“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”-J.K. Rowling
Somewhere along the strange history of my family, the need to bring a rubber chicken when traveling became a tradition. This specific one has been to 19 countries with me (only missing out on three) and 15 with my sister. He has watched me cross continents, hike to 18,000ft, tiptoe across temples, be scared shitless, feel desperately lonely, get lost and find my way, meet people who forever changed my life and push myself out of my comfort zone daily. Before I booked a one way ticket to New Zealand and the fear was pausing my hand from hitting confirm, I realized I was fulfilling my quota of doing one thing a day that scared me. I reminded myself of this often and am endlessly grateful that I traveled alone, funded it myself and built a foundation for a life full of expedition.
If you have any questions about travel, the logistics of it, want to create a gap year for yourself, or are contemplating an adventure but not sure how you’ll do it, please feel free to contact me here. I’d love to hear from you.
The following page contains three things to do and tips for each country I visited, online resources, books to read while traveling and any other writings/pondering I have on the subject.
3 THINGS TO DO/TIPS
Spend a ridiculously spectacular day...
Eat anything at Muriel’s Kitchen. It is perfect...
See the play How to Become Icelandic in...
Swim in a Cenote. I don't have recommendations..
The love affair I had with the city of Granada...
Wander the mountain town of Pia. It isn't...
When in Belgium, beer must be consumed.
I don’t know why Cafe Divan, out of the...
Visit Yad Vashem the (Holocaust museum).
If your cash allows, I highly recommend...
Go to any of the local folk music festivals.
The cities completely differ from one end...
Visit the island Koh Rong Sanloem. I walked...
Eat doner kebab at Mustafas in Berlin.
Go anywhere in Tuscany and enjoy the views...
I am overwhelmed by the amount of things...
Hike in Grindelwald. The combination of the...
Skyscanner-I use Skyscanner because it gives me a ballpark for the cheaper tickets I find. I always double check on either the airlines website or other websites, like Orbitz, to see if they are truly the best priced. Occasionally if you have been searching Skyscanner often, it will start to boost the price of tickets you are looking at. If you reset your cookies and clear your history, it will bring that price back down. Overall, I have been very impressed with the results.
Helpx-I used Helpx in several countries. What I loved about the service, is it only requires a small yearly fee to keep your profile active and is used in most countries. I found great places to work/volunteer all over the world through this website.
Workaway-Another great resource, I personally didn’t use it but traveled with many who did and only had positive things to say about it. It has a variety of jobs it offers and is very reliable.
WWOOF-The only time I would use WWOOF, is if you are staying in one country. It is one of the better websites but is expensive. This is due to the fact that each country you visit, requires you to pay for that specific country instead of a, one time, or yearly fee. It also only has organic farms whereas the other websites, have a variety of jobs they offer.
Airbnb-Once I discovered Airbnb, I started using it as much as possible. Especially if you are traveling with a friend, it can save you money and I ended up in some absolutely stunning spots.
Hostel/Hostelworld-Both are great websites but they take a large commission off the top of any booking you make. So before you make a reservation, see if you can find the hostels website and book directly through them. Sometimes it is cheaper and all the money will then go directly to that hostel.
Couchsurfing-I used couchsurfing several times with overall positive results. I never did it alone, although I know many women who did. Sometimes it actually limited what I did within a city. I felt beholden to spend time with whomever was hosting me. If you are on a budget, it is a great way to save and meet locals, just make sure you really look through the hosts reviews. You will become quick to read between the lines of what people are saying and see what they aren't mentioning.
WHAT TO READ/LISTEN TO
-Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
-Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson
-Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
-Mila 18 by Leon Uris
-The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
-The Boys in the Boat by James Brown
-Tim Ferriss's interview with Cal Fussman
-The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett
-Any of the Harry Potters narrated by Jim Dale
-Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
-All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
-The World Wanderers podcast
**The Overdrive app is a great tool if you like to listen to audiobooks but don't want to pay for an Audible subscription. All you need is a library card number.
By the time I was twenty years old, I had visited twenty-two countries and presented my passport like a treasured relic to any customs officer who asked for it. Once the travel bug bites you, it’s hard to fully scratch that itch. I thank my worldly mother for that particular ailment.
There are many who have traveled cheaper, smarter, and broader than I, but efficiency was never my intention. The majority of what I’ve learned was all from hands-on experience. For example: hostels do have check out times and are rather unhappy to find you jet lagged, passed out in a bed that needs to be occupied by someone else, riding trains in Europe costs vastly more than flying or busing, accepting your status as a tourist early on will allow you to embrace the embarrassing situations you find yourself in daily, and bandanas are ideal for smuggling the inedible parts of goat head curry, from your mouth to a nicely forested area, while enjoying dinner in a village in Nepal.
Before I left for a trip around the world at nineteen, I read a few articles about budget traveling but, like most things I do, I tossed myself into the experience head first. As a result, I spent too much money on things I shouldn’t have. I visited places I would rather have skipped and spread myself out across the world too thinly to truly drink in and relish each culture. However, I learned quickly and realized that spending my time while abroad, on my computer, deciphering the cheapest way to go about it, took away from the time I had to explore the city I was in. Money comes and goes (advice I need to remind myself of often) but my experience in each place was fleeting.
Although I was lucky enough to explore several countries with my family, most of them I visited on my own dime. Many asked me how, at 18, I saved enough money to travel around the world for twelve months. The honest answer is I made it a priority. I worked sixty plus hours a week for a year and a half while living at home. I don’t have a magic formula and am lucky to have a family who enjoys my cooking enough to keep me around for a little while longer. Not everyone has the ability to do this, nor do I recommend it to many. But, it was my way of showing myself I could do what it took to make this desire into reality. It was my investment in myself.
The key to traveling is deciding you are going to do it. The countless times I have heard people say, “Oh I would love to but, I have this and that holding me back”. If you truly, deep in your bones, want to take a trip, then make it happen. Once you venture down the rabbit hole of excuses, there is no coming back. Once you have decided, figure out what kind of wandering you would like to do. Are you okay with getting work visas and living that lifestyle? Do you want to see all the churches in France? Are you okay spending more on a plane ticket to find yourself in a country that will only cost you $15 a day, or spend less to get to a city that will cost you closer to $100? If the answer to all of these is, “I have no idea” buy a ticket and figure it out from there. Over planning can save you money, but also limits the amount of random life changing excursions you never thought you would take.
Leaving home solo was the best experience I’ve had. It taught me self-reliance, to trust my instincts, laugh at awful situations, sit in loneliness, and realize how many different ways there are to live this life. It also was disconcerting to be disconnected entirely from routine, to sleep in different places every couple of nights and to feel ungrounded in the constant motion of it all. There were times I felt like I was wasting days as I wandered particular cities. Travel is hard, it’s beautiful and completely real. I highly recommend it to everyone but also realize it is not a way to escape, life catches you quicker than you think.