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.

angkor-wat1

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?

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.
    London2
  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.
    dublin4
  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.
    IMG_0054
  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.
    .
    .
    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.
.
.
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)
.
.
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)
.
.
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.
.
.
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.
.
.
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.
.
.
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).
.
.
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.
.
.
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.
.
.
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)
.
.
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
.
.
1236569_10100576039446237_828438014_n
251209_827063536264_6630000_n

My Hopes for 2014.

Why do we make resolutions on or around New Years Eve/Day every year? What is the motivating factor? Why do we all make the same ones?

Don’t believe me?

I want to lose ## pounds this year.
I want to eat healthier (or whatever is fad: low-fat, low-carb, vegetarian, gluten free).
I want to save more money.
I want to de-stress.

If you claim to have never or contemplated one of these, I might be skeptical.

I think at the end of a year we’re forced to examine the last 12 months, and sometimes we tend to focus on what wasn’t perfect, as opposed to what far exceeded our hopes and dreams. I won’t pretend that I don’t wish a single thing had been different about this year or the one before. I mean, I would love to be in a great relationship, living abroad or wondering why my pants just keep getting looser and looser. However, I refuse to let that distract me from what was possibly one of the best years of my life. Seriously! Let’s look at 2013:

-I ‘found myself’ during 12 months of intentionally remaining single, after dating guy after guy after guy (seriously like 16-17 in 2012, varying degrees of seriousness), and losing myself while trying to find validation in a relationship.
-I set foot in 9 countries outside of the ole U.S.A.
-I met over 80 of the most AMAZING people, a handful of whom I will love for  the rest of my life.
-I got a goddaughter!
-Went skydiving.
-Ran two half-marathons
-Tried more new foods than I can count.
-Learned to navigate public transit
-Lost 30 lbs.
-Saw a very toned down version of the Aurora Borealis
-Used powertools
and -Grew a garden.

Just like a person, though, I’m not satisfied. There are a few things that I would like to accomplish in 2014. I am intentionally trying to stay away from standard resolutions, because I don’t want a standard year. I want another earth-shaking, never the same, be telling these stories until I die kind of year. I also want them to be realistic and practical. Here’s what I’ve got:

-To improve my photo skills. I hate showing someone a photo I took of somewhere incredible and having to say, “This picture doesn’t even begin to do it justice… here let me Google some better pictures.”

-To spend (probably unwisely) way too much money on travel.

-To stop distancing myself from people. I am incredibly lazy with my friendships.

-To do more, go more, see more, try more STUFF. I teeter being a borderline shut-in and being so busy doing so much that I forget to breathe, but I want to be consistently active.

-To be able to be happy for people in my life when they get the things that I haven’t, instead of this horrible mixture of sort of happy for them while throwing myself a pity party.

and for fun:

-To master the art of cat eye makeup with liquid liner and, in doing so, that gorgeous, old Hollywood glam. (that one’s going to be tough)

Do you want to see your life change in 2014?  If you are a resolution maker, what did you resolve this year?

2014 Travel Plans

What’s the best part of the new year? Well, if you asked Uncle Sam, he’d tell you that his favorite part of the new year is April 16. I don’t know why you’d ask Uncle Sam, though. No one likes him.

If you asked me, I would tell you that New Year’s week is the time that I start planning my major travels for the coming twelve months. So go ahead, ask me what tentative travels my year is likely to hold…

Come on. I’m waiting…

Since you asked, this year holds a few trips! And here’s what they are:

Starting early in January: Austin. It’s just a long weekend to explore and see some silly road side attractions with my Texas dwelling sister. it was probably poor planning to go in January, because most things to do in Texas are outside.

Austin at Night Photo credit: Tumblr

Austin at Night
Photo credit: Tumblr

Next: Australia. After approximately a 5 month, travel free saving hiatus. My goals down under include camping at Ayers Rock, and seeing as many friends as possible in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, while meeting lots of new friends.

Sunset at Uluru Photocredit: Tumblr

Sunset at Uluru
Photo credit: Tumblr

While North America is still in summer, a nice trip out to Vancouver will be perfect. It should still be dry and warm, sparing me from the horrible heat and humidity of the South.

Aerial view of Vancouver. Photo credit: Tumblr

Aerial view of Vancouver.
Photo credit: Tumblr

To cap off the year, I’ll be going up to the Northeast, for a pop in to Boston and to see some of the foliage changing in Connecticut, maybe with a quick drive up to Portland, Maine, for some seafood sampling.

Fall In the Northeastern states. Photo credit: Tumblr

Fall In the Northeastern states.
Photo credit: Tumblr

All of my plans are still, well, in the planning stage at this point, but these are what I’m hoping for! I’ve got to rack up these air rewards points somehow!

So what about you? Where would you like to see with your own eyes this year? Where do you dream of opening your eyes???