names). This is my dysfunctional love life, please enjoy it as much as I do.

4. The Arguer
I was in the middle of breaking things off… in a pretty amicable way, I thought… with someone things had been pretty serious with. He said he didn’t know where this was coming from, and if I had been having these feelings, I should have talked to him about it sooner. Then this happened: “I thought you were always honest with me! Well, Sara, this was a lie! You pretended everything was fine and then  you throw this in my face out of the blue!! I should have known you were nothing but a liar! You always say how turkey clubs are your favorite kind of sandwich, you preach that sh!t at me! But what do you buy at the grocery store?! You buy ham! You’re a liar and I don’t know how I put up with your lies for so long!!!!” I. Don’t. Even. Know.

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3. The Texter
- Him: Hey pretty girl.
Me: Hi there, how are you?
H: I’m really good, what did you do today?
M: Oh, you know, just work. Did you have a good day?
H: This isn’t working out. I think we would be better off as friends.
M: Well, that’s a little off topic, but okay. Sounds fine to me.

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2. A Poor Play at the Sympathy Card.
I had been dating this guy, long distance, for about three months when I was 22. Around that time I was also planning my first trip overseas with Ash. Now, this relationship wasn’t going very well from pretty much the beginning. He dropped the L-bomb after a week. I refused to say it, because I didn’t feel it. He started to get really controlling and overbearing, so I had decided that it was time that we called it quits. I had grown pretty exhausted of getting yelled at during phone calls and Skype chats so I decided to be immature and lazy and just do it via e-mail. It actually went pretty well, I thought. I’m much better at putting things into words with my hands than I am with my mouth. That was, until he messaged my mother on Facebook and, among other things, ranted about how I had dumped him to go sully myself in the gutters of Europe with any man that was so inclined, that I was losing the best thing that I would ever have, and that Mom should be ashamed of the daughter she raised… or something along those lines. Yikes.

Hint: Don't start my telling my mom you think I'm a slut.

Hint: Don’t start by telling my mom you think I’m a slut.

1. The Switcheroo.
I was 19 and had met this older guy at a wedding. By older, I mean he was 30. We had done a bit of talking and hanging out. It was okay, not earth shattering, but there was that initial excitement of newness. I knew he had a kid, but one night while we were chatting on the phone, he mentioned his ‘girls’. Huh. Turns out he had two kids. Which is fine. Maybe. When you’re not 19. Sooooo I started fishing, only to find out that one of his daughters was 11. 11. That made her 8 years different from me, while I was 11 years different from him. “Hi, I’m your new mommy… wanna go to the mall?” At that point, I hung up the phone. Full blown panic. I don’t know what possessed me, but when he called me back, I threw the phone at my mother and screamed, “You have to break up with him!!”, and I ran out the door attempting to put as much distance between me and my phone as humanly possible. Yep. My inability to date normally is a family activity.

Please. Sorry, it was awful, but please never call me again.

Please. Sorry, it was awful, but please never call me again.

I know they’re pitiful, but I hope they made you smile a little on this cold, rainy Valentine’s Day. <3

5 Things I Love About Traveling Solo

I like a lot of things. I like to cook. I like to create things. I like puppy kisses and rolling in the snow. I like lightning storms. I really like stomping in puddles and stepping on exceptionally crunchy looking leaves, but traveling is, by far, my favorite thing. If I won the lottery and had a gazillion dollars, I would spend my life (for a few years, at least) on the move, staying in cheap hostels, eating questionable street food, hoarding hand sanitizer and Pepto Bismol and living life in the company of the coolest strangers. That previous statement is the living nightmare of most people, my family included.

The overall experience of going to a strange place alone and exploring is a mass of juxtaposing pieces. It makes you be brave and cautious, curious and knowledgeable, independent and unafraid to ask for help, aware of what you know and what you don’t.

People, especially Americans, don’t like the idea of a young woman traveling alone. We’re fragile, with our doubling of X chromosomes. We should always travel in pairs… if not in a group escorted by at least one sturdy, capable man. If we must leave the borders of the ole U S of A, can’t we just go on a cruise?? That is, if we can’t just go to some walled-in resort where there is no chance of us interacting with an actual local.

There are just scores of people lining up outside the frame waiting to harm her.

There are just scores of people lining up outside the frame waiting to harm her.

Traveling alone isn’t for everyone, but (if you asked me) it is something everyone should do at least once. I’d like to tell you what my 5 favorite things about traveling solo are and why they completely changed my life.

  1. I learned just how much I was capable of as an INDIVIDUAL.
    -It is an amazing experience to show up in a new country and go on an organized tour. You don’t have to think, plan or organize… You just get to show up and have your mind blown by stuff. It’s really well worth the experience if that is the only way you will explore. Three years ago, when I took my first trip out of the country that’s exactly what I did, and with my best friend too.  If you had asked me then, “Why don’t you just do it yourself?”, I would have laughed at you. I wouldn’t have even known where to start. Being able to pick flights, the best hostels, research and read the history of places and then show up and navigate a foreign place… that’s pretty cool.
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  2. Though there were times that I am lonely, I meet exponentially more people than I do when I travel with a companion.
    -I am an incredibly social person. Hands down. I don’t even like to go to the grocery solo. If having someone to talk to whilst I find the firmest apples is an option, that is what I’m going to pick. Problem is: if you go on a trip with someone, human nature is not to step out of your comfort zone and meet people until you really feel at ease. When Ash (my aforementioned bestie) and I went to tour Great Britain and Ireland, it took us almost half of our trip to start making friends with the other young women on our trip. Once we did, we were thick as thieves and the fun increased EXPONENTIALLY. If we had jumped right in the first night, we wouldn’t have missed so many possible memories. I’ve gotten pretty good at walking into a place and meeting EVERYONE.
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  3. I did more.
    -I don’t generally make precise plans when I go somewhere. I make sure I have enough things to do each day to stay pretty busy. If I get hungry, I eat. If I get tired, I rest. If I am on my way to a museum and find a network of alleys with amazing graffiti, I get to do whatever I want and not worry about ‘the plan’. I don’t have to wait for everyone else to get back to the coach, or finish their dinner. I don’t have to leave a city because only one day is allotted on the dossier. I can do whatever I want!
  4. I got lost.
    -So so so so lost. I’ve gotten lost in 4 different countries in the past 12 months and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lost in Berlin, I made two new friends looking for a night club, that turned out to be closed for a private event. Lost in Prague, I found some kind of pecan pastry and an amazing pair of earrings in a boutique off the beaten path… way better than the stuff in the tourist areas. Lost in Toronto, I found a pretty cool person to spend an evening with. Lost in Philadelphia, I found an alley full of mosaics, an amazing vintage reclamation shop and the best cheese steak I’ve ever tasted.
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  5. I faced my fears, and walked away more experienced, confident and ready for the next challenge.
    -I am from a relatively small city. No real mass transit to speak of. Taking the tube literally froze me in my tracks in London. Ash and I walked somewhere between 20 and 150 miles the day we had free to explore the city. Why? Because yours truly was too scared to risk getting lost on the subway. When you’re alone, you’ve just got to suck it up. Cabs can be insanely expensive and 10 mile walks are not nearly as pleasant alone.
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    I enjoy traveling, especially solo, because every time I get to know myself a little bit better. I actually like new foods… which surprised me. I cry in museums sometimes. I am particularly susceptible to gypsies and pick pockets. I enjoy eating alone and observing other people. Old ladies touch my hair, no matter which country I’m in. I get jittery and nervous every single time I have to take public transit. I have a tendency to adopt this weird, semi-neutral chameleon accent so that people don’t associate me with Honey BooBoo.
    .Traveling solo is not always a bed of roses. Save your worries! I’m going to write out my least favorite things about traveling solo, because sometimes its nice to have someone by your side. Either way, traveling is so much more worth your money than laser hair removal, new furniture or a shiny new car. I don’t think I’m something so cool because I spend every penny of available income on something that is intangible in the long term. Whether or not you have someone to go with you, pack up and go to ONE PLACE. One place you’ve dreamed of. One place where a movie was set, that you couldn’t stop imaging. One place that you may never have the chance to see again. Just go!What are your favorite things about traveling? Do you like to strike out on your own or do you prefer having someone attached to your hip?

Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels (Re-blog)

A post originally on Love the Search by Adi Zarsadias
Commentary in RED by Yours Truly, to tailor it to my travel life.
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She’s the one with the messy unkempt hair colored by the sun. Her skin is now far from fair like it once was. Not even sun-kissed. It’s burnt with multiple tan lines, wounds and bites here and there.  But for every flaw on her skin, she has an interesting story to tell. (Sometimes, she’s still pale, especially if most of her traveling is done in the temperate months)
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Don’t date a girl who travels. She is hard to please. The usual dinner-movie date at the mall will suck the life out of her. Her soul craves for new experiences and adventures. She will be unimpressed with your new car and your expensive watch. She would rather climb a rock or jump out of an airplane than hear you brag about it. (Yep)
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Don’t date a girl who travels because she will bug you to book a flight every time there’s an airline seat sale. She wont party at Republiq(4th Street Live). And she will never pay over $100 for Avicii because she knows that one weekend of clubbing is equivalent to one week somewhere far more exciting.
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Chances are, she can’t hold a steady job. Or she’s probably daydreaming about quitting. She doesn’t want to keep working herself to death for someone else’s dream (but she will because she knows that it is the best way of financing her dreams). She has her own and is working towards it. She is a freelancer. She (wishes) makes money from designing, writing, photography or something that requires creativity and imagination. Don’t waste her time complaining about your boring job.
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Don’t date a girl who travels. She might have wasted her college degree and switched careers entirely. She is now a dive instructor or a yoga teacher (unless she can’t actually touch her toes). She’s not sure when the next paycheck is coming, but she doesn’t work like a robot all day, she goes out and takes what life has to offer and challenges you to do the same.
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Don’t date a girl who travels for she has chosen a life of uncertainty.  She doesn’t have a plan or a permanent address. She goes with the flow and follows her heart. She dances to the beat of her own drum. She doesn’t wear a watch. Her days are ruled by the sun and the moon. When the waves are calling (or cobblestone streets of Europe), life stops and she will be oblivious to everything else for a moment. But she has learned that the most important thing in life isn’t surfing (or butchering a new language to order street food).
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Don’t date a girl who travels as she tends to speak her mind. She will never try to impress your parents or friends. She knows respect, but isn’t afraid to hold a debate about global issues or social responsibility.
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She will never need you. She knows how to pitch a tent and screw her own fins (I don’t know what that means) without your help. She cooks well and doesn’t need you to pay for her meals. She is too independent and wont care whether you travel with her or not. She will forget to check in with you when she arrives at her destination (every time). She’s busy living in the present. She talks to strangers. She will meet many interesting, like-minded people from around the world who share her passion and dreams. She will be bored with you.
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So never date a girl who travels unless you can keep up with her. And if you unintentionally fall in love with one, don’t you dare keep her. Let her go. (or put on your  big boy pants and go with her)
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We aren’t flaky, but we can’t wait for our next adventure. We’ll spend every spare dollar to go, to see, to do, even some dollars we can’t spare. We’ll meet new people and talk about them like they’re family. We’ll never know how much we love the people we leave at home until we leave them behind. It doesn’t negate the worth of traveling, but instead shows just how priceless it really is. I’ve said to those I love before, “I’m boarding now. If I don’t make it to my destination, know that I died happy. Forget the funeral, and spend the money going to a new place”. -Sara
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