First Post: Q & A!
Hey guys! This is my first post, so to introduce my blog and a little bit about myself I thought I would do a question & answer post. I asked you guys to ask me anything and here's what you came up with:
Q: What are some tips for planning trips?
I always start with a region or a group of countries that I am determined to visit. Then I head to blogs or social media to find inspiration for specific cities/locations that I want to see, and build my trip from there. I start creating a rough route between each destination with estimated prices and time spent in each place, and kind of build off of it from there. Some travelers prefer to buy a one-way ticket and show up in a country with little to no plans, but I prefer to do somewhat heavy research beforehand so that I'm prepared, and also to ensure my safety as a solo female traveler. Planning the trip is half the fun for me!
Q: Did you ever have any culture shock?
The very first time I left the United States was when I went to study abroad in Spain. After the initial excitement wore off, I got hit pretty bad with culture shock. At that time I wasn't very good at Spanish and felt lost and overwhelmed in day to day interactions, I missed the warmth of Hawaii, and I felt alone and foreign sometimes. Fast forward 50 or so countries later, and feeling foreign and alone is one of my favorite things about traveling, its how you grow and become more independent! Culture shock happens, and its challenging, but its also a huge learning experience and usually wears off sooner than later. Whenever I'm feeling particularly sad, I'll just go for a walk and often get so swept up in the wonder of a new city that I forget why I was down in the first place.
Q: Have you ever had a scary experience traveling alone?
To be honest, I've had pretty good luck regarding this aspect of traveling (knock on wood). I usually plan and research my trips with great detail so there leaves little room for scary surprises. One time my motorbike broke down in the middle of nowhere Albania where I had 0 cell service and was all by myself - I was worried for a moment, but nice locals helped me get back on my way within 10 minutes. That was probably the most scared I have felt while traveling alone, and really it ended up being a good memory because of the kind strangers who were willing to help. Experiences like that just go to show you that the world isn't that big, scary place that its made out to be.
Q: What are your favorite websites and apps for booking cheap flights, hostels, etc?
I swear by Sky Scanner for cheap flights, which is basically a database of tons of airlines and their available flights so you can find the cheapest option. Hostel World is also a great website for booking cheap accommodation with helpful ratings, information, photos, and reviews. One more that I use religiously is Rome 2 Rio, where you can input a starting point and a destination point, and it tells you all of the different routes possible to make the journey with prices and type of transportation, which saves a lot of leg work for me in the planning process.
Q: How do you afford to travel so much?
This is a great question, because I think a lot of people think traveling is totally out of reach for them. I want to stress that I know how extremely privileged I am to have the opportunity to get out and see the world like I do - I have a healthy working body that enables me to walk around, a strong American passport with visa-free travel in most countries, a caucasian appearance that, truthfully and unfortunately, enables me to have certain advantages over POC while traveling, plus the financial means to do so, among others. But I also want to note that it's not as impossible and unattainable as it seems, which is why I started this blog in the first place - so that others could see what I get to see if they wanted.
To answer the question: work, save, travel, repeat. I work crazy hours, often 3 jobs simultaneously, to save for my trips. I consistently force myself to work 40 hours per week while being a full-time college student because I just want it that badly. I also have the added, unique advantage of being a student-athlete at my university, which luckily takes care of tuition so I can save nearly 100% of my paychecks. I cut down drastically on dining out and social activities that cost tons of money, and instead opt for hiking or going to the beach with my friends which is totally free. I wish I had some magic formula here, but at this point in my life, I work multiple crappy customer service jobs and force a smile, knowing that my 10 hour shift just bought me a plane ticket from x to y city.
Q: What gear do you bring traveling?
I bring pretty much two backpacks with me - one massive classic "backpacking" backpack with all of my clothes and toiletries, and then an electronics bag with my camera, tripod, chargers, and important documents like my passport, wallet, IDs, travel insurance, prescriptions, etc. My favorite brand for large backpacking bags is Osprey. They're pricey, but they're durable enough to last you several long backpacking trips.
I just want to rave real quick about my smaller day pack (what I wear walking around cities to carry stuff like my passport, wallet, and camera) - it's the TravelOn Anti-Theft Backpack that you can purchase here. It's got lockable zippers so thieves can't unzip your bag, plus the material is slash-proof. I had 0 problems in high-risk pickpocketing cities like Rome and Barcelona, and I owe a lot of that security to this bag.
As for electronics, I have the Canon 6D camera with a 24-105mm f4 L series lens, plus the 50mm f1.8 lens from Canon as well. My tripod is the Vanguard VEO 204AB Aluminum Travel Tripod with Ball Head!
Q: How do you get photos of yourself while traveling?
For the longest time I used to just ask random other tourists to take my photo and I was always disappointed with the results. I would be standing in front of a glorious waterfall and the "photographer" would exclude much of it from the frame, instead getting too much of the ground or unwanted stuff in the shot. I wanted to improve my travel photography, so I decided to buy a tripod. Best decision ever! All photos of myself are taken with the my DSLR + tripod combo, using the Canon app on my phone where I can actually take the photo with my camera from the mobile app. I wrote more about taking good photos of yourself while traveling solo here.
Thanks for the questions guys! xoxo