10 Tips to Guarantee a Magical Trip to Costa Rica

10 Tips to Guarantee a Magical Trip to Costa Rica

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No matter how many beaches I walk down, how many mountains I climb, how many oceans I bathe in, how many sunsets I watch, nowhere seems to stir my soul like Costa Rica.

 

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Lush jungle spills onto golden sand beaches. Crashing waves kiss the shore. Divers plunge deep into the ocean. Surfers hide in the tubes. Monkey shout from the treetops above gushing waterfalls. Volcanoes bubble and erupt over valleys. Butterflies flutter across flower covered mountains. Sunrises and sunsets demand standing ovations. Nights are lit up by the moon and the stars.

 

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Costa Rica is undoubtedly one of the most magical places in the entire world. It’s a natural playground for hikers, surfers, paddle boarders, animal lovers, snorkelers, divers, and anyone who feels happiest in nature. Costa Rica reminds us how it feels to be truly alive.

 

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Over three years ago I flew to Costa Rica, planning to stay for just a month before returning to the United States to get my Master’s degree. On the deserted beaches and in the abundant jungle, something opened within me that I didn’t even know existed. I connected with the true spirit of myself. That changed the entire course of my life completely.

 

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Despite living nomadically and traveling in five different continents all over the world, Costa Rica is the one place on earth that feels like home. Today I’m sharing with you my most precious advice for how to ensure that your trip to Costa Rica is completely magical, just like mine have been.

 

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Expect the Unexpected

 

There are plenty of places in the world where the bus will always come on time. Where business will open when they say they will. Where rainstorms and volcano eruptions will not halt your plans. Costa Rica is not one of those countries. In fact if there’s one thing I’ve really learned from traveling to Costa Rica over the years, it’s that the best way to feel the magic is by surrendering to it. Yes, do your research. Yes, plan an itinerary. Yes, have ideas about where you want to go. But also be open to throwing it all out the window. Be open to the unexpected twists and turns the road can take. That’s what makes it an adventure.

 

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Take Your Time

 

People often contact me looking for guidance in how to plan their one week vacation in Costa Rica. Many talk about including volcano hikes, cloud forest zipling, surf camps, and beach bumming in several locations across the country. Costa Rica may be a small country, but with its rugged terrain it can take an entire day of travel just to get from one coast to the other. When you rush from one destination to the other, you often miss out on the magic that comes when you just sit still and relax. For that reason, unless you’ve got a month to spare, I typically recommend choosing one beach destination and taking mini side trips to waterfalls, volcanoes, and national parks from there.

 

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Keep it Simple

 

In a country like Costa Rica you learn quickly just how little you need to be happy. Comfort is valued over fashion, you’ll rarely feel the need to wear makeup, and the ocean and jungle have no respect for material possessions. You will get dirty. Your clothes will get stains. Everything metal may rust. And at some point you will have to carry your luggage across potholed dirt roads. Bring a durable travel pack and fill it with multi functional items that you wouldn’t be heartbroken over if they got ruined. Learn to travel with and need less and you’ll discover an incredible freedom.

 

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…But Bring What You Need

 

That said, it’s not easy to shop in Costa Rica. Electronics are hard to come by and extremely expensive, clothes are hit or miss and also expensive, and you’ll be hard pressed to find your favorite snacks and toiletries here. It’s safe to assume that you won’t be able to find the things you need in Costa Rica. I recommend packing an assortment of comfortable beach wear, hiking clothes, loose linen and long dresses for the evening, your favorite toiletries in travel size, an inexpensive digital camera, and a smartphone or iPad.

 

You can find my full, comprehensive packing list in my ebook The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica.

 

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Be Safe

 

Rarely do I feel unsafe traveling in Costa Rica, but crime here is certainly higher than in countries in Southeast Asia or Europe. When in doubt ask for advice at your hotel about safety precautions for your particular destination. Generally I advise avoiding deserted areas after dark, locking your valuables in a safe, keeping a watch on your possessions at the beach, and keeping your valuable items with you on bus journeys.

 

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Protect Your Tummy

 

Few things will ruin a trip like a bout of food poisoning. You will be exposed to different bacteria in Costa Rica that poses the threat of getting you ill. In many towns in Costa Rica the water is completely safe to drink, but always ask at your hotel first. Puerto Viejo in the South Caribbean is one area where I never advise drinking the tap water. We tend to blame the water when we get sick, but more often than not it’s actually the food we’re eating. It may be contaminated or it may just be your body’s response to something foreign. Drinking fresh young coconuts daily and eating papaya seeds can help kill bacteria and prevent parasites. The best way to protect yourself is to regularly ingest high quality probiotics at least a month before departing, and to continue to take them while you’re in Costa Rica.

 

For more health and safety advice, check out my ebook The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica.

 

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Overestimate Your Budget

 

When you land in Costa Rica, you may experience some sticker shock. It’s less expensive than traveling in Europe or other very developed parts of the world, but for a developing country it’s downright expensive. Expect to budget about double what you would in Nicaragua or Guatemala. Depending on how you travel, you can get by on anywhere from $40-$150 per person per day. Expect to spend about the same as you would in the USA for meals ($5-10 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, $20 for dinner, $5-10 for one alcoholic drink) and $15-20 for hostel dorms up to $200 for hotels or vacation rentals. If you budget more than you think you will need, it will be much easier to enjoy yourself when you get there.

 

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Don’t Itch the Bites

 

Yes there are mosquitoes in Costa Rica, especially when it’s rainy. A lot of mosquitoes. If you’re sensitive to the bites, you may get massacred. I strongly advise against using chemical repellent, which is horrible for the environment and your own health. Locally you can pick up all natural repelling oil. I also recommend Please Don’t Bite Me skin patches which put lots of vitamin B and aloe into your blood stream, two things that mosquitoes hate. Drinking lots of local fresh coconut water can also help. If you do get bitten, please please please do not scratch. I’ve noticed that if you leave the bites alone they will eventually disappear, whereas if you scratch them they will continue to bother you. Open wounds is the last thing you want in Costa Rica because infection can happen very rapidly. So please, do yourself a favor and resist the urge to itch.

 

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Get Dirty

 

Most of us go about our lives in boxes. The homes we live in, the cars we drive in, the cubicles we work in. Costa Rica is a country without walls. Where the boundaries between the built world and the natural world blur. Costa Rica is a country that is still wild, rugged, and dirty, and there is something inexplicably healing about that. When we press our hands into the soft earth and walk across the sand with our bare feet, we remember that any separation we feel from nature is one we’ve created ourselves. Faced with mosquitoes and scorpions and snakes you could look for the nearest concrete resort and spray yourself in a bottle of Deet, or you could rip off your shoes, run into the wild, and get your feet dirty. I highly recommend the latter.

 

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Embrace Pura Vida

 

Why I love Costa Rica so much, can be summed up in two words: “Pura Vida”. This national mantra embodies the most beautiful philosophy I have ever known. Pura vida is all about accepting the beauty in the world no matter what may be happening around you. Pura vida is all about seeing every experience in life as a gift. It’s the essence of Costa Rica and if you can learn to embrace it, Costa Rica will surely embrace you. So if you find yourself on a rainy beach, on a broken down bus, or waiting an hour for your plate of rice and beans, smile, relax, and remember: Pura Vida.

 

Want to plan a life changing trip to Costa Rica? Get my 150 page eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica!

 

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Yes, Traveling the World Will Fix All of These Problems!

Yes, Traveling the World Will Fix All of These Problems!

This American Girl

 

“Escape through travel works. Almost from the moment I boarded my flight, life [at home] became meaningless. Seat-belt signs lit up, problems switched off. Broken armrests took precedence over broken hearts. By the time the plane was airborne I’d forgotten [home] even existed.”
– Alex Garland, The Beach

 

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Do you ever find yourself fantasizing about a tropical beach or an exotic destination when something seems to be going wrong in your life?

 

Do you ever feel inclined to book a flight and get lost somewhere foreign when you feel overworked, heartbroken, or just plain uninspired?

 

Do you ever just want to run away?

 

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I did. Which is why I booked a flight to Costa Rica four years ago. I had lost my job, two of my best friends, and my boyfriend and I didn’t have any idea what I wanted in life. (You can read more about that here.) So I decided to get on a plane and go.

 

On that trip, I discovered that truly, escape through travel works. But it doesn’t always work in the way that we expect.

 

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The “problems” in our ordinary lives do seem to disappear once we put physical distance between us. However, what surfaces, are the deeper questions that led us to want to leave in the first place. Sometimes the further we run, the more we face.

 

By confronting us with these bigger questions, travel can instantly fix many of the limiting beliefs and behaviors that get us into these “problems” in the first place.

 

If you’re considering running away to travel the world, here are the problems that I’ve found travel can instantly fix:

 

An Bang Beach

 

Feeling Stuck

 

Traveling the world, it’s entirely necessary that we adapt to our surroundings for survival. We change when we wake up and when we go to sleep. We change the way that we eat. We change our daily activities. We change our entire routine.

 

Those changes help us get out of stagnant patterns, which is the first step in making deeper changes in our lives. While travel itself doesn’t necessarily make you change your life, it can be an extremely effective catalyst, offering you the strength and inspiration to take the next step.

 

When I first left to go travel, I was stuck in all sort of ways, most notably in an on again off again relationship. Simply stepping outside of my routine and the habits I developed as a result of that routine, opened my eyes to possibility of another way. I realized that I was capable of being happy outside of that relationship. Seeing that possibility can make all of the difference.

 

If you’re feeling stuck right now, read my post 10 Ways to Get Unstuck and Create Change Now.

 

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Heartbreak

 

I spent three years going in and out of a relationship that I knew wasn’t right for me. However the thought of letting it go was devastating. Yet as soon as I found myself in Costa Rica, that devastation turned into a slight sadness, and after a week that sadness disappeared.

 

What exactly changed? I was living in the present instead of dwelling on him.

 

I meet so many women traveling who decided to take the leap after ending a challenging relationship themselves.

 

When we’re traveling it’s much easier to connect with present moment experience. We stop and smell the flowers, we linger over breakfast, we sit in silence and watch the sunset. Worries about past problems or fear of what might happen in the future becomes less of a concern because we’re focused on what is actually happening.

 

The possibility of “surviving” without someone in our lives becomes less frightening, because we realize we can in fact be happy without them.

 

Dealing with your own heartbreak? Read How Travel Taught Me to Mend My Broken Heart.

 

Taghazout

 

Boredom

 

So… what do you want to do? I dunno, what do you want to do? I don’t know, what do you want to do?

 

Probably my least favorite conversation of all time.

 

I remember when there was never anywhere good to go to eat, or there was never any bar that would be fun to go to on a Friday night, or there never seemed to be something to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

 

Since I started traveling, that “problem” has been eliminated. Whether it’s eating weird street food and healthy green smoothies, doing the Texas two step and swiveling to Salsa, or hiking to a gorgeous summit and diving with sea turtles, there’s always something to do. There’s always somewhere to explore, someone to meet, and something to try.

 

I’ve also gotten back to understanding what I actually like to do. Without the busyness of work or routine days become about playing and exploring. I didn’t have many hobbies before I started traveling. Now I love yoga, dancing, hula hooping, hiking, snorkeling, diving, photography, writing, skiing, and that list continues to grow.

 

When you know what you love and you focus your energy there, it’s impossible to be bored.

 

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Blaming

 

Have you ever noticed how easy it can be to blame others for our own unhappiness? If we feel stressed, it’s our boss’ fault for giving us too much work, or our partner’s fault for not helping out more, or the cable guy’s fault for not showing up on time, and on and on and on.

 

We’ve created a culture where someone always has to be at fault, and it’s much easier to displace the blame than it is to look inside of ourselves.

 

It’s not quite as easy when you’re navigating the world on your own. If you don’t like where you are, there’s no one to blame. If you miss the bus and are stranded, there’s no one to blame. If you feel like you’re having a really bad day, there’s no one to blame.

 

You have to sit with yourself to process your uncomfortable feelings, understand where they come from, and grow from them.

 

It may not be easy to take responsibility for your happiness, but it’s the most empowering thing you can do.

 

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Ignorance

 

It’s embarrassing to admit, but before I had ever traveled overseas, I actually assumed that most people in the world wished they were American. After all, it’s the best country in the world right? The thought even came to me, that it must be so strange to NOT be an American.

 

Then I left to study abroad in Rome. It took all of one hour before I realized that no one else actually thinks of America that way. They also don’t despise us like many people might have you believe. Rather, they don’t see us as any different from anyone else.

 

Over the years, whether traveling alone as a woman in Muslim countries or in places where people didn’t speak a word of English or in the North Pole in the dead of winter, my level of understanding has expanded exponentially.

 

Travel lifts the veil of ignorance that comes from creating stories and immerses you in real life experience instead.

 

And removing ignorance, ultimately leads to greater acceptance and compassion towards all other beings.

 

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Being a Control Freak

 

Many of us live with the delusion that we have control over everything that happens around us. Consequently, when life doesn’t happen the way that we wanted it to, we can completely fall apart.

 

Traveling in developing countries will kick the control freak out of you. Immediately.

 

Like when the bus breaks down and you’re outside waiting in a torrential downpour. Or when the taxi tries to scam you and you end up lost on the other side of town. How about when you don’t speak a word of the language and you’re trying to make a negotiation.

 

Your only option is often to surrender. You realize that not only do you not have control, but you don’t want it. You can let it go, allow the experience to happen, and relax knowing that you can’t change it.

 

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Lacking Gratitude

 

I believe that the root of all unhappiness comes from wishing things were different than they actually are. When we find a way to feel gratitude for what we have, instead of what we wish we had, it’s impossible not to smile.

 

Seeing some of the most beautiful places in the world and some of the most impoverished places in the world, gratitude comes easily. You recognize how blessed you are to be out traveling and really how blessed you are to simply be alive.

 

Traveling in developing countries, I’ve met so many people who seemingly have nothing, yet radiate happiness and generosity. They teach me gratitude on two levels: by reminding me of how fortunate I am to have all that I have and by expressing true gratitude for all that they have.

 

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Snobbery

 

When I first arrived in the jungle of Costa Rica, I turned my nose up at the dive bars and wooden shacks. I was used to wearing high heels every day, eating haute cuisine in trendy restaurants, and living in an impeccably styled apartment.

 

I quickly realized that my snobbery wasn’t going to fly, because these were my choices. I could think I was “better” than that, or I could let go of my snobbery and just have fun.

 

Since then I’ve had food poisoning in stalls with squat toilets, slept with snakes and tarantulas in my bedroom, taken countless thirty hour bus rides in hundred degree heat, danced barefoot on beer soaked floors, and divulged some of the most embarrassing things about myself on this blog.

 

I’ve never felt happier or more alive.

 

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Shyness

 

I may flutter like a social butterfly, but like anyone, I have my moments of shyness. It’s common to feel awkward or hesitant when you step outside of your element, but I find it’s so much easier to meet people while traveling.

 

In a world where so many of us spend our days behind a screen, traveling reminds us how to connect with other humans. Because when you’re sleeping in a shared dorm room or trying to figure out which bus to take or sitting on a long boat ride with other strangers, you rely on others for help.

 

People also tend to be more accepting and open when they’re traveling. Most are interested and available for friendships, which makes approaching strangers far less scary.

 

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Close-Mindedness

 

If you’ve ever believed in one right way of doing anything, travel will dissolve that belief immediately. Seeing the world opens you to the many ways of living in this world, some of which will shatter your pre-existing beliefs about right and wrong.

 

I once believed that relationships had to look like a committed married couple, that a career had to look like a serious job for a company, and that life had to look like the images I grew up seeing on TV.

 

When I went to Costa Rica and met people who were content giving surf lessons on the beach, and I met people in Indonesia who lived outside in hammocks, I reassessed what I thought life (and essentially MY life) had to look like.

 

I realized that in truth there is no one way to live. There are actually endless ways to live. I get to choose what that looks like for me.

 

Penan d'Ilfach

 

Fear of the Unknown

 

All fear comes from the uncertainty of what might happen next. Which in essence, is another way of saying that all fear is actually a fear of death, the greatest uncertainty of all. We fear the unknown with such dedication, that we can get trapped in cycles that keep us from achieving greater happiness. Including preventing ourselves from traveling.

 

Flying to a place in the world where you’ve never been, and you don’t know a soul, can actually feel like jumping off of a cliff. The wide-open space feels at once exhilarating and terrifying.

 

But as you begin to let go, you notice yourself grow wings. With wings you begin to take flight. And as you feel yourself soar, you experience peace. In those moments you remember that you can never actually die. You just become born again.

 

The Best (and Worst) Things That Ever Happened to Me Traveling

The Best (and Worst) Things That Ever Happened to Me Traveling

This American Girl

 

Do you ever find yourself getting caught up in the “worst case” scenarios?

 

Obsessively analyzing the probability of what may or may not happen? Doing everything you can to ensure that nothing goes wrong? Feeling nervous to chase after a dream because you wonder about the potential risks?

 

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I used to be like that. And then I left to travel the world.

 

Traveling on my own through developing countries I realized that I didn’t always have the ability to avoid disaster. I didn’t always have control over my circumstances. Paradoxically, that lack of control made me feel more powerful than ever. I could let go of the obsession and let life happen.

 

I believe that even when I feel completely out of control, what I encounter in life occurs as a result of the energy I bring into the world. This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with risk protection and that it’s your “fault” if you encounter tragedy.

 

This American Girl

 

Rather, the point is that I take responsibility for what happens to me in life. I choose to live with a foundation of trust, rather than in anticipation of danger. For the most part it works out for me. I’ve been gifted with beauty far more often than pain. When I have experienced pain, I looked for the lesson, and found the beauty beneath it.

 

Travel, just like life, doesn’t have to be scary. It can actually be the most beautiful, liberating, experience that exists.

 

So today I’m laying it all out there, the best and the absolute worst things I’ve endured in over three years of travel. My hope is that reading them will show you that even in the scariest moments, you have nothing to fear in this world.

 

pavones beach jumping

 

Best: I Overcame My Fears

 

Traveling on your own through developing countries, you’ll likely be faced with fears every single day. Communicating with people when you don’t speak a word of the language for instance. Or learning to ride a motorbike in the remote rice terraces of Indonesia. Jumping off of waterfalls with locals in Morocco. Getting lost in crazy over-stimulating cities. Sleeping in dorm rooms with absolute strangers. Encountering bugs the size of small cats.

 

On the road I’ve been faced with every fear imaginable. Instead of running from them, I worked through them. I stuck it out through the hard times, I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and I empowered myself to believe that I could overcome it. What I discovered, is that none of the things that once scared me… were actually scary.

 

This realization has granted me so much more possibility in what I’m capable of achieving and how I’m capable of living.

 

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Worst: I Almost Drowned

 

Growing up near the Atlantic shore, I was no stranger to big waves. As a kid I ran into the ocean whole-heartedly, allowing the waves to tumble me back onto the shore. Back then I had no fear.

 

As I got older I developed an ego about this. I ignored red flags and friends who warned me about rip tides. I carried that attitude with me to Costa Rica, notorious for strong currents. On my second trip to Costa Rica, playing out in the waves alone when there were flag warnings, I nearly drowned. I got caught in a rip tide and couldn’t make my way back in. I grew so exhausted from swimming that I actually decided to just let myself drown. Fortunately, the beach had a lifeguard, who came out and rescued me.

 

Since then I’ve learned the difference between fearlessness and ignorance. If you treat the earth (or anything) with disrespect, it will eventually catch up with you. Now I revere the ocean, heed its warnings, and practice moving in harmony with the waves, rather than fighting them. In general, I strive to balance fearlessness with humility.

 

This American Girl

 

Best: I Learned to Relax

 

Before I walked barefoot in the jungle, lived in a house with tropical critters, and rode my bicycle to “work” in a bikini, I was what many people called “high strung”. I needed constant stimulation, had trouble sitting still, and I fell apart when things didn’t go as planned.

 

Then Costa Rica squeezed the stress out of me. I witnessed another way of life called “pura vida.” Where people truly lived the words “don’t worry be happy,” and any problem could be solved by jumping into the ocean. I surrendered to a slower pace, one closer to the rhythm of nature, and for the first time in my life I felt relaxed.

 

The more I travel in developing countries, the more I learn to relax. I’ve witnessed that whether I run out of water in the jungle mid shower or get sick on a 36 hour 100 degree bus ride, stressing about it is never the solution. The key is letting go of what you cannot control and finding happiness anyway.

 

Being able to find peace and contentment when life doesn’t happen the way I want it to, is the single greatest life skill I’ve gained.

 

Bangkok

 

Worst: I Was Scammed. And Scammed. And Scammed.

 

When you travel, especially on a budget in developing countries, you’re bound to get scammed. It doesn’t matter how savvy you are, there will be times when it’s completely beyond your control.

 

For instance, crossing the border into Cambodia from Laos and Thailand. Most of the borders into Cambodia are notorious for scams, which involves everyone from bus drivers to tour guides to government officials. They’ll overcharge you, convince you to pay extra for a different bus, and do whatever they can to get more money.

 

In Central America I’ve also had plenty of transportation scams. Most notably with taxi drivers, who have done anything from drive me around in circles to quote me an inflated exchange rate.

 

I’ve been overcharged, manipulated into playing card games, bait and switched in Morocco, you name it I’ve seen it. As a white American girl traveling on her own, I’m an easy target. The good news is, I’ve never truly been in danger. Usually it has simply involved an unpleasant argument, a longer journey, or paying a few more dollars than I should have.

 

The scamming may be inevitable, but there are ways to minimize the damage. Over the years I’ve developed some basic guidelines. I always research the local scams before I arrive in a country so I know the game that’s being played, I make sure to know the local currency and exchange rates, I feign confidence with strangers, and when I encounter a scam that’s unavoidable I do my best to not let it upset me.

 

For more tips on how to handle scams, read my posts How to Survive a Taxi Ride in Latin America, How to Travel as a Woman Alone in Morocco Without Going Insane, and I Scammed a Scammer in Phnom Penh.

 

This American Girl

 

Best: I Became Independent

 

Before I started traveling, I often blamed others for the limitations I felt in my life. I blamed my friends for not being more adventurous or available. I blamed my boyfriend for not being more open and loving. I blamed my family for raising me to be who I was. I blamed everything outside of me for my unhappiness.

 

Traveling on my own I had to take responsibility for anything from how I would find my way across a country on a chicken bus to where I’d be sleeping that night. I realized that I alone determined how my day, and ultimately my life, would unfold.

 

I learned what made me happiest and I took the initiative and the responsibility to make it happen. I acknowledged that my happiness and my life was up to no one but me.

 

This American Girl

 

Worst: I Ran Out of Money

 

When I decided to commit to a life of travel, running out of money was my greatest fear. And it happened to me. More than once.

 

Like the time traveling in Southeast Asia, when I was working as a freelance writer and didn’t line up enough gigs. Consequently I found myself on an island with only $30 in the bank. Or when I completed my Yoga Teacher Training and hadn’t worked in a month and had a negative balance.

 

It wasn’t easy, but running out of money has been the best thing that ever happened to me. For one, it pushed me to hustle. It reminded me to not get too comfortable. It challenged me to start adding more value to my creative endeavors. More importantly, it showed me that even my greatest fear wasn’t actually the end of the world.

 

Ha Long Bay

 

Best: I Saw More Beauty Than I Knew Existed

 

You can never fully prepare yourself for the magic of seeing a sunrise over the ocean on a deserted island. Or watching the landscape change while riding in a long tail boat across the Mekong river. Or flying through glistening rice fields to a karst mountain and discovering a pristine cave pool.

 

You can never fully prepare yourself for the generosity of people who apparently have nothing. The locals who earn a dollar a day yet invite you to share their meal with them. The strangers on the bus who genuinely try to help you when they see that you’re alone. The children who call you their sister and play with you on the beach.

 

You can never fully prepare yourself for the beauty of the world. Witnessing it first hand is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

 

san blas boat

 

Worst: I Was Stuck on a Tiny Sailboat With a Drunk Captain

 

Few situations are as uncomfortable as being seasick on a tiny sailboat with eight other people in the middle of the story sea with a drunk captain. Despite the many warnings, I took the notorious sailing trip from Panama to Colombia through the San Blas Islands. We were out at sea for five days with no refrigeration, no shower, and a captain who perpetually drank and smoked weed.

 

But I did survive, and I was able to practice meditation on a new level. I managed to stay calm despite enduring incapacitating motion sickness. I also learned enough about this backpacker right of passive to give my readers the best advice in my post How (Not to) Sail from Panama to Colombia.

 

san blas

 

Best: I Realized Happiness

 

Like many people, I once attributed my happiness to my outside circumstances. If I had a great boyfriend, then I would be happy. If I had the career of my dreams, then I would be happy. Consequently, my moments of happiness were fleeting.

 

Since traveling to Costa Rica, I’ve realized that happiness is far more expansive than I once thought. Happiness can actually be experienced in every moment. This idea is embodied in the national mantra of Costa Rica: “Pura Vida.” Directly it translates to “pure life,” but it is used to express much more than that.

 

When the sun is shining, you’re having fun with friends, you’re falling in love, and you’re riding the high of the wave, you absolutely say Pura Vida. But you also say Pura Vida in your moments of greatest struggle. When it’s pouring down rain, you’re fired from your job, and when you’re heartbroken, you still say Pura Vida.

 

Pura Vida means choosing the path of happiness regardless of your circumstances. That happiness exists eternally. That happiness requires simply turning within and acknowledging that happiness is not only a choice, happiness is your true nature.

 

For more on Costa Rica, check out my ebook The Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica.

 

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Worst: I Got Food Poisoning… A Lot.

 

I like to travel adventurously, and a big part of that means eating adventurously. However, with a sensitive immune system from a lifetime of Western medicine and antibiotics, I got food poisoning… a lot. We’re talking unable to keep anything down on remote tropical islands and in crowded hostels in developing countries. A couple of years ago it got so bad that I wondered if I would have to stop traveling.

 

Then I discovered an extremely effective probiotic beverage that I could make a continuous supply of while traveling, for free. Read more about what kefir is and how you can make it in my post How to Travel the World and Never Get Food Poisoning.

 

Even chronic food poisoning ended up being a blessing. It introduced to me the world of holistic health and wellness. Now I eat, live, and feel healthier than I ever did before I left to go traveling.

 

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Best: I Found My Tribe

 

How many of us go through life with people around us, but lacking true connection? Despite my outgoing personality, I struggled with cultivating and maintaining friendships for most of my life. I often felt left out and wondered if I “fit in.”

 

On the road I discovered so many other misfits. People who defied convention. People who marched to the beat of their own drum. I befriended yoga teachers, healers, nomads, surfers, all kinds of people on a quest to discover more in life and more in themselves.

 

Today I have inspiring friends all over the world who come from all different perspectives. More than that, I have a tribe of like-minded individuals who support me.

 

Bocas del Toro

 

Worst: I Got Bitten by a Wild Dog

 

The only time I’ve needed emergency care in over three years of travel was when a wild dog in Thailand bit me. Even this situation could have been avoided. I couldn’t get a good wifi connection at my hostel, so I decided to walk over to a restaurant on the beach in the dark. With my laptop open, the screen blinding me, I accidentally stepped on the dog. Terrified, he bit me multiple times.

 

How could this have been avoided? If I had been more mindful and aware of my surroundings, rather than distracted by trying to get wifi, it would not have happened. Though even this emergency wasn’t all that bad.

 

I went to a 24-hour clinic, got the rabies vaccine, and after about 6 courses of treatment over the following month I only spend $250. That cost was without having health insurance or travel insurance and it hardly broke the bank.

 

Cat Ba Island

 

Best: I Discovered My Life’s Purpose

 

As humans we’re blessed with the incredible privilege of discovering the meaning of life. Though sometimes that privilege can feel like a curse. I remember feeling unsure about what I should be doing with my life. I knew that my purpose extended beyond working in a cubicle at a Marketing company, but I didn’t know how.

 

Leaving to go and travel the world was the first step I took onto the right path. Since then, the world has continually revealed the meaning of my life. What I mean by this, is that I’ve discovered how I can experience the greatest bliss and use my unique gifts to better the world.

 

If you’re hoping to do the same, check out my post How to Figure Out What the F*&K You Should be Doing With Your Life.

 

San Jose

 

Worst: I Endured a lot of Sexual Harassment

 

Let me start by saying that sexual harassment happens everywhere in the world. It’s an unfortunate manifestation of fear. I believe that when men sexually harass women, it’s because they’re afraid of their own femininity and in turn try to dominate all femininity.

 

Nonetheless, there are certain parts of the world where sexual harassment seems to be more rampant than others. The places where I’ve experienced the worst sexual harassment include Nicaragua and Morocco, however all of Latin America has a well-deserved reputation for sexual harassment being “normal.”

 

It does get exhausting, at times even disillusioning. However I’ve never felt like I was in danger, and if I ignore people they usually stop. I’ve also noticed that when I confront the person they usually become embarrassed. The more you can humanize yourself, the less likely the harassment will be.

 

If you want to avoid it altogether, I experienced little to no sexual harassment in Southeast Asia (with the exception of one man who exposed himself to me and masturbated on the street in Chiang Mai).

 

Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo - 032

 

Best: I Fell in Love

 

People ask me if I’ve ever found love on the road.

 

I find love on the road constantly. It’s there every time I look out the window of an airplane, when I run recklessly into the ocean, when I taste something I can’t pronounce the name of, when I sit in silence watching a sunset, and each time I exchange a smile with someone new.

 

The true, lasting love I’ve found on the road is a love for this beautiful world. Mother nature and all of her wonderful gifts are my greatest loves of all.

 

Bocas del Toro

 

Worst: I Had My Heart Broken

 

Mother nature isn’t the only one I’ve fallen for. There have been a few times where I’ve fallen in love with men on the road, and each time I’ve found myself heartbroken. The relationships have ranged from disappointing to disastrous.

 

I’ve met my soul mate only to realize he was more of a one night. I’ve fallen for someone who told me from the start it had an end. I’ve been swindled by a Latino lothario who even had his sister beat me up one night in a bar.

 

But I don’t regret any of it.

 

As much as it hurts, when I’m heartbroken I feel the most gratitude. I experience a rawness that reminds me that I’m alive.

 

Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo - 019

 

Best: I Found My Home

 

I may have lived there for most of my life, but Seattle never really felt like my home. I think many people feel that way about the place where they grew up, and possibly even the place where they live now.

 

Traveling opens us up to different possibilities. We see other ways of living and through that process we become more in touch with what feels naturally good. The more I travel, the more I discover where I truly belong. For me, that place is Costa Rica.

 

Ultimate Guide to Puerto Viejo - 022

 

Worst: I Realized There’s no Going Back

 

I never planned to be a life long traveler. I thought I’d go to Costa Rica, relax for a bit, and come back to my conventional life. When I kept traveling, I thought I just needed to get it out of my system. Three and a half years later and I’ve accepted that this is in fact my life.

 

The worst thing that has ever happened to me traveling, is realizing that I can never go back.

 

I’ll never again live in the states and see my family every weekend. I’ll never again live a “normal” life. I’ll never again call my birth home, my home. The people whom I love more than anything in the world, will never be part of the lifestyle that I love more than anything in the world.

 

But even the worst thing that has happened to me, is also the best thing that has ever happened to me. Because though there may be no going back, I know that I’m moving in the right direction.

 

What’s the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to you traveling?

 

7 Steps to Achieving a Life of Freedom

7 Steps to Achieving a Life of Freedom

Costa Rica

 

Freedom is a word we throw around in America as casually as a Frisbee. We place our hands over our hearts and bellow, “o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

 

We discuss ideas like “freedom of speech” as soon as we learn to read and associate war with “fighting for freedom.” Remember how after 9-11 the US Government even replaced the word “French” with “freedom” in front of “fries”?

 

Pave Paradise  - 17

 

Yet despite how much the word “freedom” has been programmed into our brains, so many of us seem to feel trapped.

 

We work absurdly long hours for jobs that don’t fuel our passion, we stay in relationships that don’t feel good, we habitually practice patterns that lead to unhappiness, and many of us lead lives that leave us discontent.

 

What kind of freedom is that?

 

Run Like a Girl - 28

 

When I left my life as I knew it to wander the world, I discovered a freedom more expansive than I ever dreamed possible. And frankly, it wasn’t because other places and people in the world are more “free” than Americans. It was because I stepped outside of the box I had built around myself.

 

If you feel trapped, I want you to know that the path to freedom lies before you. The path to freedom is open and ready. The question is, are you?

 

Yes? Keep reading.

 

Run Like a Girl - 06

 

Acknowledge Your Personal Power

 

Before I started traveling, I often blamed others for the limitations I felt in my life. I blamed my friends for not being more adventurous or available. I blamed my boyfriend for not being more loving and open. I blamed my family for raising me to be who I was.

 

But the blame never got me anywhere.

 

Traveling on my own, I had to take responsibility for anything from how I would find my way across a country on chicken buses to where I’d be sleeping that night. I realized that I alone determined how my day, and ultimately my life, would unfold.

 

Freedom is not something that your parents, your boss, or even your country can give you. Freedom lies in your hands. If you want to truly live a life without boundaries, the first step is to acknowledge your own personal power. Acknowledge that you alone hold the key to your cage. Pull it out of your pocket and have the courage to open the door.

 

Koh Rong Samloem

 

Have the Courage to Change

 

Many of us speak of the ways we want to change our lives or ourselves. Yet we often spend years repeating a cycle that we already know doesn’t work. Why on earth do we do that? Why do we do the things that we already know don’t lead us to happiness? One word: fear.

 

We adamantly resist change, no matter how much we want it, out of fear of uncertainty. We’d rather repeat a limiting behavior than face the unknown. However to step onto the path of our personal greatness, we must have the courage to change.

 

This means letting go of the ideas you have about who you think you are. It also means letting go of the expectations that others place on you. You are a multi-dimensional evolving being. What serves you in one moment may not serve you the next. Be open and adaptable to change.

 

Read my post 10 Ways to Get Unstuck and Create Change Now to help you get out of this cycle and moving in the right direction.

 

Pave Paradise  - 14

 

Start Doing What You Want

 

How is it that so many of us have become conditioned to be people pleasers? We tie up our self worth in what others think of us and what society tells us we “should” be doing. To truly embrace freedom you must be your authentic self, which starts with doing what you want. Prioritize yourself, set boundaries, and take responsibility for your happiness.

 

For me, this is the most liberating part of traveling alone. Each day I decide exactly what I want to do, when I want to do it, and how I want to do it. I get to do the things that bring me, and me alone, the greatest bliss.

 

If this sounds selfish to you, it doesn’t have to. You can march to the beat of your own drum while creating a beautiful melody with the rest of the world. In fact, the better you take care of yourself, the easier it is to show up for others. By embracing and expressing your authenticity, you inspire others to do the same. By doing what fulfills you instead of what is “expected” of you, acts of service come from the heart free of resentment. Most importantly, it’s much easier to release expectations of others and love them simply for who they are.

 

Puerto-Viejo

 

Get Out of the System and Create Your Own

 

I remember a time when I looked to those around me for guidance. I thought my options were limited to what others were doing and what paths already existed. However nothing that already existed could possibly be my true calling, because I’m completely unique. Just like you.

 

Once I stepped out of the system that I knew, living in the jungle in Costa Rica and eventually traveling all over the world, I realized that anything I could conceive I could create. If you truly want to live the life of your dreams, you need to do the same. Not necessarily in the same way. You need to do it your way.

 

Challenge yourself to look beyond the system and the programming that you know, and consider a life of possibility. Forget what everyone else is doing, forget what has already been done. Ask yourself what a life of bliss looks like to you, and how you are best suited to make the world a better place. Then go out and do that.

 

If you’ve got no idea, read my post How to Figure Out What the F&*K You Should Be Doing With Your Life.

 

Puerto-Viejo

 

Let Go of What You Can’t Control

 

Freedom is absolutely being able to choose where you want to be, who you want to be, and how you want to live. But freedom is so much more than that. Freedom is ultimately about experiencing happiness no matter your outside circumstances. To discover that freedom, you must learn to surrender.

 

Things will happen in life that are beyond your control. Delayed flights, natural disasters, and perhaps most notably the way that others decide to live their lives. You can complain about it or fight against it, or you can choose to accept what is beyond you and move on. The former brings struggle, the latter brings peace. Choosing to surrender can be as small as taking a deep breath in heavy traffic or as big as deciding to accept others without criticizing them or expecting them to change.

 

Know when to fight and know when to let go.

 

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See the Positive Over the Negative

 

Some might say there is no quick fix to happiness. I happen to disagree. I believe that happiness occurs the moment we decide to choose a positive outlook. If you feel trapped by something in your life, decide to change your perspective. Decide to look at the situation positively.

 

This might mean appreciating how a challenging situation serves you in your life. If it doesn’t serve you, this might mean seeing that you have the capacity to change it. No matter the outcome, the moment you choose to see things positively, you start owning your circumstances instead of letting your circumstances own you.

 

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Bring Down Your Walls

 

Imagine how much more freely you could live, if you not only tore down the boundaries between you and possibility, but if you tore down your walls of self-protection?

 

We all have them. Some of us built them after an intense heartbreak. Others from a long series of rejection. Or maybe some of us were so afraid of feeling too deeply that we built them before anyone could come in to touch us. Those walls may keep us safe, but they come at a high cost. They prevent us from ever being truly free.

 

Despite our physical bodies that separate us from one another, we are all composed of the same matter. Actually, everything in the universe is composed of the same matter. When we stop seeing ourselves as separate, and start realizing how we’re all connected, we experience a far greater expansiveness. Lean into that expansiveness and you will know the true meaning of freedom.

 

Are you living a life of freedom? If yes, how did you do it? If no, what holds you back?

 

You Don’t Have to be a Privileged White Girl to Travel

You Don’t Have to be a Privileged White Girl to Travel

This American Girl

 

I live in a world where everything is possible. I live in a world where limitations are self imposed. I live in a world where I create my reality and my destiny.

 

Though lately, some people have burst my optimism bubble. After reading my post How to Travel the World When You’ve Got Absolutely No Money (which has already had nearly one million views!!) They’ve insisted that my ability to believe in possibility comes from my white privilege. They’ve contested that the opportunities for travel and dream chasing only apply to others like me. They’ve decided that you’ve got to be a “hot white chick” to travel the world.

 

Admittedly, I don’t know what it’s like for someone who isn’t a twenty something American born white girl, to travel. The same way someone who isn’t a twenty something American born white girl can’t fully know what it’s like for me. But my wisdom tells me that though we are each born and met on the road of life with different challenges, everything, absolutely everything is possible. I have to believe that if I am to continue believing in humanity.

 

A big part of that comes from the many people I’ve met on the road who have shattered limiting beliefs I once held. I could tell you how I’ve met people from all walks of life, wearing all colors of skin, coming from all countries on this planet, doing many of the things that I’ve done to finance a life of travel, and more. But I know that it doesn’t carry as much weight coming from the lips of a “privileged” white girl. I’d rather they told you themselves.

 

So I’m turning off my microphone, and I’m shining the spotlight on some other inspiring humans instead. I’ve contacted my fellow travel blogging nomads who come from developing countries, have diverse ethnic backgrounds, and have special physical challenges, and today they’re sharing their stories with you. They’re here to tell you that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, and no matter what may stand in your way, you can absolutely travel the world if you set your heart and your mind to it. 

 

You don’t have to be This “Privileged” White Ass American Girl to travel the world, and here is my proof:

 

olivia-christine

 

Olivia Christine, OChristine.com

 

“The past 10 years have been filled with fear, bravery, hesitation, and perseverance. When people ask me to tell my story, I often meet their invitation with confusion. What part of the story do you want to hear? That I was poor: born and raised in the inner city of the South Bronx during some of NYC’s most dangerous decades? Concrete mayhem painted with the footprints of innocent hopefuls playing doubledutch and street scully. Or is it my release from that world that is more appealing? The kid who “got out”? The girl who, though made fun of and ridiculed for even fathoming that she COULD live beyond that bubble, actually did it? At a young age, I decided the opinions of others weren’t for me. They were shackles to my dreams and food to my fears.

And I did get out. But not without pain. Not without setbacks. At 17, I was diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis: an autoimmune disease that almost destroyed my kidneys. My travel dreams deferred and hope shattered, I spent 180 days receiving monthly chemotherapy to save me from needing dialysis. Those six months met deep mediation and reflection. I set an intention to travel the world and pursue all that brings joy to my soul.

Fast forward 11 years: my name is Olivia Christine and I am travel blogger, digital nomad, and yoga teacher. Having lupus and being poor was a great crutch when I needed to justify my misery and explain why I couldn’t travel. Healthcare was a problem and money was a never-ending pain in my ass. So initially, I got a corporate job and traveled the country planning conferences all year round. That was travel right? But I was unhappy. I was shuffled around in planes and hotels with barely any time to see and enjoy my experiences until I burned out. Enough was enough.

As a traveler with lupus, my biggest challenge is remembering to embrace slow travel. I know that under extreme stress, my lupus could flare and destroy me. I often get excited and want to explore anything and everything, which takes a toll on my body. Now, I often do yoga to keep my stress level down and get lots of sleep. Every three days is a break day where I do nothing but drink water and rest.

As an Afro-Latina, I met the world of travel with apprehension. I felt like the world wasn’t good to people of color and I didn’t want to encounter the hate I saw so much around me and in the media. But I took the leap with an open mind and realized people around the world want knowledge, culture, and exploration just as much as I do! But because they don’t have the opportunity to travel, all they have are stereotypes portrayed by the media. I feel like it became MY JOB to travel. To show people that women of color and city dwellers travel too! That we are brave and adventurous! And yes, I CAN camp, swim and get my hair wet!

There are audiences out there hungry to feel included and connected with our work. I aim to help fill that gap. Women of color, people from less fortunate backgrounds, and those with health issues should also know that they deserve to dream beyond their wildest imaginations, because why not?

 

Inspired by Olivia and want to follow her travels? Check her out on her blog.

 

I Am Aileen

 

Aileen Adalid, IAmAileen.com

 

“I was born in a small island in the northern part of the Philippines that’s called ‘Batanes’ and given the size of my hometown, I have always pondered about what else is ‘out’ there for me to experience and see. So when I moved to the capital and acquired a stable job in a world-renowned investment bank, I had the firm belief that I finally have the chance to earn a LOT in order to travel more — but of course, such was NOT true. As a fresh graduate and as a resident of a country that hasn’t developed so much in the past years, I was ‘underpaid’ to the point that I just had about enough money every month to get by. Add the fact that my working hours were harsh so I barely had the chance to travel!

Slowly, I realized that it was not the kind of life that I wanted and when I started to meet and befriend backpackers and nomads who were passing through my city, that’s when I discovered that there was a better path for me. I found out that I had a skill (marketing) and a hobby (graphic and web design) that I both enjoy which could make me travel more and which would also give me the chance to take control of my life (and not leave it in the hands of someone else).

So right then and there, I decided to follow my true passion and dream: traveling the world while working for myself. Such was NOT an easy ordeal to start, but I persisted! At 21, I quit my job to travel the world while working as a digital nomad. This life change worked really well for me. In fact, during my travels, I was inspired to start my own company which made me a successful entrepreneur just last 2014 and thereby making me lead an even more sustainable traveling lifestyle now. Overall, given my story, I have used my blog iAmAileen.com as a platform to spread the word that a life of travel is absolutely NOT only for the rich and that it’s possible even for a person that has a limited passport (like me)!

I say this because since I’m born in a ‘third world country’ I definitely have encountered challenges during my travels. First of all, there’s the fact that my passport only allows me to visit a few number of countries without a visa — this means that for most of the world’s high-ranked destinations like those in the U.S. and Europe, I would often have to shell out a considerable sum of money for visa applications (add the hustle and bustle that comes along with it). Second of all, there’s also the issue of discrimination in immigration centers (they give me a hard time given my nationality, and more).

This is a rampant and sad reality unfortunately, but I never let it become a hindrance to my traveling lifestyle (and you shouldn’t either!) My #1 tip: first travel to the visa-free countries that are as applicable to your nationality. These countries would typically have a low cost of living; thus giving you enough spare money AND time to save up more for your traveling sprees in the future! (To note, there are tons of remote jobs that you can do while on the road, and for my case, I’ve chosen to become a digital nomad.)

As time goes on, if you want to start visiting countries that are not visa-free to you, remember to be resourceful in your visa applications and to overdeliver at all times! For instance, grab sponsors like your relatives or parents even if it’s just on paper so you can add more proof to your solvency (if ever your situation might not be enough), and then provide as many documents as you can in order to prove that you have the capability to travel and that you have good intentions for your trip (prove to them that you’re not overstaying, that you are well-traveled, etc.). All of these actions have proved to be great steps for me as I have already been traveling for almost 3 years already!

Ultimately, as you can see, a traveling lifestyle will only be a challenge if you let it become one, because there are and always will be a ton of possibilities and ways that can enable you to travel more! If I have managed to do this despite my background, then YOU can definitely do the same!

 

Read more in Aileen’s post The Five Steps I Took to Start a Life of Travel

 

Minority Nomad

 

Erick Prince, MinorityNomad.com

 

“I started traveling full time about four years ago. I’ve been traveling internationally since 2005 on holidays. In 2001 I joined the military which initially introduced me to International Travel and opened my eyes to the world which had previously been inaccessible to me. Growing up in East Cleveland, travel wasn’t high on the priority list of things to aspire to do. Now that I’ve experienced it there’s no turning back. Amazing lifestyle.

Honestly, most challenges I’ve faced are a result of programming. My own and others. My idea that people are racist and out to get me all around the world and others perceptions of what African Americans are like. To understand what travel is like for African Americans you have to understand our history first. You have people who have been stripped of all identity, culture, and history. Then given an artificial and antiquated version of each. We are then systemically marginalized and killed regularly in OUR country where we are supposed to be safe. By basic logic why would we expect better treatment elsewhere when we’ve been programmed to fear the known and the unknown?

People around the world definitely have an idea of who African-Americans are. Sometimes that’s negative but I’ve largely found it to be positive. People are genuinely curious to meet and talk with African Americans and you would be surprised how deeply you’ll be welcomed into many cultures and communities.

My advice to any person of color is to get out there. JUST GO. And don’t start with some “How Stella Got her Groove Back” trip to the Caribbean. Go someplace you haven’t heard of. Go someplace that doesn’t have a restaurant in your city. Embrace the unknown and you’ll be shocked at how much it changes you as a person for the better.

Also seek out advice from those few of us out here. We are few but we are definitely out here traveling and exploring. The world wants to meet you. Is excited to meet you. Don’t keep them waiting. Matthew Henson, the first African-American Artic explorer , said “As I stood there on the top of the world and I thought of the hundreds of men who had lost their lives in the effort to reach it [North Pole], I felt profoundly grateful that I had the honor of representing my race.”

It’s our turn to get out there and represent.

 

Read Erick’s in depth post My Experience Traveling While Black 

 

Lois We are Sole Sisters

 

Lois Yasay, We Are Sole Sisters

 

“I was 26 years old, working aimlessly at a desk job in Manila, when it first occurred to me that I can just leave everything behind and start a new life elsewhere. I barely had any savings, had only traveled abroad twice and didn’t really know where to move. All I knew was that I had to go away or else I would waste an entire life doing the same thing over and over without having seen the world.

I saved around 2,500 USD and planned to travel indefinitely and document the trip on the travel blog We Are Sole Sisters. With that money, I managed to travel to across India and all over Southeast Asia covering 9 countries in 6 months. I documented my route, itinerary and recommendations in my ebook “Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?” More than 4 years later, I’ve managed to escape the cubicle and I’m currently based in Europe with my husband and baby.

As a Filipino, I often find it challenging when I’m applying for a visa abroad. Like when I applied for a visa from the Spanish embassy to join a group of women travel bloggers from all over the world for a sponsored trip to run with the bulls in Pamplona. I was denied. The reason they gave me was that they could not guarantee that I would come back to the Philippines. They assumed I would overstay, At first I was incredulous, but I started to see things from their perspective. I was a single, unemployed female with no permanent job or residence. It didn’t matter to them that I had previous visa stamps from other European countries.

Once, when applying for a Canadian visa, the consul asked me: ‘Let me get this straight. You are a single Filipino woman in the US, applying for entry to Canada with no job here, no permanent address, no bank account and nothing whatsoever that ties you to your country- and you expect me to grant you a visa? I’m sure you have a nursing degree and will only try to get a job in Canada when you arrive.’

I told him, ‘You’re wrong. I only want to visit Canada to see Niagara Falls. I heard it’s more beautiful on that side.’ My answer took him aback. He didn’t expect my response. In the end, he gave me the visa.

It was difficult for me at first to accept the limits of my Philippine passport. I wanted to see the world but I knew there would be places that would not easily accept me because of the country I represent. It’s not fair but it’s not something I can change. I can only change my attitude. I can only change my mindset. And I choose to travel. I travel because it’s my way of telling the world I can.

The reality is, traveling with a Filipino passport poses a lot of challenges. We often face discrimination because sadly, a lot of Filipinos are illegal immigrants. We also need to apply for visas to  a lot of countries and that means we generally have to apply for it in the Philippines (reducing the ease of travel). As of this year, the most powerful passport in the world, Finland gets visa free access to 173 countries. Filipinos only get about 60. We also need to secure visas way in advance and spend a lot of money on application fees. But I don’t think that this should stop us from traveling. Yes, it’s more difficult. Yes, it makes travel more expensive. Yes, we feel restricted, frustrated and powerless, even. But it should not stop us from exploring the world. There are no guarantees in life and there’s nothing we can do to make sure we get a visa. But here are some suggestions on how you can increase your chances of getting approved:

1) Be meticulous and gather all the necessary documents at least a month before your interview. Carefully fill out forms and always be honest.

2) Do your research well and ask others who have recently applied for the same visa for some tips and advice.

3) If you have previous visas and entry stamps from other countries, this may increase your chances of getting approved.

4) Dress for the part by wearing something simple and professional looking. But don’t overdress- this can be seen as an act of desperation.

5) A consul will always have a main question in mind: “Is this person going to overstay in my country?” Reassure him as much as possible by showing all possible ties you have to your home country (i.e. a stable, well-paying job, assets, properties and strong relationships)

6) Be confident during the interview but stay humble. Never lie. Embassies make a thorough background check for sure. Being able to speak English fluently is a major plus.

7) Don’t give out unnecessary information or documents when it’s not asked. Keep your answers brief and straight to the point.

8) Visualize yourself as already arriving in that country. Sometimes, all it takes are positive thoughts and a dream.”

 

Find out how Lois traveled in Southeast Asia for 6 months on just $2500 in her ebook Where I Should I Go in Southeast Asia.

 

Jay on Life

 

Jay, JayOnLife.com

 

“Let’s be perfectly honest, being a “cute white girl” will get you far in life, especially when traveling. But while I am a disabled woman of color with a lust for travel, I have also found a few different ways of traveling without the pretty white girl aesthetic.

Regardless of how you look, broke is broke. Having travelled extensively while being a poor student, you need to figure out how to make your money go far. I couchsurfed as much as I could during my 2 month tour of America, Canada and Jamaica. This saved me a lot of money and meant that I made a bunch of new friends along the way.

When I couldn’t find a host, I stayed in cheap hostels and met even more people that way, including some that I am still in contact with to this day. All these new friends may also have a couch (or if you’re lucky, a bed!) free when you’re in their neck of the woods.

A large part of traveling is just throwing yourself out there and engaging with people that have lived very different lives from you. What people first notice about me is the hardware I have on my leg due to polio. While some do leap straight to the question of “so what happened to your leg?”, I am not shy about telling them. As I would like more people to know a bit about the disability and show them that, that is the least interesting thing about me.

Fully abled pretty white girl, or disabled black woman with a penchant for bad jokes, the only way to really afford a life of travel is to want it more than anything. The desire to travel will mean that you will do what it takes to see as much of the world as you possibly can, boundaries be damned.”

 

Learn more about Jay on her blog

 

Shazia Gap Year for Two

 

Shazia Chiu, Gap Year for Two

 

If you saw a few bullet points of information about me, I’d sound just like your average American girl. I was born and raised in an affluent Northern California neighborhood. My native language is English and I attended a few public schools growing up. I’m about to graduate from a respected university. But there is one small thing that sets me apart from many Americans–I am half-Pakistani, and I grew up in a mixed Muslim-Christian household. 

I am proud of and grateful for this heritage, but at times, I’ve wondered if my background would negatively impact my ability to travel safely abroad. However, several recent trips I’ve taken to European and Asian countries have taught me a valuable lesson: in this day and age people are quite accepting of diverse lifestyles and beliefs. I think it’s more possible than ever to see all that the world has to offer, no matter where you’re from. 

So far my travels have shown me that my skin color, my economic background, and my religious beliefs don’t have much of a bearing on how people treat me. I know this is definitely not the case for everyone, and that it’s important to be sensitive to other people’s experiences. But I also believe that it’s important to realize that you can reach your travel dreams, no matter who you are! It’s always inspiring for me to hear stories about people who travel despite physical and mental limitations, or cultural and economic barriers. With options for working abroad in exchange for food and accommodation, the ability to create small online businesses, and the ever-shrinking nature of our planet, I think it’s easier than ever for people to experience all that the world has to offer. I’m beyond excited to meet more inspiring and open-minded people when my husband and I begin our year-long, round-the-world trip this August.

 

Read more about Shazia’s travels on her blog.

 

Man of Wonders

 

Raphael Zoren, A Journey of Wonders

 

“‘Not everyone can be a world traveler but a world traveler can come from anywhere.’ That is my motto in life and as a Mexican, I understand how difficult is for people from developing countries to achieve their dreams of traveling the world.

If achieving a life of constant travel was a videogame, then you can easily say that people from developed countries start in the easy to medium difficulty setting regardless of their skin color, ethnicity or socio-economic status.

Let’s not kid ourselves, people in developing countries start in the very hard to extremely hard difficulty setting: making a global income is hard, getting visas for developed countries is harder and well, there’s just not as many opportunities (no work holiday visas, no mile based travel hacks, no teaching English abroad even if your tests are better than those of native speakers).

But my message is not about trying to discourage you. In fact, it is the entire opposite: I am the living example that your dreams of travel are a possibility if you wish for them hard enough.

Free yourself of the chains of the local economy and start thinking globally. Yes, I know it’s scary to quit your job in order to venture into the world of traveling but believe in yourself. Anything is possible in this life and instead of complaining that you weren’t born with a silver spoon, you need to embrace it. You need to take it all in and make yourself stronger. 

As a Mexican, I have it relatively easy when it comes to visas (at least compared to travelers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East) and yet, I get questioned every single time at airports and land borders.

The reason? Border agents aren’t used to seeing a Mexican world traveller who backpacks without much money and without a return plane ticket home. And yes, there is still a lot of mistrust and questions as sometimes they assume I’m entering their country to work illegally.

Here are my tips for how other Mexicans can travel the world:

1) Freelance online during your travels so you can make money on the road.

2) Get an University degree in a sought-after area and work abroad in a developed country for a couple of years to make and save money.

3) Get a work holiday visa in New Zealand (it’s the only developed country that gives those visas to Mexicans).

4) Get an University degree in a USA University so you can apply for a Teaching English Abroad position.

5) Marry someone whose passport can allow you to have more opportunities to fund your travel (note: this last one is a joke, you should marry for love but the passport is a nice plus #joking #halfjoking.)”

 

Learn more about Raphael on his blog

 

Dream Euro Trip

 

DJ Yabis, Dream Euro Trip

 

“I’ve always believed that if you want something really badly, you will do everything to get it. There are no valid excuses for not getting what you want in life.

I’m Filipino, gay and have pretty much known since I was young that I’ve always wanted to travel the world and live in Europe. The only problem is that I need a bloody visa for pretty much all the destinations I want to visit and more importantly, I need a lot of money to be able to afford it.

So what did I do? I got creative!

European Commission has an Erasmus Mundus scholarship program for non-Europeans to study their Masters for 1 or 2 years. Since I had a great educational background as an Industrial Engineer from the best university in the Philippines, University of the Philippines, and great work experience from the biggest shipping and human resources company in Asia, Magsaysay Inc, I worked my ass off and applied for the scholarship.

It’s great because it solves two things: my visa so I can stay in Europe for 2 years and my money situation since they give monthly allowance every month even during the summer break.

I eventually got it and have lived and travelled all over Europe ever since.

You don’t have to follow my path nor think that my path is the only way. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to open yourself to the fact that there are limitless possibilities out there and there is nothing stopping you from getting what you want in life besides you and your excuses.

My tips if you want to start a life of travel:

1) Start small. Visit cities and countries near you.

2) Need a visa? Forget them for now and visit countries where you don’t need a visa. I’m sure there are loads of them as well.

3) Need money? Save and don’t spend on unimportant things in life!

4) Look for various opportunities that can help you achieve your travel dreams like scholarships, conferences, study abroad opportunities, global internships like AIESEC, volunteer programs. There are seriously a lot of ways on how to see the world. Just look around and choose which one makes more sense to you.

5) Dream! And believe in them. It’s so cliche but it’s true. But you have to truly believe in your dreams and you make conscious effort towards achieving them and you’ll see it will all come to reality!

6) If you get stuck, move on. Maybe it’s not for you. The universe is guiding you towards something else.

7) Get creative!

 

Want to learn how you can live and travel in Europe? Check out DJ’s blog.

 

Francesca

Francesca Murray, One Girl One World

 

“I always thought that I would follow a straight and narrow path: graduate college, start my career as a publicist, climb the corporate ladder, marry a nice man and by 25 begin raising our children in a cute house by the beach. But in 2009 I studied abroad in Portovenere, Italy and my life has never been the same. Since then I’ve lived in Spain, worked in France, and traveled to 15 countries and counting. I’ve traveled for so many reasons. To escape, to chase love, to teach, to party…but in general I live for discovering new cultures and languages. I’ve picked up a few things along the way, including French, Spanish, some Italian and a couple of cooking recipes.

My biggest challenge hasn’t been money (not that I’m rich, far from it actually) because I always find a way around that. Be it scholarships to study abroad, saving intensely, or finding a job abroad; the possibilities have actually been endless. Contrary to popular belief, my ethnicity hasn’t posed a great challenge either. Not that I’m blissfully unaware of racism or that there aren’t people who stare at me because I’m different, but because I choose not to let it limit my life experiences. My age and gender have not presented many challenges either. My biggest personal challenge has been breaking through the social norms of my home country. If I played the role right, I would have been married with my first child and in a managerial position at a marketing firm in some major US metropolitan city. None of those things have motivated me to work as hard as the desire to keep traveling does. Thankfully we live in a time where choosing your own path is becoming more encouraged and accepted, so I am!

I truly believe that if I can do it, you can too! My favorite saying is “do it afraid” because fear should never be an excuse not to live your dream! I come from humble beginnings and I’m all about helping and inspiring others to live their dream and travel. Once you find the courage inside you to live the life you really want, what everyone else thinks won’t matter. Let’s keep breaking the mold until there is no longer a mold to break!”

 

Read more about how Francesca affords a life of travel here

 

Globetrotter in a Wheel Chair

 

Kirsten Kester, Curious Kester

 

“Being in a wheelchair may sound like a challenge, but in my opinion it depends on how you approach life. I was born with a rare handicap called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita. It affects my ability to walk and therefore I use a wheelchair. My handicap seldom affects my life in a negative way. That means I don’t let my handicap control what to do with my life but of course it will affect it. It’s not as if I can say today I will climb this mountain and forget about the wheelchair. But I can and DO say; today I want to go up that mountain and then I will figure out a way to get up there. My curiosity and will power makes me turn the next corner until there aren’t any more.

Globetrotting in a wheelchair means thinking out of the box. Everything from finding suitable accommodation to do the adventurous journeys is totally different from when my friends are traveling. Still I’ve experienced so much more than any of them.

I usually travel with my husband, whom I have known since 1991.  After so many years everything becomes a lot easier. We both know what to do in most situations. Almost, I should say because when you’re globetrotting there are seldom two situations that look alike.

I am often asked how do you travel being in a wheelchair. The short answer is, it is impossible to explain in a few words. When you travel in a wheelchair, the key is not to get frustrated or give up each time you meet an obstacle, but choose a different approach, ask for help and use your imagination.

I have always been a curious, open minded and an extrovert woman. I want see the world, and challenge myself. To me the world is a huge playground and I will rather face the hurdles and difficulties, than stay at home.”

 

To read more about Kirsten’s travels in a wheelchair, check out her blog

 

nicaragua

 

Kach Medina Umandap, Two Monkeys Travel

 

“I grew up and studied in the Philippines but after getting my University degree at the age of 20, I moved to the Middle East to find work – Kuwait and Iraq for 4 years before embarking on this long-term backpacking journey. Being a Filipino, it’s not that common for us to travel abroad for leisure, most of them thinks it’s a waste of money, expensive, or difficult due to having a Philippines passport.

I won’t deny that there are challenges, I was refused entry into Nicaragua (land border crossing) because they don’t know what the requirements were for a Filipino citizen like me. I ended up crying in the corner when an immigration official took pity on me and helped me get the visa on arrival.  I had to pay $85 for a visa to enter Panama because that’s the cheapest route to go to South America and I couldn’t even fly to any Caribbean countries because most flights have to pass through the USA, but I don’t have a valid tourist visa.

Having a Philippines passport can be a disadvantage at times, but I will always be proud of it and will never give it up. If you just want to make your life easier then try to get a 10 year USA tourist visa so you will be able to save money while backpacking around the Caribbean and Central America (no need to pay for visa fees). However, having a Philippines passport is great if you decide to travel around Asia, where most of the countries are visa free or visa on arrival and you don’t have to pay any fees, whereas western passport holders spend a lot on their visas!

One little advantage to being an Asian traveler, particularly a Filipina, is that my Latino Asian looks seem to blend in wherever we go. In Vietnam, India, South America – people always assume I’m a local, which helps keep the ‘tourist tax’ a bit lower, until I start speaking that is!

Since leaving my life as a worker in the Middle East in April 2013, I’ve been traveling non-stop all over South East Asia, India, UK, Central and South America. Most of the places that we’re going are countries that have a bilateral agreement with my country so it will be less hassle for me – we spent 6 months in Peru, 3 months in Costa Rica, 9 months in Vietnam and even 3 months in India. My partner and I invested in skills to support our travels. We both quit our old jobs with salaries over two years ago, but our savings were just enough for less than a year of travels.

We are now TEFL certified teachers, Tantra Yoga Teachers and Ayurveda Massage therapists. We usually apply for business visas once we enter a new country so we can start earning money to fund our next travels. If there’s no opportunity for us to earn a living, we do volunteering work (mostly hostel jobs) so we can cut down on food and accommodation expenses. We were actually broke when we arrived in Peru, after a year of traveling around, but we found a job in an eco-hostel in Cuzco, Peru where we cooked, cleaned and did receptionists work. We then found a massage table and pushed around in a wheelbarrow to different hotels in the afternoon and at night to earn money to fund our next move.”

Read more about Kach’s experiences getting visas all over the world here

 

Jazzy Road Affair

 

Jazzy, Road Affair

 

A lot of black people have this misconception that black people don’t travel (only white people do), nor do they have the means to travel and if they do, they will be lynched or burned on a cross. All of this is bullsh**.

I am a long-term budget traveler, and no I am not white, nor was I born into a heap of money. Actually, I am a Haitian-American black traveler that has never had a job that has paid me more than $18,000 a year (surviving in NYC with this wage is a struggle) before I started living the nomad lifestyle.

And guess what, I wasn’t chased out of any country because of my skin color, nor was I asked to use the black’s only restroom. If anything it was the complete opposite.

I know you are probably thinking, is traveling while black difficult and will I face any challenges? My answer is, no it’s not and honestly, I haven’t faced any “challenges” traveling while black.

Yes, people will stare, touch your hair, laugh or even call you a “nigger” but if you call those challenges then you must be struggling to survive everyday because there’s people in your hometown that will do that too. But those things shouldn’t stop any black person from exploring the world or make them believe that everyone around the world treats black people like shit.

The amazingly nice and wonderful people I met throughout my journey so far and all the positive experience and adventures I have, are the things that feed my urge to travel more. F@ck the small “I don’t like you because you are black” moments. I live for the positive moments and you should too.

Honestly, if someone is uncomfortable with your presence then that’s their problem. You shouldn’t lose sleep at night because of someone else’s ignorance nor should it stop you from traveling.  And if you do, you’re giving them way too much power over you.

The world is just as much yours as it is theirs.

But I do challenge you to understand the difference between hatred, curiosity and lack of knowledge. There are people out there in the world that have never seen a black person in the flesh and their reaction will be to touch, stare and even take pictures.

But I believe if we expose them to more people of our skin tone (only way we can do this, is by traveling) the less they will stare, and the more they will know that there is more to the world then just them and white people. It’s also not just about more black people traveling but also educating people along the way. That is how you feed the curious and educate the ignorant.

Travel to learn the world and to teach the world.

To my fellow black people, here’s some advice:

1) Don’t be afraid of traveling because you fear what might happen. Fear should be a motivation not something that makes you crawl up in a corner and never come out.

2) If you want to travel, don’t think about all the reasons why you can’t travel, make traveling your priority and think about all the great experiences you will have, the amazing people you will meet and the freedom you will feel.  But most importantly, think about how you will start living for the first time in your life.

3) And you know what, if you finally do travel and end up facing some challenges while traveling as a black person, then face it, overcome it, learn from it, spread what you have learned to others and move on to the next obstacle, if there are any.

Lastly, remember traveling is not a privilege for whites only. Traveling is for anyone that wants it. If you want it, there is no reason why you can’t have it too. If there is a will there is a way!

 

Amen, thank you for that Jazzy. For more insights, read her post Traveling While Black.

 

New Moon - 11

 

So, what do you think?

Are traveling, backpacking, couch surfing, work trade, and volunteering things that only white girls with “first world” passports can do? Or is fear, be it fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of rejection, or even fear of brilliance, the only thing that truly holds us back from following our dreams?

 

Yes, it’s Practical to Quit Your Job and Travel, and Here is Why

Yes, it’s Practical to Quit Your Job and Travel, and Here is Why

Why I Left My Fancy Life - 20

 

I’ve been traveling the world nonstop, without a permanent address nor a conventional career for the last three and a half years. (Read my full story: Why I Left My Fancy City Life to Become a Globetrotting Gypsy.)

 

To some of you, that might sound totally insane. Impossible. Certainly impractical. It might seem idealistic. Unrealistic. Something that you might like to do, but you could never do, because of this, that, and the other.

 

Seattle - 006

 

Most of us were raised to believe that we’re meant to follow a clear, conventional path and any deviations lead to bankruptcy and unhappiness. We’re meant to work hard in school, get good grades, go to a good college, get a good job, invest in a good house, find a viable partner, raise a family, and then, one day, when we’re 70, we can begin to think about what we actually WANT to do with our lives.

 

New York City

 

Except that by that point, we haven’t got a clue. Our health has suffered, we’ve grown jaded, and we’re too exhausted from working our whole lives to set off on some great adventure. We settle for mediocre comfort, rather than greatness.

 

I don’t know about you, but nothing about that model sounds practical to me. That model does not support my image of happiness nor freedom.

 

This American Girl

 

I want you to know, that if you want to, you can do something different. Anything different. Whatever it is that makes your heart flutter.

 

And maybe that something even looks like leaving your old life and setting off on an adventure around the world, And there’s nothing impractical nor insane about it. In fact I know thousands of people who are doing it right now.

 

This American Girl

 

Typically, I like to focus on what is possible rather than what is practical. It’s the romantic dreamer in me who wants to write you poetry instead of numbers and figures.

 

But I know that’s too idealistic for many people. I know it doesn’t soothe their worries about security, safety, and necessities. I know many people need something clear and specific. Many people need something practical.

 

Am I Wanderlost - 20

 

So, today I’m answering your biggest questions, your biggest concerns, and your biggest roadblocks, to show you that quitting your job and traveling the world is more than possible. It’s a realistic goal that starts with one step: deciding to do it.

 

Boom, Bam, Boom. Here we go.

 

Hanoi

 

#1: How Do You Make Money?

 

Travel has a reputation for being either expensive or something for young people who don’t mind being completely poor. It can be both of those things, but it can be much more than that. It can actually be a sustainable lifestyle that supports you financially. Making a living while traveling the world takes work and it takes guts, but it’s entirely possible. There are plenty of ways to travel for free or work abroad (check out my post How to Travel the World When You’ve Got Absolutely No Money) however for freedom and sustainability, eventually you’ll need to create your own path.

 

My advice on getting started? Depending on your current career, ask your employer about options to work remotely online. I’ve met many people on the road who do this for extended periods of time. Whether that’s an option or not, take stock of your skills and consider how you can take them online to create your own freelance business. Can you do writing? Skype consultations? Social media? Get creative and take advantage of the amazing opportunities the digital age allows. Read my post How I Afford a Life of Constant Travel, And You Can Too for tons of actionable ideas and inspiration.

 

Most importantly, spend some time thinking about your long term goals and your dreams. What gifts do you want to share with the world? How do you want to improve people’s lives? Think about how you can turn that into a business. If you’re feeling lost and uncertain about your purpose, my post How to Figure Out What the F*&K You Should Be Doing With Your Life, will help you discover it.

 

angkor wat

 

#2: What About Paying Off Student Loans and Debt?

 

Last month while I was traveling in Morocco, I met a girl who worked in banking, but desperately wanted to move to Sri Lanka and volunteer at an elephant sanctuary. When I asked her why she didn’t just do it, she told me she was nearly a hundred thousand dollars in student loan debt and needed a high income job in order to make her monthly payments.

 

While debt can certainly make you feel less free, looking at it simply as a monthly expense, rather than an insurmountable sum, helps ease the pressure. If you think “Oh my God I’m 100k in debt!” that’s far more overwhelming than “Ok, I have an expense every month for $150 that I need to factor into my overall budget.” I too have student loan debt but brought my payment down the monthly minimum, which is now $70 a month, more than manageable.

 

Worst case scenario, you can always apply for a Student Loan Deferral or Forbearance while you figure out sustainable ways of making money on the road. Read more about these options here.

 

cat ba island

 

#3: Can You Save For Retirement?

 

Without a full time job, how are you supposed to save for retirement? No benefits? No 401K? No IRA?

 

Alright, I’ll be honest. I’m not a financial whiz, and while I do have a retirement fund, the thought of “retirement” doesn’t really concern me because, I already feel like I’m retired.

 

I’m already living the life of my dreams and I’m already living life on my own terms. Isn’t that the whole goal of retirement for most people? To finally be able to stop working for the man and start living for themselves? Right now I may not have a million in the bank, but I’m investing my time and energy into a business that I believe will continue to grow and sustain me for the rest of my life.

 

Perhaps this sounds irresponsible, but I’d rather live in the present moment than devote my life to a future that I’m not even sure if I want yet.

 

Finca Tierra

 

#4: What About Health Insurance?

 

Not having medical benefits concerns many people when considering quitting their day jobs. Paying your own medical insurance can be extremely expensive, with poor coverage and high co-pays. First let me say, this isn’t any more of a concern for a traveler than it is for any freelancer or independent business owner. Therefore it’s not a question of whether it’s impractical to travel the world, it’s a question of whether it’s impractical to not work for an employer.

 

That said, I personally don’t have health insurance, and I haven’t had it for about 3 years. Brace yourself, this might get a lil’ controversial.

 

I could write an entire blog post on why I don’t have health insurance, but the gist is that I generally find Western medicine to be extremely misguided and actually harmful. Rather than go to a doctor, I practice yoga regularly, eat a healthy organic vegetable rich diet, do regular cleansing rituals (I’ll be writing more about these soon), and consume probiotic foods daily. I know what you’re thinking, “what about emergencies?”

 

In the last year I haven’t been to any doctor at all, because I haven’t needed to. However, the year prior, while traveling in Southeast Asia I did need to go to the doctor because of a few emergencies. I paid everything out of pocket and it cost next to nothing. When a stray dog bit me in Thailand, I had an emergency hospital visit followed by six rounds of rabies vaccines. I paid $250 altogether. In Indonesia I stepped on a sea urchin and my foot got so infected I broke down and got antibiotics. The doctor’s visit along with medication cost $40. In Cambodia I went in for the best teeth cleaning of my life, for $20.

 

I realize that now the government is penalizing you on your taxes if you don’t have insurance. Which to me is freaking nuts. However, given my current income, the penalty is still much lower than the cost of insurance. In the end it’s still in my best interest not to have it.

 

If you’re already on lots of medications that you need insurance coverage to pay for, I highly recommend you gradually get yourself off of them. Medications come with all sorts of side effects and most are highly toxic for your liver. Cleaning up your diet is a good start. If that sounds overwhelming to you, consider working with a holistic health coach, I recommend my friend Carly Shankman.

 

Finca Tierra

 

#5: But Don’t You Get Sick All of the Time When Traveling?

 

I used to, then I discovered probiotics. Traveling can be very hard on your body, especially when traveling in parts of the world with poor sanitary conditions. Foreign bacteria can cause serious illness and digestive issues. That’s why I travel everywhere with my own water kefir, packed with thousands of strains of live probiotics, which I brew daily. Read my post How to Travel the World and Never Get Food Poisoning for more info.

 

Marrakech

 

#6: What Do You Do With Your Stuff Back Home?

 

When I first left to go traveling, I put all of my belongings in a storage unit for a few months. This gave me security in case I decided to come back. Though I quickly realized that freedom meant far more to me than any possessions. Since then I’ve downsized nearly everything I have, save for a few boxes of mementos and clothes. I keep them in a closet in my Mom’s house, and every time I come for a visit I downsize even further.

 

We need far less than we think that we do, and nothing makes that more apparent than travel. Read my post Less Stuff = More Happiness for some added insight.

 

Why I Left My Fancy Life - 15

 

#7: How Do You Live Out of a Backpack?

 

The key to traveling light is learning to be content with less stuff. I’ve found this happens naturally the more you connect with what’s really important to you. It also happens when you realize how easily your stuff gets lost or ruined on the road.

 

Traveling typically to warm, tropical places, it’s quite easy to fit everything that I need into my 46 liter bag along with a small day pack. In Southeast Asia, it’s cheap and easy to buy most things, so you can pack very light. Wondering what I bring with me to Costa Rica? Read my post What I Bring Beach Backpacking.

 

This past winter while traveling in the Arctic Circle and the Alps, I clearly needed much heavier clothing, so I used compression bags to fit everything into my small bag. Once I arrived in Spain for the warmer weather, I left the winter clothing behind to have a friend ship them back to the states. In Spain I bought a few simple outfits, which I took with me to Morocco.

 

koh rong

 

#8: Can You Ever Have a Relationship?

 

In my recent post, Enough Bullsh*t, This is What Being a Nomad is Really Like, I wrote about my challenges finding a viable romantic partner. True, establishing and maintaining a relationship on the road comes with many unique challenges.

 

However, I believe that a lot of that comes from the fact that world travel cultivates independence and self-awareness that prevents us from investing in relationships that don’t serve us. Personally, I feel far more equipped to choose a healthy relationship now than I did when I lived back in the states.

 

I’ve also met many traveling couples and families who seem quite happy. I’m not sure what their secret is, but they all assure me that by following what I love, the right person will show up.

 

otres beach sihanoukville

 

#9: Is This Something You Can Do With Kids?

 

I can’t speak from personal experience, but I’m connected with many traveling families and even single parents! Many travel much more slowly, homeschooling their children or staying long stints in different countries and traveling during the summers. Check out these blogs for inspiration:

Travel With Bender

Escape Artistes

1 Dad 1 Kid

 

otres beach sihanoukville

 

#10: How Do You Take Your Pets With You?

 

Again, I don’t have pets, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I do know people who have moved abroad with their animals. I don’t recommend traveling with a pet, and would suggest you instead leave it with a responsible friend or family member. If you’re hoping to travel for long stints or move abroad, check out this guide: 7 Practical Tips for Moving Overseas With a Pet.

 

Granada, Nicaragua

 

#11: Is it Dangerous Out There?

 

Often the media likes to scare us into thinking the world is a bad place, while the more I travel the more I discover just the opposite.

 

In three and a half years of travel I’ve been mugged once in Costa Rica and nearly scammed once in Cambodia. Otherwise my experiences have been positive. I’ve been faced with kindness far more often than I’ve been faced with danger. I’ve been offered free transportation, been invited to share meals, and received genuine friendships all over the world.

 

That said, it’s important that you do your research on safety for the specific places you plan to travel in. I typically do this through Google and read safety recommendations in guide books. If you’re a woman traveling on your own, my post Why I Feel Safe Traveling Alone will give you some valuable insight. If you’re planning to travel in Latin American, read my posts Is Puerto Viejo Safe and How to Survive a Taxi Ride in Latin America.

 

No matter where you go, remember to always trust your instincts, carry yourself with confidence, and treat others with respect.

 

Koh Tao

 

#12: How Do You Get Visas to Travel to All of These Places?

 

If you’re traveling consistently, and you hold a USA, EU, UK, Australian, or New Zealand passport, visas shouldn’t be an issue. Most countries offer free or cheap visas upon arrival, and the ones that don’t can usually be processed in about a month.

 

For everyone else, first off, I’m sorry that the world has a system that makes it challenging for you to travel. To me, it’s a horribly messed up travesty far beyond the scope of this post. However I want you to know that there are people from developing countries all over the world who are living this lifestyle. Read what they have to say in my post: You Don’t Have to be a Privileged White Girl to Travel.

 

Puerto-Viejo

 

#13: But How Do You Get Visas to Stay Longer Than a Few Months?

 

Alright, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Most people who “live” abroad, are doing so illegally. I’m not saying that I condone it, I’m just letting you know the reality. Most countries have a one month or three month visa on arrival, at which point you will need to leave the country.

 

In many countries you need only cross the border for a day in order to get your visa renewed. Tons of people living abroad do this regularly, and in Thailand there are even special transport options for people leaving the country specifically to renew their visas.

 

The Shengen Zone, however, is its own beast, and can be much more difficult to get around. Check out this post How to Legally Stay in Europe for More Than 90 Days for legal options for staying longer.

 

If you’re serious about relocating somewhere, getting a student visa, a work visa, or even residency is possible. It’s not easy and can be a lengthy process, but if it’s what you really want, it’s worth it.

 

What I Learned From Going Places I Didn't Want to Go - 02

 

#14: What About Security?

 

Raise your hand if you or someone you know has ever been laid off, lost their house, lost money on investments, or been divorced. Yep, every hand is up. Let’s face it, the job market, the housing market, and marriage, are just as unstable and unpredictable as anything else in life.

 

I’ve personally been laid off from one job, been fired from another, been broken up with multiple times, lost people I loved, and learned to let go of my obsession with feeling in control.

 

Stability as we know it is a complete and utter illusion. It does not exist no matter how much society tries to scare us into believing in it. The only constant in life is change. My security comes from knowing that I’m equipped to handle and respond to change with humility and grace.

 

If you want to live a life that involves excitement, passion, growth, and fulfillment, you’re going to have to learn to let go of your aversion to discomfort and lean into the unknown. You might wobble, you might fall, but once you find your footing, you will see how much you can fly.

 

Chefchaoeun

 

#15: Aren’t You Wasting Your Potential?

 

I remember a time when the voiced concerns of family and friends left me questioning the responsibility of my lifestyle. Others when the voice in my own head stirred fears of what my future might hold. Giving myself the permission to pursue lifelong travel has been an ongoing process in deprogramming the paradigms instilled in me by my culture. It has required identifying which lifestyle choices are in my pursuit of happiness, and which, deep down, are about satisfying my ego.

 

During my first year of travel I went back and forth in my head about whether I should return to the US to go to graduate school. I wondered if I was wandering aimlessly and if I should go back down the traditional path of education and become “contributing member of society.”

 

But instead, I opened myself to the possibility that there were other ways to feel challenged, inspired, and alive, than those accepted by society. When I did, I began to see that the more I followed the path towards my own personal bliss, the more energy, ideas, and love I had to share with my family, my friends, and the world. Consequently, I began to connect with my true life’s calling.

 

Read more about this in my post Is Traveling a Waste of Your Potential.

 

Chefchaoeun - 27

 

#17: Do You Get Tired of Traveling Eventually?

 

Yes. And No. All of the time. Never.

 

I love travel more than most anything else on earth, and that’s why I keep doing it no matter what it puts me through. However travel burnout is inevitable. This is why if you’re living nomadically, it’s essential to find a place that you love, where you can spend time resting and recharge. Read more about that in my post Enough Bullsh*t, This is What Being a Nomad is Really Like.

 

Time will tell whether I choose to live this lifestyle forever. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the beautiful ride. Are you?

 

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