Tag Archives: female travel

How I Afford To Travel The World

Probably the number one question I get asked when it comes to my travels is, “How do you afford it?!” Since I work seasonal employment, it’s not exactly the most profitable field, and therefore I shouldn’t be traveling as much as I do. But, the answer lies in the details. As a former travel agent, I have a few tricks of the trade that have helped me throughout the years and as I travel more, I have gained a few tricks of my own. 

RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. I scour websites like Momondo and Skyscanner and STA travel and Student Universe, and I’m not picky. When I bought my ticket to Japan, I originally had no idea of where I wanted to go. I used the “Take Me Anywhere” feature on Momondo, and found my $378 round trip ticket to Tokyo. I didn’t really have any interest in going to Japan, but at a price like that, I couldn’t say no.

Being flexible allows more doors to open and better flights to pop up. If you have one particular place in mind, chances of finding the “perfect” flight at a stellar price are pretty slim. But, if you go into it with no expectations of where you’re going, there are some absolutely phenomenal flights out there to places that are super up and coming.

Save. Everything. Since I work seasonal jobs, my bills are almost non-existent. Most of my contracts offer me food and housing, so I can save nearly everything I make instead of having to pay for rent and utilities and car insurance and car payments and and and…While this isn’t the case for a lot of people, when I worked a “normal 9-5”, I was putting 20-25% of my paychecks away for future travels.

Because I’m committed to traveling as much as I can, I was willing to sacrifice a few nights out with friends or going out to dinner or splurging on a new outfit if it meant that I could take a helicopter ride in Iceland or order an extra bottle of wine in Venice or stay in the hotel that I had been looking at for years online. While 25% is steep, you can always adjust that to whatever you’re comfortable with.

I have a Round-The-World trip planned for this September and just about everything I’m making is going towards tickets, hostels, excursions, food, drinks, etc. It’s sometimes hard to debate with yourself as to whether saving is worth it when there are so many things going on right now, but it always pans out well. 

Be Diligent. Once you’ve found an area or a location that has captured your heart, and clouded all your daydreams, sign up for fare alerts, check up on the price when you can, and check fare predictors. (Skyscanner and Student Universe both have pretty reliable ones.) Word of Caution: a lot of these third-party sites that offer lower rates usually use cookies, and if they see that you’re checking the same flight over and over, they’re likely to raise the price solely because they know you’re interested. To avoid this, turn off your cookies while browsing or browse in private mode. 

Travel on Tuesdays. If you’re traveling internationally, try to book your flight for a Tuesday and search for your flight Tuesday or Wednesday. Airlines tend to lower their prices to match competition on Monday nights, so you’re going to find cheaper flights on these days. Try to avoid searching for flights on weekends, as the prices are usually inflated. As for traveling on Tuesday, fares are usually less expensive than say, Sunday afternoon. 

Book Your Trip During The Shoulder Seasons. Shoulder seasons are the month(s) before and after peak travel times; think April, September, October. While you might miss out on the best weather, shoulder seasons are much cheaper both airfare wise and expenses during your stay. Hotels and exclusions are usually less too. And shoulder seasons tend to have less crowds, which is always a plus. 

Think Outside The Box When It Comes To Lodging. Hotels. They can be so, so expensive. Think about staying in hostels, Airbnb’s, or couch surfing. If you’re dead set on staying in hotels, try hotels.com, they have a fantastic rewards program where for every 9 nights you book through them, you get 1 night free. Which adds up so quickly. Plus, once you sign up, they “unlock secret prices”, which is usually $5-25 off the listed price. 

Pack Light. Luggage fees are getting more and more exorbitant. Airlines like Spirit and Frontier make a large majority of their profit from fees and last time inchecked, luggage fees for Frontier were upwards of $65. That’s as much as a ticket! Try to pack what you can into a carry-on and your personal item, not only are you saving on luggage fees but you’re also saving yourself from having to schlep around a ton of luggage. 

Don’t Be Intimidated By All-Inclusive. I have to admit, I was not at all keen on the idea of any trip I took to have the words “all inclusive” anywhere near them. I felt like it was cheating, or there had to be some sort of catch. But, when I found an all-inclusive trip on Living Social to La Fortuna, Costa Rica for $250, I was intrigued. It included lodging, food, drinks, and an excursion (I went ATV’ing on a volcano 💁) and it was so worth it. I didn’t have to worry about constantly having money with me, and I was still able to leave the lodge and walk around the town and get a sense of the local culture. 

Honestly, traveling is as much of a priority as you make it. If you’re bound and determined to see as much of the world as possible, you want to make it happen and you’ll do what it takes to see it come to fruition. If you’re okay with a vacation a year, that’s awesome too, we all have different priorities and it’s your life to live. 

I travel as much as I do because it’s probably my number one priority. It’s what I’m always thinking about, it’s what I save for, it’s my therapy and my escape. I’m so very lucky to have such an incredible and supportive family who lets my wanderlust take over and they’re there for me every step of the way. 

Travel is as achievable as you want it to be. Go forth, my dears. 

Traveling As An Overweight Female

This is probably going to be one of the hardest posts I’ll ever write but I think that it needs to be talked about.

I’m not skinny, I never have been, I’m not making excuses for it either but I don’t let my weight interfere with my passion for traveling.walkingintikal

What I really want to address is how to travel as an overweight female. Little things that most people might not think about like; worrying if I had reached the maximum weight limit for ziplining in Costa Rica, the embarrassment of not being able to buy any kind of boots in Italy because my calves were just a bit too big or even having to almost over plan what you’re packing to go to the jungle because you know it will be hotter than Hades but you’re self conscious about the way your arms look in tank tops.

This will not be a self-depricating post. This will not be a pity party. This will be about how to empower not only myself but hopefully find other women who experience the same things.

Let’s begin with pre-trip. Packing is a bitch.

There’s always the “what do I want to wear?” question but sometimes I find myself double guessing my choices because of how I will look. I want to wear things that make the most sense like tank tops in tropical climates but sometimes I find myself putting in t-shirts instead because I’m self conscious about my arms. I’ll pack capris or even pants instead of shorts because I’m not ready to show the world my legs. I’ve found that in a way, I’ve stopped caring. I have to embrace how I look and how I’ll look in the things that I pack. I need to be comfortable and if that means I have to be uncomfortable about the way that I look a little bit, then maybe that’s okay.

Besides packing, there’s the actual flight itself. In all reality, airlines sell you 27″ of seat space, that’s all you get. So if your hips are a little bigger and you’re slightly pushing into the seat next to you, that’s not really their problem but rather, your super uncomfortable one instead.

I’m not hugely overweight by any means but I’ve noticed, especially as a female, that I get judged. Constantly. I’m not the norm of what people perceive travelers to look like. I defy that norm. Proudly. But there’s always that defeated feeling that comes along with traveling.487367_10151301257193222_2019882356_n

Every time I plan a trip, I always make a goal to lose weight before but it’s not always easy. I work a full time job, I write, I go to school and I try to maintain a blog. No, there are no excuses but I feel as though I go into the trip excited about the possibilities but sad that I didn’t reach the weight goal I had set myself. I’m sure we’ve all been there. “I want to lose 10 pounds by my cruise” or “I’m studying abroad for 3 months and I want to be super skinny!” But when departure date arrives, we’re not as close as we had hoped we would be. And to that, you kind of have to brush it aside and realize that we have all been there. And it’s okay. You’ll still have a great trip.

993337_10152125797348135_1286637229_nIt’s not so much the big things when it comes to traveling as an overweight female but it’s the culmination of little things that seem to fester. On my most recent trip to Belize, we climbed ruins. A LOT of ruins. Ruins that were 50 stories tall and ruins that had more stairs than I could count. Of course, wanting to experience the view from the top, I climbed them all. But I could feel myself trying to prevent myself from breathing hard because I didn’t want people to think I was that out of shape. Granted, even the skinny mini’s were huffing and puffing but I felt like there was a stigma because of my weight. People expected me to huff and puff. Which, looking back, wasn’t true at all. We were all just happy to get to the top.

But here’s the thing. They’re not judging me. They’re more focused on not falling off the ruin, not dying, on just being able to breathe. So this silliness about everyone staring at me is just nonsense. But it’s hard to push those thoughts away.

Now, the epitome of uncomfortable. The bathing suit.
I love going to the beach. Absolutely love it, but I loathe having to wear something that makes me feel like I’m constantly having to suck in or wear extra layers or whatever. Luckily, I’ve found a suit that makes me feel awesome. I’m totally happy with my body in it and I’m not always so worried about how I look. swimsuit

But, it’s not always that easy. So here’s my advice. Find a suit that you feel stellar in. I know it will take some time to find and you’ll have to battle those fitting room demons but just do it. Don’t be afraid to go a size up. Don’t be afraid to try something on that you don’t think will look good. To be honest, the suit I love is one that my mom picked out and I literally made a face at her for picking it up. Shows how much I know.

No matter what, try to love the body you’re in. I know it’s not always easy and sometimes it’s just downright hard but I promise you that you’ll be so busy on your trip, it won’t really matter.

I know that someday I will be comfortable in my own skin and I’ll be able to take on the world headfirst but until then, I’m completely content with having a few reservations. I know I’m not the skinniest, nor will I ever be, but I’m happy with who I am. And that’s all that should matter.

My Study Abroad Adventures

I’m a college student. I love to travel. So naturally, I took advantage of the study abroad programs offered at my college. There’s about 9 to choose from, ranging from places like Costa Rica to Ireland. Every trip has a course tied to it that you take while in country. I’ve been on two and will be going on my third in three weeks time.

The first study abroad trip I went on was to Derry, Ireland. I left in early May of 2012 and spent 15 days in country for the class. I then stayed a week and a half later traveling on my own and then my mom met me for a trip to London and Paris. mommaparis

Let me say this; I LOVED my study abroad experience. Granted, every college is different and every trip within that college is different but I have yet to experience or even hear of a trip that wasn’t amazing.

Ireland was fantastic, a place I’ve always wanted to visit and the group that ended up going was 14 girls. Nuts. We all had serious apprehension before leaving but it was actually one of the better experiences of my life. We grew to be very close, albeit a few cat fights, and actually still keep in very close contact to this day. Two of the girls I went to Ireland with are now some of my best “traveling buddies”.

The way in which the trip was set up was easy to understand. We stayed at a local bed and breakfast, went to class three times a week for four hours a day and then had the rest of our nights free. We had planned “excursions” to places like Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, Belfast and the Titanic Museum, and only one guided tour of the city (thank goodness). 401711_10151133175688135_246478389_n

What was awesome about this planned trips was that we were still able to see things as tourists even though we were there for school. It also allowed gave us more of Ireland for our money.

Speaking of money; in total I spent $2300 for 15 days in Ireland. This included airfare, the program fee, food and souvenirs. The program fee included hotel, entrance fees, the cost of the class and transportation. Not too shabby.

I mean, I’ve never claimed to be a “thrifty traveler” but I like to save money where I can. Yes, I could have traveled throughout Ireland on my own for cheaper but I was gaining credits while abroad. I think that’s awesome.

Ireland was awe-inspiring. The history was rich and the people seemed to have this unabashed pride for their country. The greenness of it all is almost overwhelming and there are times where you’re silent, for there are no words to accurately describe the beauty of this country.

glenvaugh

My next adventure was to Belize. Belize kind of fell in my lap.
Two weeks before I left for Ireland, one of my professors told me about a scholarship they were giving away to go study abroad in Belize. I figured why not and filled out an application. As luck would have it, I won. All expenses paid (minus airfare) to Belize. SWEET.

So, a month and a half after I got back from Ireland, I began the paperwork for Belize and left two weeks later.

Belize was a complete 180 from Ireland. I frequently get asked about which trip I liked better and there is literally no way to compare the two.

caracolllBelize was a different world. Humid and jungle and animals and no air conditioning and true adventure. It was perfect. We arrived in Belize City and ran at about 100 mph for the next 15 days.

We saw Guatemala, we saw Mayan ruins of all kinds, we stayed in local villages, we went spelunking in an ancient Mayan Offering cave, we jumped from cliffs and rode waterfalls.

The class for this trip was Tropical Ecology and instead of sitting in a classroom for a few hours a day we would go into the jungle and learn from locals how different plants interacted with the environment, their medicinal uses, their spiritual properties. All of it. So if you’re a hands on learner, look for a trip like this.bz

I can honestly say, wholeheartedly, these trips changed my life. They opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that the world offers us that we’re sometimes too afraid to take advantage of. We’re in this world that most people know very little about and studying abroad gave me a chance to completely shift my world view. If you’re thinking about going, do it.

I will forever be grateful I went and I will always value the memories that I have from my time studying abroad.

Creating The Perfect Playlist For Your Trip

I like to think of myself as knowledgeable when it comes to different genres of music and truth be told, I’m an absolute music junkie but sometimes when I’m getting ready for a trip and I’m loading my iPod up, I have no idea what to put on there. Country? Too twangy. Rap? Too much. Classical? Too soft.

What I’ve realized is that your playlist almost decides what kind of trip you’re about to embark on and that it can make the getaway that much better if done properly.

Like when I went to Ireland, I had an iPod Shuffleand loaded it up with Of Monsters and Men, Mumford and Sons, classic Irish music and some lighter country. It was perfect. Those long drives through the rolling green hills was almost like a movie with the music behind it. Looking back on that trip, I was very contemplative, very in the now, very centered. I recommend “Love, Love, Love” by Of Monsters and Men as well as their song “Lakehouse”. The Civil Wars have a creepy, hauntingly beautiful sound that adds so much character to the sights you’ll visit.

On the same token, while in Belize I took a lot of newer alternative-y, pop-y, rock. Think Imagine Dragons, Kate Herzig, and the like. I also took a lot of beach music with songs from Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Chesney’s later stuff such as “Pirate Flag”. The trip had more of a laid back feel but also felt more upbeat thinking back.

Getting ready for my trip in less than a month I’m racking my brain and scouring Pandora to find some new and interesting songs that really catch my attention. Right now I’m attracted to the Imagine Dragons radio as well as Radical Face radio. The song that’s currently on repeat is Gustavo Santaolalla’s “Motorcycle Diaries”.

I think the playlist is a crucial item in your packing list and I’m always open for ideas on new songs as well as new adventures.

How I Spent $60 For Five Days In Costa Rica

The more that I travel, the more I notice how expensive it can be if you aren’t careful. Fees here, taxes there and that chocolate bar at the airport that was just calling your name. But a quick glance at Groupon and LivingSocial showed me a whole new side to budget travel.

In January, I was perusing Groupon when I noticed the “Getaways” tab. I figured I’d check it out just to see what it was and I was shocked at how steep the discounts were! Trips to Mexico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, England, for less than half of the retail price.

Everyone has their little tricks to save big but I kind of stumbled onto this opportunity. I told my friends about a 2 room deal for 4 nights, 5 days in Costa Rica that was being offered for $320 and jumped on the chance. 6 of us ended up going and splitting 2 rooms so we each only paid $60 including taxes.

When I looked at normal prices for our hotel, it was being advertised at $165/night. So, we saved $340. Crazy!

View From Back Porch

I had honestly expected a complete dump of a hotel but was pleasantly surprised at the stunning hotel that we stayed in. Living Social in particular has a personal agent that travels to all of their listed hotels offered (wish I had that guy’s job!) before advertising their deals.

Now I’m checking every week for new deals, I’m hooked.

Fervor.

My true passion in life has always been traveling.

It doesn’t matter how small or large. A midnight roadtrip to see snow, a transatlantic to the Emerald Isle, an empty flight to see Mayan ruins.

DSC00250

I’ve always had this intense feeling of wanderlust that I usually can’t put into words. It’s this pushing feeling against my chest screaming in the smallest voice, “Go. Be. Do.” At times this voice is a faint whisper and at times, like tonight, it’s this roaring and deafening battle cry. It’s my calling, truly and literally.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m only truly happy when I’m away. I’m constantly fighting the piece of me that feels like it’s too small for Florida. I sit in classrooms that teach me history of ancient lands and I’m chomping at the bit. I sit at tables and listen to stories of others who have gotten lost and I’m intrigued beyond recognition.

I’ve made plans as of late to fuel my fire.

I’m just recently went to Costa Rica with one of the girls I met in Belize. We were in the cloud forest, surrounded by volcanoes and jungle. It was paradise.

Also, my lead professor has offered me a spot on this year’s Belize trip again. And I’m seriously thinking of taking it. I’ve never pushed myself further out of my comfort zone than I did on that trip. God only knows how much more potential I can actualize while there a second time.

I know that I’m blessed for these opportunities. I know and I’m grateful.

I also know that if I don’t take these opportunities, someone else will. Someone else will get to to experience the passion and fervor and all consuming love I have for the world that we live in. And to be honest, that doesn’t really fly with me. I live for that feeling and I plan on taking it with me wherever I go.

People have told me that it’s too much.
People have said that I’m too lucky, I need to stay grounded.
People have whispered that I had too much fun for one lifetime, time to take a break.

To those people;

No.

It’s not too much. I’m exploring the world I was placed in. There are millions and millions of things and people and sights to be gazed upon. I plan on doing so.

I can’t be grounded. I was born to fly. I’ve always been a dreamer, sometimes too much of one. But my parents raised me right, they gave me the best gift of all; creativity, imagination, love, passion and drive. They pushed me out of the nest. They knew I could fly. And for that I can’t disappoint them.

And for those who said I had too much fun. Is there really such a thing? Imagine for a moment the happiest you’ve ever been. Emulsify that into a tangible object. Would you put that object on a shelf because it was good enough? Would you let it sit there and collect dust? I wouldn’t. If I’ve had “too much fun”, then there’s much more fun to be had.

I was in a relationship for years that stifled me. It sucked me dry. I lost my lust for life.
He hated to travel. He hated when I brought it up. He hated when I went on trips. And slowly, very slowly, I started hating myself.
Then one day, I broke free.
I can’t look back to that. I can’t be that girl who depended on someone else for my self worth. Because I’m better than that.
This world is far too grand and great to not be appreciated. That’s what I’m here for.

A Brief Glimpse At Belfast

Belfast is a city that seems to bustle at every turn but walk into any pub and time has stopped. The dust that lines the top of the shelves is easily an inch thick and the wood has started to warp in places from use. The once shiny metal stools have been hardened into a matte black from so much use. The bartender knows everyone that walks in and has the eyes of someone who truly has seen it all. But walk back out those front doors again and you’re slapped with reality.

Image

My visit to Belfast was a short one, with short being an understatement. The majority of the 5 hours I was there was spent in the Titanic Museum, an ode to the tragic ship but beautifully displayed. It’s a 5 story tale from first drafts to it’s fate at the bottom of the ocean. With artifacts recovered from it’s watery grave and donated by it’s survivors it tells the stories that would have never otherwise been heard.

Image

Belfast was also my first experience with a double decker bus. I know, so touristy. But admit it, you had a moment too. But, my moment was disrupted by snickering locals who laughed at the American tourists. What can you do?

Image

Around Belize In Two Weeks

Belize is a country of differences, culture, and deep-rooted beliefs that astound even the faintest believers. Arriving in Belize, I was a skeptic on many of the traditions practiced and found myself curious yet non-committal. Our first day consisted of visiting the Belize Zoo, which was an entity in of itself. The animals aren’t given cages that Americans are used to seeing  but rather wire wrapped into small squares that encircle their given space. The animals seemed to have all the behaviors recognized in zoo boredom but oddly enough, when viewing them, I seemed to think they were happier than some animals I have seen at American zoos.

I paid money to get the opportunity to feed a jaguar, which was such an extravagant experience but one that I was a little heartbroken about. The jaguar was so tame that it knew how to somersault and would allow multiple humans to pet it. In my opinion, wild animals should be just that, wild and free to roam. We finished our animal experiences at the zoo and headed for our home for the next five days, Crystal Paradise. I was taken aback by the setting in which we were surrounded; the lush landscape, the selfless family, the river that seemed to wander in its glory, and the leaf cutter ants in abundance. I situated myself in my room, one with a loft, and explored the grounds with a wild curiosity that seemingly came out of nowhere. As a group, we made our way down to the river to cool off after a day of traveling and it was an experience that brought everyone together. We bonded as a group and tentatively asked the questions we were dying to know about each other.

The next few days seem to blur together, not because they were boring or not filled with enough activities to make any particular one memorable, but rather because there was so much done in those few days that it literally runs together in my mind. I have to say with brutal honesty that one of my favorite experiences on the trip was the Offering Cave. I’ve never done anything remotely close to that in any way, shape or form. But what truly astounded me in the social psychology aspect was the way in which the group bonded and helped each other through even the hardest moments. We became a unit and acted as such, helping people rappel, carrying someone across a ledge, pushing someone to go even further when they thought they couldn’t give anymore.

Aside from how we acted, the cave itself was something of mysterious wonder. As we reached the sacrifice stone, the presence of those who had passed was almost palpable. We all turned off our headlamps and completely immersed ourselves in darkness. Nothing can truly compare to the silence and calm that ensued, the darkness seemed to lovingly embrace you in the way that only family can do and the quiet was beckoning you to listen closely, as if it had something to say. We all seemed to be completely content in the pit of that cave, as if we had all belonged there. Even as we pushed further into the darkness, we became comfortable with turning our lights off at random just to feel what was so readily available.

We visited many bodies of water such as the Rio Frio Pools, the Five Lady Falls, the Macal River, and the other side of the Gulf of Mexico. What I didn’t expect to happen was the ease in which we were able to navigate through the waters, the way we all wanted to try new things and push ourselves even further out of our comfort zone. We jumped off of 2 story tall cliffs, we scooted down little waterfalls, we climbed higher and higher looking for that new adventure that seemed to greet us at every turn.

What was truly unexpected though was the way in which the culture embraced us. We were tourists, but we were welcome, we were accepted, and we were asked questions. The best example I can give is the home stay. I stayed with the Tzib family that consisted of 11 people in the main house and 5 in the smaller house. What made the experience something I will honestly never forget was they way they conducted their lives, the way they treated me like royalty while maintaining their pride and dignity. What I consider poverty would be a lavish lifestyle for them but they were truly happy in their culture and their town. They chose to live like that because anything more would be wasted.

I know I’ve talked consistently about the family and the experience I had with them but I speak of them so feverishly because I don’t ever want to forget their faces, their characteristics, their family and their absolute kindness in the rawest form. I see them as something of a novelty, a family submerged in a culture that values men, subjugates women, and thrives off of the land but they navigate their lives to accommodate every person’s need, no matter how small.

The matriarch, Christina, was something out of fiction. She truly cared for everyone but herself; watching all of the children while everyone else went away to work, slaving over the kitchen, washing the children, making beds, and laughing at even the most terrible jokes I made. She asked me about my travels and when I returned to ask her, the furthest she had traveled was to the next town over, but she seemed to be completely content with that. I told her about the magic of Ireland, the mystique of Scotland and the beaches in Florida but nothing seemed to impress her. She was impressed by my thoughts about her land, though. She wanted to listen for hours about the way I talked about the ruins and the jungle and all things Belize.

Looking back on the experience, I am thankful. Not only for all of the things I am able to come home to, but also the people I met along the way in this journey called life. I took away so much from the trip as a whole but mostly from little moments along the way that truly made the trip worthwhile; looking out over Guatemala on top of an ancient temple surrounded by howler monkeys, night hikes where I could distinctly see the Milky Way, and the people who participated in this trip with me.

I will always remember my time in Belize to be something of a distant memory, a fast and furious two weeks filled with laughter, bumpy roads, and the most incredible people in a land that knows no bounds. Belize will always be close to my heart forever on.