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

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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?

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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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???

Sharing Your Passion

They say that the best blog is one that is a medium for your passion. I have posted about DIY projects, crafts, food, clothes, travel, adventures, and personal thoughts. The closest of those that I could call my passion might be travel, but I’m still just learning the ropes there. Passion is something that is ingrained in us from earlier, even if we haven’t fully realized it.

So what is my passion? I think it is, and has always been: telling a story. I have been writing (for fun, not merely for necessity) since late elementary school, and fictionalizing adventures with my imaginary pals before that. I have an imagination that could likely write loads of books if it could be channeled. I guess that is why my posts are all over the place. I will do whatever I need to for material to write, but more important that a recipe or new city are the memories that I’m sharing.

I’m aware that it’s likely just me, my mom and a few bored friends that read these posts, which is okay. I write because I love to write and if you are reading this, I’m your biggest fan. xo

Marry Christmas and Happy New Years from my family to yours... or back to mine, since they are the ones who read this! har har har

Marry Christmas and Happy New Years from my family to yours… or back to mine, since they are the ones who read this! har har har

 

Buda Castle, Turkish Food, River Cruise, and Actual Karaoke (Day 20)

Monday, May 20, 2013

This morning was really brisk and pretty. Before we met up outside of the Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest for a tour, we enjoyed the nice weather and took some photos at Heroes Square. After driving to the Parliament, we wound our way through the construction zone outside to enter. The inside of the building was absolutely breathtaking!

None of my photos inside the building were worth much... Thanks Kaminesky Blog

None of my photos inside the building were worth much… Thanks Kaminesky Blog

We got to see the Assembly Hall of the House of Magnates and the accompanying numbered cigar holders that sit on the window sills just outside of the room. We also saw the Holy Crown of Hungary and its accompanying guards, who did the ceremonial changing while we were in the room.

We did a driving tour around the city and up to Gellert Hill to get an astounding panorama of the two cities, Buda and Pest, with the river Danube that separates them:IMG_20130520_041732 Onward to Buda Castle and Fishermen’s Bastion for another incredible view:

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While in the Castle, Tavis and I wandered around and did a bunch of random stuff: Listening to the longest set of church bells ever, holding a bird of prey, searching out the delicious cinnamon pastries that we could smell from nearly a block away and taking the group Contiki picture.

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I so wish that we would have taken it in Berlin or Prague, because by Budapest we had already lost close to 15 people.

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After we left the Castle, everyone else was going to the famous Baths. Unfortunately, I did not pack a swimsuit and I was not actually interested in being seen in public in one anyway, so I declined to go. I got off the coach on the Pest side of Chain Bridge with Tavis, Andrea and Stephen, who had a friend from Toronto with whom they were planning on spending the afternoon. They graciously invited Tavis and me to join them for lunch, bless them. I was still dealing with a stomach that was on the fritz and nothing really sounded appetizing, so following someone who knew what was where was relieving.

We went to a Turkish place and I got some kind of stuffed pita sandwich that was good, but I don’t think I ate much of it. We sat there and talked for a bit and then wandered back to the sightseeing part of town. We went through St Stephan’s Cathedral, where you can deposit cash  to see a light show around the namesakes preserved hand. Interesting to say the least.

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Tavis and I left the three of them after the cathedral to wander around and shop. I was bound and determined to find one of the famous Hungarian secret boxes and a Rubik’s cube (invented by a Hungarian sculptor/professor of architecture). You see, because that’s what so many people want to take home as a souvenir, most of what you find are cheap and flimsy. I wanted to find a really nice, well made box even if it cost me 3 or 4 x the price of the others. We ended up finding some that I liked similar to this:

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We met up back at chain bridge to be picked up, and went back to the hotel to have time to freshen up before dinner.

While at the hotel, we had time to get Luce and Levi’s tip envelopes taken care of. SO much easier said than done. It took me no less than an hour to write out my thanks to them, since I was crying incessantly. I don’t know why I cried so much at the end of this trip… possibly some combination of exhaustion, sickness and estrogen.

We all hung out in the lobby, waiting to leave for our dinner cruise down the Danube, when some dude walked his WOLF through the lobby. Now, I’m being serious, right now.  I am not talking about some husky hybrid. I asked the guy, and this dog was a legit wolf. He said I could pat him, and apparently no one ever loves that poor dog, because as soon as I touched him he jumped up on me. He was actually taller than me, and proceeded to take full advantage of that fact and lick my face. He got a little carried away and gave me a legitimate love bite… ON MY FACE. Candace is incredible, because she got the money shot!

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We ate an incredible dinner on the boat and  then got to see the city lights at night. It was a complete masterpiece! We all talked and hugged and took lots of pictures. I did not cry on the boat, but was planning on skipping the karaoke afterwards to go back and pack and get some sleep before my 10 hour flight from Warsaw. I got the biggest guilt trip on the coach on the way to the bar, even though I was trying to save my tour mates the awkwardness of my tearful hugs. So I went to karaoke, sang my song after Brianne, who is a freaking ringer and blew us all away with her rendition of I Wanna Dance with Somebody by madame Houston, cried like Kim Kardashian while hugging everyone and then snuck out to get a cab back with Tavis, Akhil and Hanisha.

I’m a little heart-broken just writing this, because talking about this wonderful trip makes me miss everyone so much! Enjoy my video montage of the trip and go see the world. It’s full of the best people… and food… but it’s really the people who make it. Love you Contiki mates!

This is the video montage I made after the trip. Watching it makes me happy and I hope you get some idea of how much fun we had. 6 countries. 3 weeks. Nearly 65 people.