Blog

But How Do You Afford To Travel Around The World?!

Coming back to the states was a strange feeling. I didn’t want to come back… at all honestly. But there were a few reasons I felt I had to. The first was the two of my incredibly inspiring and amazing friends were about to have a bad-ass wedding in Denver (and who wouldn’t use any excuse to go to Denver, right?). The second, and the reason I ended up returning to the States earlier than expected, was to surprise my mom. After FaceTiming her one day in Thailand, tears welling up in her eyes when she could barely get out an “I miss you,” I knew how much it would mean to her for me to come back home, even if for just a little bit.

So back to the States I went. From Indonesia, to Singapore, to Malaysia, to Thailand, to Cambodia, to Laos, back to Thailand, to China, to Japan, and eventually made it back to the US. Around 4pm on the day I was arriving, I was sitting in the Atlanta airport, on the phone with my mom, explaining to her how it was 4am where I was “in Vietnam” and how I couldn’t sleep. Needless to say, the surprise was a MAJOR success. Check out the video below:

 

After the surprise excitement settled in, and I slept a few hundred hours to readjust, I managed to start going out to my old stomping grounds and seeing the friends I had missed so much over the previous six months. But what started happening next was what I was definitely not prepared for.

“We’re so glad you’re back!”

“How was it?!”

“The pictures looked amazing!”

“How long are you here for?”

“What was your favorite place?”

But all of those led to one specific question…

“How did you afford to do all that?!”

To me, this question was so beyond absurd. People in the States treat money as such taboo. Never ask how much someone paid for their house. Never ask how much someone is making at their job. Never ask how much someone has in savings. But somehow… SOMEHOW…. this question just rolled off people’s tongues like it was nothing. And honestly, it drew me back every single time.

You know what they say when you assume… Don’t be an ass.

I’m a pretty open person if you want the truth. So I had no problem answering this for anyone that asked. But it was the assumptions of how I am affording my year of full-time travel that blew me away. So I figured since this was such a common question amongst my friends and followers, I’d clear the air and explain how traveling the world DOESN’T HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE!!

Let’s power through the major assumptions first.

1. “Oh wow, your dad must have left you a ton of money.”

This one genuinely pissed me off, but no offense to those of you that said/thought this. It’s just, my dad passing away had nothing to do with me affording this. Did I inherit something after his passing? Yes. Was it a lot? Hell no. Did most of it go to paying for my $5k 20-year old Jeep wrangler almost two years ago? Yes. So that’s been long gone. But also all I want to say to that is it’s none of your business. The only thing my dad left me that “got me through my journey” is the sense of adventure and belief in myself. Meaning it all would have happened regardless. In fact, if he was still with us, he would have been the one to push me the most to do what I’m doing.

2. “Your mom helped you afford a lot of it, right?”

Again, no. Did she push me to do it? Yes. Even when I was terrified of leaving after getting accepted to the sea turtle program, she comforted me as I cried that I couldn’t leave my dogs and cat for that long. So actually, let me take that back that she didn’t help me. She is THE MOST incredible mom in the whole world, that even when I told her I was thinking about turning it down because I didn’t want to leave my dogs and cat, she not only told me I HAD to go, but that she would make sure my dogs and cat were even more loved while I was gone. So she saved me money by being a free (and much willing) dog/cat sitter… I guess that counts for affording it then? Either way, dumb question.

Oh and my absolute favorite one, sent to me in a just wonderfully entertaining text message from a “close” relative (and I say “close” because while we’re VERY closely related, this relative obviously doesn’t know me well at all)…

3. “We all know you have a rich guy in Indonesia who paid for you to go there and is taking all your pictures for you. Just stop lying to us. It’s enough.”

The second I got this text message while I was in Indonesia (take note: I was surrounded by six of my female friends and ZERO dudes), I hysterically started laughing and proceeded to show my GIRL friends the lengthy ridiculous text. I had been in Indonesia for two weeks at this point, and the only interactions I had with men were:

  1. my driver from the airport who spoke zero English
  2. the employees of the conservation I was working for (again, most not speaking English)
  3. the random server at a restaurant who took photos of me and my girl friends for us. 

Ah, shit, I guess the rich guy in Indonesia they were talking about HAD to have been the server I had just met. Damnit. But seriously, if any rich Indonesians want to sponsor me on a trip back to my little island, let me know haha 😉

What really pissed me off about all of this is not a single person took a moment to think, “Oh shit, Paige has been working as a marketing producer for a company in Boca for almost five years, making closer to six figures yearly, and hustling on the side to always make extra money.” Not a single person took a moment to think, “Oh wow, Paige just called off her wedding of which she had paid for on her own (since the deal with the ex was that he paid for the down payment on the house) and she got most of the money back that she had put down on everything.”

Because wouldn’t those be the obvious assumptions?

giphy

Problem is, people just want to have an excuse for why they CAN’T do what you’re doing. People want to have a reason why it would never work for them. For why THEY have just settled into a life they may be unhappy in. So they look for reasons from you that are so beyond real life to give them some sort of satisfaction that you weren’t a badass woman that managed to save a good amount of money and researched how to backpack Asia for cheap… then actually did it.

It was the perfect time for my adventure… mentally and financially

But what I’m here to tell you is it’s totally possible for you to do it. What you have to decide is if it’s the right time for YOU.

It was the PERFECT time for me. Why? I had just called off a wedding. With that, I had just moved out of our house and was living on my mom’s (or any friend that would take me) couch. The company I was with had just sold and became even more horrendous than it already was. And I had ZERO debt. So once more:

  1. No financial responsibility to a house/apartment
  2. No financial responsibility to a car payment (I paid for my car in cash a year before. It was a little over $5,000. Chill.)
  3. No financial responsibility with human children (I had food automatically delivered every two weeks for my animals to my mom’s house—shout out to Chewy.com—and Venmo’d her for any additional needs.)
  4. No responsibility to a standard 9-5 job
  5. No financial responsibility to outstanding school loans (I had 100% scholarships to both my universities.)
  6. No credit card debt

So if you’re reading this, while I’m sure you might have at least one of these, it is possible to work around them. However, I’m no financial advisor so find out how to solve those elsewhere. I’m just here to tell you how to travel INEXPENSIVELY once the time for you is right (and responsible).

The Cost Breakdown of Traveling Southeast Asia

FLIGHTS

First, let’s talk about the plane ticket over to Indonesia, since this was the second most expensive item on my trip. The one-way flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia was around $450. Not too bad honestly. But also, not money that I wanted to spend.

For the last 4-5 years, I have been purchasing EVERY. SINGLE. THING. I buy with my Chase Sapphire credit card. I never spent above my means, which means I was able to pay it off almost every month. I was strictly using it like a debit card, but racking up points along the way. So many points in fact, that I could have flown around the world a few times for free. So, instead of spending that $450, I used points. My bank account thanked me. And not a dollar was spent.

Once I was over there, my housing and all meals for almost two months were paid for by the conservation program I was with. Not that this would have mattered much, however. I moved into an adorable little place (that was much nicer) with a girl friend of mine for a majority of the time I was on Nusa Penida… for $50 USD A WEEK! Read that again…. FIFTY DOLLARS PER WEEK. That’s $200 a month. Not $2000 like I would have likely been spending if I had stayed in the States and rented a place alone, with internet, water, and electric. As well, meals were the equivalent of $5USD max if I did decide to eat out at one of my favorite restaurants on the island.

Once I knew I had to leave Indonesia (my visa had expired so I had to leave to avoid any major fines from the Indonesian government), I searched for flights. The best part of SE Asia? You can travel anywhere for next to nothing. I’m not kidding. Here’s how my flights/travel throughout the rest of SE Asia broke down:

  • Flight from Bali, Indonesia > Singapore: $20 USD
  • Flight from Singapore > Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: $22 USD
  • Bus ride from KL, Malaysia > Cameron Highlands, Malaysia: $9 USD
  • Bus ride from Cameron Highlands > Penang, Malaysia: $11 USD
  • Flight from Penang, Malaysia > KL > Krabi, Thailand: $23 USD
  • Flight from Krabi, Thailand > Chiang Mai, Thailand: $50 USD (By far the most expensive flight within SE Asia since it was booked really REALLY last minute, and a longer route)
  • Overnight train from Chiang Mai, Thailand > Bangkok: $30 USD
  • Bus from Bangkok > Siem Reap, Cambodia: $10 USD
  • Travel throughout Cambodia (through single ticket with company): $30 USD
  • Bus from Cambodia > Don Khong, Laos: $9 USD
  • Flight from Champasak, Laos > Luang Prabang, Laos: $20 USD
  • Travel throughout northern Laos (through single ticket with company): $22 USD
  • Overnight train from Vientiane, Laos > Bangkok, Thailand: $30 USD

That’s it. So what I’m telling you is the MOST expensive flight/train/bus I booked my entire time in SE Asia was $50 USD. FIFTY dollars. That’s what it takes to fill up my gas tank on a more expensive day. And I had just traveled through six countries. On top of that, please know that I was definitely living a lavish life out there. So I could have gotten many of those trips for a bit cheaper if I had either booked ahead of time or booked odd hour or red-eye flights.

HOTELS/HOSTELS

This is where you yourself have to find your comfortability in order to save a ton. While really nice all-inclusive resorts in Asia are wildly cheaper than in the states (I’m talking maybe $150 a night for what would be at least a $600 a night hotel in the states—EXCEPT for Singapore. Singapore is expensive.), they’re still expensive. I promised myself that I would not spend over $20 a night for a room, and aimed to stay under $10 a night. This was MUCH easier than I expected, but with flexibility.

I figured out that I could stay in hostels for about 5-6 nights, then I would splurge on a “reset” hotel room for some privacy and repacking. Hostels ranged from $4-11 USD a night, so this was perfect. And the most I spent on a hotel… $20 a night… for a private suite, with a balcony over the main strip, and a rooftop infinity pool. Totally worth it. This means I was spending an average of $180-200 a month on rooms, which obviously included electricity, water, and cable, and often included laundry and breakfast. MUCH better than the $1500+ a month I was used to paying in the states. 

However, remember what I said about this being a major area where you have to find your own level of comfortability. Hostels are not always nightmares. I had the best night’s sleep of my life at a hostel in Chiang Mai, Thailand. One of the best and biggest and cleanest showers I had ever been in was in a hostel I ended up staying in for over a week. They’re not always as terrifying as movies like The Hostel make them out to be. But, with that, DO read reviews and know what you want. Party hostel or peaceful? Close to the city center or a little farther away? More amenities or cheaper pricing? Just go in with an open mind, know that not every situation is going to be ideal, and that you’re paying next to nothing to have the time of your life, not sleep in your hotel room all day. I never slept more than four hours the entire time I was on the go, mainly because I was simply just too excited and had a serious case of FOMO in every new city or country I was in. Think of it as simply a bed. If it’s clean with no bed bugs and in a walkable area, it’s good in my books.

FOOD & ALCOHOL

Simple as this: food in Asia is cheap. SUPER cheap. Like $1 USD for a massive plate of pretty incredible food. But again, open mind here. Some of the best food I had was from street vendors with no gloves on. Trust me on this, leave your germophobia at home and you’ll eat some of the best tasting food you’ll ever have in your life. With that, I couldn’t get myself to eat a bug. Sorry. I just couldn’t.

Oh alcohol. How I LOVED learning how much I didn’t need you. I’m not that much of a drinker in the States, honestly. I do love a good beer and a good glass of whiskey, but I rarely RARELY over drink. Real reason: I get full within two beers, so I simply just don’t get drunk, therefore wasting a ton of money along the way.

In Asia, alcohol is just as expensive. No, a beer isn’t $7-10 USD. However, in comparison, alcohol is really expensive for what locals make an hour over there, which is why in Indonesia you’ll hear a lot about Arak, their homemade liquor. It tastes like gasoline and doesn’t get you drunk if you have a high tolerance, so take my word and don’t even bother. If you do decide to buy a cocktail, be ready to buy at least four to make the equivalent of just one back in the States. Many of the countries in Asia have different regulations for liquor, which means that much of the liquor you may be getting will be a lot weaker than your shot of rum you have back in the States.

So buying alcohol or drinks was mostly out of the question. While I did love a good Bintang or Chang, I ended up drinking a ton of water. Perks of this? Saved a TON of money AND lost a TON of weight. Tricks of the trade, ladies and gentlemen.

Now, let’s take a look at a low-end day VS a high-end day of spending during my months living in SE Asia:

LOW-END DAY

Room and Board: $4

Food: less than $5 (with free breakfast)

Travel: less than $5 (averaged out)

Total = less than $14 USD

HIGH-END DAY

Room and Board: $20

Food: $10

Travel: $10

Total = $40 USD

This means, on average, I was spending around $500 a month, give or take. And I was LIVING life. I was doing every single tour I wanted (mainly booked through hostels for free if I volunteered to help out or bargained to get them very cheap), was getting a massage every single day (they cost less than $5USD), and eating the best food I could find. So over six months, that’s only $3,000 USD.

Let me put that in even more perspective for you. An average meal where I am from in the states can be $15 USD plus tip. A cheap beer is $5. Gas for the week can be around $40. Add in rent and utilities at a modest $1200 a month. That’s roughly $2500 A MONTH if you are eating breakfast at home, and not including groceries.

In the two months after I came back from SE Asia, I had spent MORE than the entire six months I was traveling. And I had no rent, no car payment, and my only major bills were cell phone and car insurance. That blew my mind the most.

American health insurance is a joke

Last important thing, health insurance in the States is a bigger joke than I actually realized. I had insurance through my job the last ten years, but when I left my last position, I had to start looking into plans that would work for me. That’s when I realized how expensive and insane it all is. $250 a month for me was apparently a steal?!! Oh, and good luck finding someone good in network on that plan. I stopped looking, and honestly just crossed my fingers nothing bad happened.

But when I left, I got travelers insurance. For six months, I paid $200. That’s it. And practically EVERYTHING was covered: lost baggage, delayed flight, hospital visit, tsunami evacuation, even helicopter lift if I was hurt. All for $200. Was I worried I’d have to battle them for the reimbursement IF something did happen? Of course. But that’s where my fun story in a Thai emergency room comes in.

During all the running around with water guns during Thai New Year, I somehow scratched my eye… bad. Bright red, swollen shut for almost a week bad. I kept putting it off, but finally had to go to the emergency room when it got worse. Scary experience, right?

Not. At. All. The hospital was the cleanest, most professional hospital I’ve ever been in! I was seen within five minutes of checking in with an optometrist, got a full eye exam of both eyes, was handed a medicated drop for my eye, and was given the phone number of the doctor directly in case I had issues, all for $20USD.

Not only that, but I was reimbursed immediately after returning to the states by my traveler’s insurance with zero questions asked (apart from sending them the hospital receipt and doctor’s name).

In the most Rob Schneider way ever…

BoldUniformGrouper-size_restricted

The one thing I tell everyone is that it’s been cheaper for me to travel abroad than to stay put in the States, and honestly it’s the truth. Even if I’m spending a couple hundred dollars for a ticket to get to a country, if I stay there long enough, that money is earned back in how much I’m saving on a daily basis.

So no, I don’t have some rich man paying for everything for me (although, I’m taking applications). No, my parents did not help me financially. Yes, I worked my ass off and saved every dollar I had in a private account knowing I was going to need to escape the relationship I was in. And yes, I researched like crazy to make sure I was spending as little money as I could.

My whole point to this way too long blog post is that you can do it, and I hate hearing my friends say they can’t, or they’re jealous, or whatever it might be. It’s possible; you just have to want it bad enough. 

And I wanted it bad enough.

Bangkok: How to Overcome Asia’s Sin City

Wat_Pho_Statue_Bangkok

I was about to spend a week in Bangkok (and the first of three visits), but I really had no idea what to expect. I had heard that it was a little overwhelming so I wanted to be sure I was ready for it. However, I feel like there was still so much I didn’t know.

Now while I could tell you everything I did here, there are a million and a half blog posts about all there is to do in Asia’s Sin City (both legal and slightly or possibly illegal). I’m not here to give you another one of those posts. This will just be a short and sweet post about the best local ways to end up doing all of those things, what’s worth it, and what’s not.

  1. Stay as close as you can to the Chao Phraya river. Doesn’t matter where exactly  as long as you’re walking distance to a pier. Forget the expensive taxi/tuk tuk rides. Go to any pier along the river near the biggest sights of Bangkok, hop on the boat with the orange flag, and pay 20 baht (roughly 60 cents). This boat stops at most every pier along the river and is by far the cheapest way to get from Chinatown, to Wat Arun, to the Grand Palace, to Khao San Road.
  2. If you do need to take a taxi or tuk tuk, I personally recommend tuk tuk. I found that I was able to bargain much more with the tuk tuk drivers as opposed to the taxi drivers and got a 100 baht taxi ride down to a 30 baht tuk tuk ride.
  3. Don’t want to worry about how to get around but still see all the sights? Download the app Tuk Tuk Hop (available for iPhone but unsure about Android. If you have an Android and find this app, let me know!). It may not be the cheapest way around but it’s the easiest. You pay one fee and hop on and off specified tuk tuks around the entire city to see every temple and attraction you could imagine. 
    Wat Pho Bangkok
  4. Wat Pho is amazing. At the time I went, it was 100 baht but so worth it. However, the Grand Palace is 500 baht. And you MUST be covered. When I say covered, I mean, I had sandals on and a tank top but did have a covering over my tank top with long pants and just because I had my toes exposed and a tank top on at all, even though it was covered, I was not allowed in. I did go back another day. However, again personal opinion, but it wasn’t worth the 500 baht. I say skip it if you’re trying to save money.
  5. Khao San Road is as crazy as you think. But you can definitely have fun exploring this backpackers’ paradise without going too crazy. Biggest thing: before eating anywhere, read reviews. I definitely had a rat run across my foot more than once at more than one restaurant. However, just off Khao San Road, was one of my favorite restaurants in Bangkok: May Kaidee. It’s vegetarian/vegan but SOOOO incredible even if you aren’t either.
  6. Near the river close to the Grand Palace, take your time to get lost in the fish market. Honestly, it’s a pretty brutal smell if you’re not used to it, but such an incredible local experience. I was the ONLY non-Thai person there but was offered free food at every turn.Bangkok_Fish_Market
  7. To get that smell out of your nose, head on over to Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s flower market. You’ll see vendors trimming flowers, organizing bouquets, and will experience some of the most vibrant and beautiful smells in the world. Seriously gorgeous (and a great spot for some good photos). Bangkok_Flower_Market
    Wat_Arun_Bangkok
  8. The view of Wat Arun at night is something you can’t miss. It’s absolutely dripping in gold and glitters off the water of the Chao Praya River. For the best view, head to Eagle’s Nest Bar. The drinks are definitely pricey but order a whiskey neat and just enjoy! (Pro tip: Walking down the stairs on your way out, take a look out the windows at the lit-up Grand Palace as well.)
  9. If you really like shopping, definitely check out MBK. While I wasn’t a huge fan since I really don’t enjoy shopping, this mall is eight floors and absolute insanity.
  10. Last tip, as for anywhere in Thailand, the ATM fee is extreme (If I remember right, it was around $7USD each time to take out money, no matter what card you have). So while it may be risky, try only taking out large sums of money fewer times.

Extra tip: if you fly out of Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), there’s a rad little quiet area upstairs that watches over the tarmac. After spending over 12 hours in the airport (long story), this was easily the best place to hang before heading into the gates. It’s quiet, a great view, and totally free to walk up to. You’ll see signs; it’ll totally look like you’re not allowed up there, but I promise you are, so go explore!

While Bangkok was a good time (all three times I somehow ended up back there), it was my least favorite of every city/town I was able to check out in my month in Thailand. But like everyone says, it’s a must. So take a long layover here, enjoy it for two or three days, then leave knowing you experienced one of the craziest cities in the world.

How a Country-Wide Water Gun Fight Made Me Love Thailand

Ok so I didn’t love the Thai islands. It’s true. But northern Thailand was a totally different world. Northern Thailand might have changed my mind about this country.

Chiang Mai Thailand

I flew from Krabi directly into Chiang Mai, and upon arrival, saw the same amount of western backpackers. But this time, it was calm, quite, and they knew how to blend in to a certain degree. It was refreshing, and the Thailand I had wished for.

I was only in Chiang Mai for a few days before the Thai New Year begun, also known as Songkran. And if you know anything about this holiday, you know that I was about to get very wet. What I didn’t know is that the locals decide that three days for the holiday isn’t enough. Songkran was to begin on April 13th, but as I was walking to lunch on the 12th, I realized that the children like to begin the country-wide water fight a day early. So much so, that not even five minutes into my walk, I was already soaked, had to buy a dry bag for my stuff, and joined in on the fun.

Before I had the chance to fill my water gun however, I had heard that khao soi was an absolute must-have in Thailand. And better yet, I heard a rumor that the very best khao soi was in Chiang Mai, so I knew I had to try it. Problem was, the place that I heard about was supposed to be pretty local and pretty difficult to find. After walking around the Old City, I finally came across the spot I had been looking for: a small white tent right next to the temple with a few tables and the menu only in Thai. I managed to order the khao soi and a lotus root juice in broken Thai, sat at a table next to some locals, and enjoyed one of the best (and cheapest) meals of my life.

So if you’re ever in Chiang Mai and want the best khao soi, head to Khao Soi Khun Yai on the north side of Old City. Look for the white tent behind the temple walls. And get ready for some of the best food in Thailand.

Songkran

Ok so back to the Thai New Year. This might be the absolute greatest time of the year in Thailand. What began with a cleansing of the Buddha statues throughout the country to begin anew turned into a country-wide water fight. If you’re lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai (or anywhere in Thailand) in mid-April for Songkran, here’s what you need to know:

Water guns?

Be prepared and buy water guns early. You can get them at Big C Supermarket or on the side of the road around the time of Songkran. If you do get them along the road, you can most likely bargain and get the price down a bit. But it’s important you buy them before Songkran begins because prices will absolutely skyrocket. Get one with a big water chamber because, while you can find places to fill up, some places will charge you or you will be filling up with the dirty moat water (which is a whole other topic).

Which city?

Chiang Mai is known to be the best place for Songkran in Thailand, and most of that is because of Old City. The Old City of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a wall and moat with gates at each end. And every side of Old City is definitely a different type of party.

East Side:

East end is where almost all of the tourists/Westerners go to party. This is where you’ll find the pool parties, the bars, and the crowds. It’s a great time to spend a day and you’ll meet a ton of people. But remember, it will be filled with people just like you, so while you’ll definitely have some fun, this isn’t where you want to be if you’re looking for the local-version of  New Years.

North Side:

North end of Old City is a good mix of both local and tourists. The most traffic is along here so the streets are packed with cars and crowds walking amongst them. There are a ton of street food vendors and some good music. Most of the Thai young adults hang here, so if you want a good local party without completely standing out, this is the place to be.

South Side:

South end is the quietest side of Old City during Songkran. This is mostly the side of the city that the cars can pass on without having to get stuck in traffic. While it is quiet, you’ll definitely still get wet walking along the streets here so don’t think you’re escaping the fun.

West Side:

My FAVORITE side of Old City was the West End. After partying on every other side of Old City, I had met a local friend at the hostel I was staying at that recommended I go to the west side. She let me know that I would be the only foreigner but promised it would be the most fun. And she was 100% right. Not only was I the ONLY foreigner but the locals welcomed me with open arms (and water guns filled with ice water). If you really want to experience the real Songkran, do NOT miss heading to the west end.

So yes, while the Thai islands didn’t win me over, the happiness I experienced during Songkran in Chiang Mai is something I will never forget. However, all good times come to an end, and it was time for me to head to Bangkok.

I’m Not a Backpacker; I’m Just Traveling with Backpacks

Quick note before I begin this post: This might be a little bit of a rant and I apologize beforehand. If you refer to yourself as a backpacker, if you are obsessed with the Thai islands, if you overly love to party, etc. be ready to be slightly offended. But it’s time you realize something, so read on.

Ok let’s get started. Unpopular opinion coming atcha. I HATED the Thai islands. Ok, hate is a strong word. And the Thai islands are some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. So maybe the word “hate” is a little much. But the Thai islands proved everything I had expected to be true about Thailand.

Let’s rewind a bit. I’m living in Indonesia. I had just come from Singapore and Malaysia and had a blast. And was falling in love quickly with the Asian culture. To be honest, when I was leaving Malaysia, I was absolutely not looking forward to Thailand. To me, Thailand has always seemed like a played out, overrun tourist destination for full-moon parties or honeymoon resorts, and that’s just not my style. But, as I was just an hour flight away, I knew I had to see it for myself to hopefully prove me wrong. I knew there was so much more to this country than what I was thinking, or so I hoped.

However, when I arrived in Krabi, I was greeted with everything I hated: loud Westerners with no regard for a new culture, already drunk, with 2+ massive checked bags a piece, and looking for the closest party. Major eye roll. Yea I know, if you’re reading this and you’ve been to the south of Thailand, you’ll say “Obviously Paige, what did you expect?” But I had hoped it wouldn’t be as bad as I’ve heard. Man, was I wrong.

Now listen. If you are looking to party with a bunch of fellow white, English-speaking people in gorgeous places, by all means, visit the Thai islands. But what I noticed was that the culture I fell in love with was missing from the second I landed (It also might’ve not helped that I almost didn’t land. Long story short, we hit a really bad storm; lightning hit the wing; we tried to make an emergency landing; the wind was too strong and right before we landed, the pilot had to go full-throttle straight up to avoid crashing; one of the flight attendants was crying; and I was ready to leave Thailand before I even actually got there. But I’m alive, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice).

Ok ok I’m done bashing the islands because I’m being cynical and totally didn’t hate them that much. I had a really good time to be honest. But there is one thing I realized about myself when hopping from island to island:

I am absolutely not a backpacker.

backpacker

Yes, I’m traveling with two backpacks and may look like one. But for the first time, I really was forced to spend time with the “backpacker” type. You know, the one that hasn’t showered for two days, isn’t wearing shoes, already has a beer (or two) in hand, and somehow manages to talk about the number of countries they’ve ever been to and how they’re “like sooo powerful man.”

I’ve learned a ton of patience while traveling. And I’ve learned that I have zero patience while traveling. Years ago, the backpacker term was truly that: stuffing your life in a bag and exploring a country as it was meant to be seen, leaving nothing behind. I don’t know if I’m just old now that I’m thirty but holy shit is this not the case anymore. These “backpackers” as they refer to themselves might travel with a backpack but they leave trash everywhere, they refuse to learn the local language, they get absolutely pissed drunk, are the loudest in the hostel, and expect everyone to love them.

But I’ve realized that while all of my belongings fit in two backpacks, I will never call myself a backpacker. While I haven’t showered in two days, it’s because I have been so busy hiking or exploring the city I’m in that I crash right when my head hits the pillow on my hostel bed. While I may not get the pronunciation correct, I’ll do my best to only speak the local tongue when I can. While I may like to have a few beers, I know my limit and know that I’m not in my own country and need to show respect (and know my way back to the hostel without stumbling around).

So if you are a “backpacker,” please be more self-aware. Please learn to respect a culture and blend in, not stand out (in a rather embarrassing way). And for god’s sake, it’s a 45-minute boat ride from island to island. I promise you, you don’t need to slam 10 beers before you get to the next stop.

On that note, I’m grabbing my two backpacks and softly saying “thank you” and “I’m sorry” in Thai behind every one of these “backpackers” to show not all of us are like that. I promise.

Checking off my Bucket List in Malaysia

During my 48-hour visa run in Singapore, I started to realize truly how easy it would be for me to just keep traveling up through SE Asia. As I was looking for flights back to Indonesia, I searched for how cheap it would be to get to Malaysia before I headed to Thailand. Another $20 USD flight coming right up! So there was no turning it down.

Malaysia was really never high on my list of places to visit. And honestly, and embarrassingly, I had only really associated a few things with Malaysia: the mysterious disappearance of American spy Jim Thompson and the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — both not welcoming instances for a single female traveling to a new country.

Man, am I glad I ignored those high-profile stories and took the flight anyway! Malaysia could have not been a more beautiful and welcoming country. And even more surprisingly, I checked off quite a few items on my bucket list and ended up falling in love (don’t worry guys, it’s not what you’re thinking… just keep reading).

Kuala Lumpur

KL was a city I just figured I’d be passing through for a couple days, but it turned into so much more. In Singapore, I was dying to stay at the Marina Bay Sands for the world-famous rooftop infinity pool overlooking the bay and all of Singapore. Problem was, there was no way I was paying almost $600 a night to stay there. So I did a little research. I knew KL had a famous skyline with the silhouette of the Petronas twin towers, so I made it my goal to find a rooftop pool overlooking the skyline there. And I did, at the Regalia Suites Condominium (bucket list item #1 checked off). Best part? I had my own suite, complete with rooftop bar and infinity pool, for $15 USD a night. Wayyy better than Marina Bay Sands I’d say.

Kuala Lumpur Skyline

Petronas Twin Towers

I was lucky enough to have the pleasure of meeting up with a friend of a friend from back in Florida who showed me all KL had to offer. From eating street food to bar hopping to seeing the Petronas Towers to exploring the Batu Caves (and walking up the incredibly steep 272 steps, fighting off monkeys, while pretty hungover), I had found a deep connection with a complete stranger across the world and had the time of my life. Traveling really shows you who your truly closest friends are back home (I owe you big time, Brett!) and how you can become such good friends and develop such a good connection with someone across the world within 24 hours (See you in Mexico next to plan our India trip, Jeremy!).

Batu Caves

After just two full days in KL, it was time for me to move on but I knew I’d be back. KL is a special city. So if you do ever get the chance to visit, don’t write it off like I almost did.

Cameron Highlands

Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation

My initial plan was to travel to Cameron Highlands then to Taman Negara to see the oldest forest in the world. Unfortunately, due to some time constraints for other things, I had to cut it short and eliminate one. But I am so glad I chose the way I did. I hopped on the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands for a little over $10 USD and would’ve paid just that for the view on the drive up. This is when Malaysia really started to impress me. The road was narrow and winding, driving along the edge of the mountain, but I couldn’t have been more distracted by the natural beauty and bright green tea plantations that surrounded. It was cold, overcast, and a relaxing change to what I had been living in the few months prior.

That, and there were Land Rover Defenders EVERYWHERE! My dream car, a car that I rarely get to see in the States, was parked in every other parking spot of the small hillside town I was staying in, and my eyes turned into full-on emoji-style hearts everywhere I looked. Never did I dream that I would get to drive one. What happened next still makes me smile to this day.

I booked a tour of the tea plantations and the oldest mossy forest in the world. I walked downstairs from the hostel, waited at the corner, and up pulled the most beautiful candy-apple-red Land Rover Defender. After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I hopped in and off we went (bucket list item #2 checked off).

Land Rover Defender

Guys, a manual right-hand drive Land Rover Defender with my favorite rear side-facing bench seats: forget marriage, I’ll take riding in that the rest of my life over any guy. I was literally living my dream in Malaysia and had totally fallen in love.

Hand-Picked Strawberries

After spending a full day with my true love, hiking the oldest mossy forest in the world (I’ll take that second to hiking the oldest forest), picking my own wild strawberries (bucket list item #3 checked off) and drinking some of the best tea I’ve ever tasted, I fell asleep, dreamed of what the rest of my life would be like with him by my side, and contemplated how expensive it would be to get him (and by him I mean the Land Rover) back to Indonesia…

Penang

At the Top in Penang, Malaysia

Just a few short days in Cameron Highlands, I was off on another bus, but this time to the island of Penang, off the northwest coast of Malaysia. As if I wasn’t already excited enough to explore one of the most famous spots in Malaysia, I was thrilled that I had planned to meet up with one of my favorites Brits in the world! We had worked together with the turtles for a short time (she had come about a month and a half after I had arrived) and became friends within seconds.

She had arrived to Penang a few days before me and had luckily found all the best things to do, including the hop-on hop-off bus that was available. If you are planning to head to Penang, this is absolutely the way to do it. In two days, I saw almost everything Penang had to offer at a very affordable price. Some of my favorites:

  • Kek Lok Si Temple
  • Miami Beach (This made me giggle)
  • KOMTAR (The Top and the Jurassic Park exhibit, just be ready to laugh)
  • Batu Ferringhi Beach
  • Tropical Spice Garden

And of course, Georgetown, the reason I actually went to Penang (bucket list item #4 checked off). This little area of the island brought me all the feels of back home in Florida. Growing up, the Wynwood area of Miami was small, undisturbed, and mostly unknown except to local and some international street artists. It was still inhabited by Miami natives and was beautiful in every way. Now, the area has been completely gentrified. The small local food shops and dive bars have been driven out by high end boutiques and boujee coffee shops. The locals walking the street have been replaced with plastic girls in stilettos carrying LV bags.

To sum it up, Wynwood is no longer Wynwood anymore but a tourist trap of a destination. Georgetown was perfectly what Wynwood used to be. While it did have a couple more high end coffee shops and cafes, it was still pleasantly local, with street vendors and musicians on every corner. And of course the sight of every wall decorated with art gave this little town the feel that made Wynwood what it once was.

The island of Penang was different from any other place I have been in SE Asia so far. Actually, Malaysia was different from any country I’ve been so far. And while there is so much that I was able to see, I’ll definitely be heading back to explore again soon!

Have any questions about Malaysia: how to get around, best time to go, best restaurants/street food/bars? Let me know in the comments below!

48 Hours in Singapore: The (Almost Missed) Visa Run

Day 58. I was cutting it close. After missing my first flight to Singapore…

Wait, quick side note. So I had my first visa run flight booked before I even got to Indonesia (since I had to have proof of departure for the type of visa I was applying for). Fast forward two months, and I was sitting on the beach with friends on my little island when my phone dinged. I looked down at it to a reminder for “Flight to Singapore in 10 minutes.” I laughed, took another sip of my Bintang, and sat back. I didn’t want to leave yet anyway. Ok ok, back to the story…

I knew I couldn’t miss this one. I had two more days until my Indonesian visa ran out, and it was either pay a ton of money and sit in Denpasar for a week or take a little weekend trip and just get a new visa when I flew back. Obviously, I was way more intrigued by a good adventure.

Plus, how can you beat the equivalent of a $20USD flight to Singapore? You can’t.

I always wanted to see Singapore, but it never truly was an option until I was on this side of the world. Forget the expensive flights there from the States; the country itself is pretty damn expensive. But with some good options for hostels and neighborhoods like Little India to save me some money, it was the perfect fit for my visa run.

And even better, Singapore is a city/country that you can totally see a good portion of within 48 hours. So if you find yourself on that side of the world with a long layover, here’s how you can extend it and see some of the best of what Singapore has to offer.

Friday

I landed around noon. If you get in earlier and you have time, explore the Changi airport. It’s one of the coolest airports I’ve ever been to (I mean, there’s a badass spiral slide in the airport. Take a moment and be a kid again). Once I got settled in my hostel and unpacked a little, I knew I needed a late lunch. First thing I did was head to Clarke Quay to check out the river and grab a beer.

This may be the most American (or Irish-American) thing I’ve ever done, so for what comes next, try not to judge.

In Indonesia, we have Bintang for our beer of choice. I love it. But it’s a light lager, nothing special. After a few months, I really started to miss a good dark beer. Along with that, I was living on rice and noodles every day, and there was nothing I was craving more than melty stringy cheese.

The second I stepped in Clarke Quay, I forgot all about trying local food, spotted an Irish pub, and beelined it. You better believe I got the cheesiest mac and cheese and the best pint of Guinness I’ve ever had in my life. So if you’re looking for that, or if you’re just looking for a good meal, head here and walk around to explore a little. Clarke Quay is pretty mellow during the day, so be sure to go back at night for a good time, especially on the weekends.

After Clarke Quay, I took a walk down the river down to the Marina Bay Sands area. It’s a bit of a walk but the views are absolutely stunning (and there are a ton of bars along the way to stop and hang at). Famous for its architecture, be sure to take time to just be in awe of some of the buildings here, both old and new. It was time for dinner and a show so I grabbed a quick bite and waited for the Marina Bay Light Show.

There’s two ways to do this show so I recommend saving time to do it two nights you’re there. Here’s why. I personally like the view on the west side of the bay the best. It’s the side that you can see the brightest view of the laser light show, and it’s spectacular. The second night, head to the east side, right in front of the Marina Bay Sands for the fountain and music show. Both views are amazing, but they are truly two totally different experiences, so I wouldn’t miss either.

Saturday

I knew this was my only full day in Singapore so I wanted to make the most of it. And damn, did my legs feel it. I woke up as soon as the sun did and headed straight to the Gardens by the Bay. If you don’t know what this is, or haven’t seen the famous trees in Singapore, here’s a few photos to entice you to visit. This was by far my favorite place in Singapore. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say I spent the better half of an entire day here. I’ll let the pictures do it justice (or not, because nothing except seeing this in real life will do it justice).

Get here first thing in the morning if you want to do the suspension bridge with as little people as possible. I was the third person on the bridge for that day, and it couldn’t have been more peaceful and beautiful.

Take time to explore the two conservatories, one dedicated to saving the forests and animal conservation and the other dedicated to almost every type of flower in Asia. Neither conservatory is better than the other; just make it easy on yourself and don’t force yourself to choose; do both.

After I explored the Gardens by the Bay a bit, I headed to Kampong Glam to get a taste of the famous Muslim Quarter and was more than pleasantly surprised. After taking a few shots of one of the most picturesque mosque you’ll ever see (all the Aladdin vibes seriously), be sure to walk around, shop and eat. Anything and everything is good here. And don’t forget to check out the incredible street art. But if you do want a good spot for both beer and food, head to FOMO (seriously, or else you’ll totally have the fear of missing out).

After I stuffed myself full of falafel and hummus and margaritas (don’t judge the combo here), I headed back to Gardens by the Bay to see the trees at night. And let me tell you, this is absolutely something YOU CANNOT MISS (I know I know, I keep saying that, but everything in Singapore is pretty incredible). Once the sun goes down, the trees sparkle along to music for a one-of-a-kind light show. Get there early, grab a seat on the floor by the center tree, lay down, and enjoy! Best part, you can do this AND the Marina Bay fountain and light show the same night; just head over to the Bay right after the trees. One of the best nights of my life!

Sunday

My flight was leaving at 12pm out of Singapore so I had time to squeeze one more thing in and that was Little India. This is a neighborhood you’ll just want to explore, grab amazing Indian food for cheap, and see brightly colored buildings all around.

Singapore is a city/country that turned from a visa run spot to one of my favorite places I have ever been. It’s a city so filled with culture, so advanced in technology and architecture, so environmentally conscious, that there truly is something for everyone there. So be sure to extend that layover and step into the future!

Featured Travel Interview: From Married To Morocco

It’s been such a whirlwind of a month. I never thought moving to Indonesia for any amount of time would ever happen but it did and now I can’t imagine ever leaving.

Life changes a lot. Within one day, your entire path can switch. And that’s happened to me quite a bit lately. I went from living in a beautiful apartment with a great friend just a block from the beach to staying with my mom and dad every night to help my mom take care of my dad who could no longer do every day tasks alone. I went from having my father as one of my best friends to losing him completely. I went from casually dating someone I thought I knew for so long to engaged and then to not even speaking a word to each other ever again. And I went from creating a home with that person to selling all of the belongings that I could and taking a chance in Indonesia.

Life changes. Sometimes for better or for worse, but all you can do is embrace it and make the best of it.

I’m trying to make the best of it.

And from this, I am extremely humbled and thankful to know that others have seen that I am just trying to do what is best for me.

With that, I am thrilled to be able to share my very first featured interview as From Married To Morocco with Tripoto. Thank you again, Tripoto, and I’m so humbled and stoked to be able to share my story with all of you as well as the Tripoto family!

How I Moved Across The World With Two Carry-Ons

Here’s the deal: I REFUSE to check bags. I mean, absolutely refuse. The type of stubbornness that is equivalent to the guy that got arrested for putting on something like 100 items of clothing to avoid checking his bag… THAT type of stubbornness.

Let’s rewind to when this insecurity with checked bags all started. I was young. My family was traveling to Australia from the US. My dad, who was a frequent flyer for work, was annoyed at the newbies in my family‑-read: my teenage sisters and mother-‑that packed massive rolling luggage. Yes, we’d be in Australia and New Zealand for quite some time, but he knew. He knew exactly what I know now.

We arrived in Australia and, to much of our surprise at the time (except for my father), our luggage was covered in oil, soaked through to our clothes. I know, I know, this isn’t an entirely normal thing to happen, but it was enough for me to understand that shit happens to checked bags.

The loss of clothes or bags didn’t register at my age as monetary value, but the time it took for us to handle this issue with the airlines and delay the start our journey did. I knew for as long as I live, that if it was possible, I would make it my goal to only ever travel with a carry-on.

That means week-long snowboarding trips, two week trips throughout Europe, and yes, even moving across the world.

CarryonPacking

This was no easy feat. In fact, I’m sure I unpacked and packed both carry-ons at least ten times. But I did it, and am moving from the United States to SEAsia with just two carry-ons. It really isn’t that crazy, I promise you. I keep hearing, “Oh god. I could never survive” or “There’s no way that would be possible for me.” I promise it is if you find enough self-control to work with the steps below:

Step 1:

Sell EVERYTHING that means nothing to you. In order to truly find out which material things mean something to you, ask yourself if you’d be truly heartbroken if you lost that item in a break-in or fire or flood. Not the most pleasant thought, I know. But if your answer is honestly no, then this means that you CAN live without it. You’d be surprised how little you need to actually live comfortably.

  • One note for this: If, and only if, you know you’ll be moving back home eventually, do keep items that you know you will either not make much money from selling or items that will cost more to replace when you return than it will cost to keep and store. Make smart decisions here.

Step 2:

Lay out everything you believe you will need for your trip/move. Now this is the tough part and something I could write five different posts about, but this step is entirely personal to you. For me, I was a former video producer so footage of my trips overseas is pretty important to me. That and I’ll be working and creating video along the way. So a majority of both my bags are cameras and equipment. While I did pare down my equipment by a ton and settled on using a GoPro and iPhone X instead of bringing my DSLR and lenses, those items are definitely taking up far more room in ratio than my clothes are.

As well, this part is extremely dependent on where you are moving to. Moving to the north of Russia? Good luck getting enough goose down jackets and fur lined boots in those carry-ons. My advice in that scenario? (Besides maybe don’t move somewhere where you can’t feel your face. I mean why would anyone live somewhere where they can’t feel their face?) Budget enough to buy your clothes when you get there.

Step 3:

Pack up the rest of your belongings (keepsakes, files and paperwork, out of season clothing if you chose to keep it, your entire vinyl collection—which is probably something I’m going to miss most) and put them somewhere safe and reliable, whether that be an extremely caring and loving family member who doesn’t mind you taking up room in their garage, or a storage unit. Keep at least one box empty at home with you while packing… trust me, you’ll need it.

Step 4:

Now don’t panic or cry when you read this one, because I swear it will all be ok. Take everything you set aside to bring with you, and divide it in half. I’m not joking. Do it right now.

It’s our materialistic tendencies at their finest. We ALL overpack. Some of us are just slightly better than others at it. But trust me, you won’t wear that third pair of jeans or that really nice shirt you still have the tag on from four months ago but for some reason think you’ll bust out on this trip.

Step 5:

Ok are you ready? Divide it all in half again. Starting to panic now? Don’t. Take a deep breath. Ok, I might be a little too harsh on this, but you started reading because you wanted to pack your life into two carry-ons. This takes some serious self-control here.

I panicked too. And honestly, up until five minutes before I left the airport, I was tearing apart my bags figuring out what else I could shove in that last box heading to the storage unit so I could actually close my carry-ons.

Here’s the biggest advice I can give you and if you read any part of this post, this is the most important piece to absorb. While packing, keep reminding yourself that clothes can be purchased ANYWHERE. It may not be the style you necessarily prefer. But best part? You’ll totally fit in with the locals.

I know this takes a bit more budgeting, but I promise, you probably won’t need much of anything. And if you do, it’ll probably only be because you lost a sock under the bed at a hotel somewhere or your shirt shrunk in the dryer at the local laundromat.

Step 6:

Time to pack those bags. Remember the game of Tetris? Well I hope you were really good at it as a kid, because those skills are about to come in handy. Take the items you know you can’t or won’t want to buy in the new exciting place you’ll be exploring (prescriptions, expensive items like camera equipment/laptop, strangely enough tampons if you’re going to Asia as a female, etc) and pack those first. You may have to move them around a bit, but you know these are items that MUST fit no matter what.

  • Before packing, be sure that your bags fit the carry-on specifications. This may be obvious, but specs vary from airline to airline (and sometimes quite drastically), so it’s better to be safe than to be the person that’s looking like a fool trying to shove and squeeze her bag into the carry-on measurement funbox at security. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s less than pleasant (cue guy layering on 100 items of clothing).

If you’re a seasoned traveler, you know the rolling trick. If you’re not, take a look at some of the most common packing tip videos, and get to tight rolling those clothes. Bringing shoes? Stuff them with socks and underwear. Or better yet, can’t fly without that neck pillow? Take the stuffing out of the pillow and stuff it with pajamas, socks, underwear, shirts, whatever fits and is comfortable. How’s that for a packing tip?!

Step 6.2:

Now for toiletries. Again, a little dependent on your preferences AND where you’re going. Shampoo/Conditioner? Pick those up when you get to your destination. Your favorite facewash? Definitely bring it with you in a 3oz. container. Try to organize your toiletries by need. This is easiest for when you are staying in shared rooms, such as a hostel. Why? Because when you need all those little items for your shower, you’re not left undressed, standing under running water thinking, “Shit. I forgot my body wash in my other pouch and I went for a five-hour hike today. Fantastic.” No one wants that. Not your suitemates either.

Organizing by need will also help you realize what’s important and what isn’t important to bring when packing. I definitely tend to pack two different toothpaste tubes for some reason EVERY TIME because I forget I packed one in one area of my bag and will throw another one in. Don’t be me.

Step 6.3:

If you are choosing to pack two carry-ons (or more correctly, a carry-on and a personal item), choose the one with more outside pockets as your personal item. This will be the bag that you carry on the front of you at all times. This is the bag where you will keep all important documents, cash, etc in, as well as any items you’ll need throughout the flight (compression socks, gum, a book, your noise-cancelling headphones to drown out the baby next to you). Those multiple pockets are just asking to be opened and explored, so keeping these items close to your chest is your best bet. As for the bag on your back? Pack any items you wouldn’t mind losing along the way, such as hair brush, or clothes, or toiletries you don’t mind buying abroad if necessary.

Step 7:

Make sure the bags close. Then, make sure the bags won’t kill you as you’re running to your gate two terminals away on your 30 minute layover. For me, I know I’ll be traveling throughout SEAsia, so I knew these bags had to be comfortable and not too heavy. Take a stroll or jog around your house with both bags on, regardless how ridiculous you may feel. Did your back or neck begin to hurt? Imagine what it would feel like after 20+ hours of travel. Time to get rid of more stuff. Trust me, you’ll be thanking yourself later.

Step 8:

Double check everything, print out necessary documents, and separate cash/passport copies amongst pockets and bags, just to be safe. Keep mental note of where everything is and that every item has its place.

And you’re ready to go!

See. Wasn’t too bad was it? Ok, just kidding. I know packing your whole life in two carry-ons can be overwhelming. But like I told you to repeat to yourself, people just like you live every day in the place you’re going and live just fine. If you find you don’t have enough clothes, or forgot floss, or your sandals broke, I promise you’ll be able to find something to replace it wherever you are. Keep your mind open and be ready to live like a local!

May your travels be as light as your packing–Now keep exploring!

Extra step:

Let’s reverse this a bit. You’ve got the light packing down. You’re a pro. But now you’re heading home, you bought all the elephant pants and trinkets you could ever want, and now your bags are definitely not zipping up like those pants you’ve been holding onto since high school (we’ve all got those “goal weight” jeans). Remember those clothes you brought with you? That nice shirt with the tag still on it or that extra pair of jeans. I promise you that nothing will make a local woman’s day more than you just giving her free clothes. I’ve done this with a few of the hotel staff I come across and local friends I’ve made. I’ll take out those items I brought from home that I know I can live without, and will leave it with a small note for whoever is coming to fix up the room. And if that doesn’t work for you, find the closest orphanage or homeless shelter and drop them off on your way to the airport. The smiles I’ve seen from women across the world ecstatic that I am just giving them clothes could be one of the best feelings you have all trip.

Have any other tips for packing light on long trip? Please share in the comments below!

What If I Left… What Would Be Left? Overcoming My Fear Of Travel

This is a tough one for me to write. But I began writing to inspire females—especially single traveling females—to not be afraid, to stand up for themselves, and to find themselves again after whatever it is that pushed them down, that made them fear. So here goes nothing…

For me, I had two major events that created that distinct fear of travel: I lost my father to brain cancer, and I discovered the person I once loved was no longer the person I fell in love with. All within eighteen months.

father_daughter

The first was obvious. He was sick for just over fourteen months before we lost him. I was traveling when I found out he was diagnosed. And I had a major solo across-the-world trip booked but had to cancel it when it seemed we were about to lose him. Travel was everything in my life, and was a big part of my discovery and my healing. But suddenly, the trips that I had booked to enjoy myself and discover new passions now had a sad memory forever attached to them. It was the first time that had happened, and frankly, it began to make me terrified to travel again, especially alone.

What would have happened if I was alone snowboarding when I found out about my dad, instead of with my best friend? What if I had left for across the world right before my dad suddenly passed? Being so far away from family suddenly felt all too uncontrollable.

Not to mention my anxiety had taken over when I did travel, whether for work or with friends.

Will my phone work?

Am I connected at all times?

Can my family get ahold of me?

Is everyone okay?

Am I okay?

Do I have insurance?

Is someone close by for my mother if I’m gone?

I had gone into this severe state of worry and couldn’t let go. Every time I got a text from a family member or my phone rang, pure panic rushed through me remembering the text from my mom that day:

“Where are you?”

There I sat, enjoying a drink at one of my favorite bars in downtown Breckenridge.

I text back confused, “I’m in Colorado, mom. You know that. What do you mean?”

“Can you call me?”

I walked outside, called, and dropped to the ground that was covered in fresh powdered snow. A beautiful scene turned into a disgusting nightmare. My dad was perfectly fine when I left. Now, I was being told he was going into emergency surgery and that I would be going straight to the hospital as soon as I landed back in Florida.

I never wanted that feeling again—the feeling of being however many miles away not being able to do a single thing. I felt selfish for being away from my family. I felt a lack of control. I felt my first fear of traveling.


The second was a bit harder. Not long after my father died, I got engaged. And to be honest, I don’t remember it. I was still in a fog, going day to day, quiet, not opening up, unsure of how I felt moment to moment. Looking back, of course I wish I had said no. But it was a comfort at the time, and I thought it’d maybe take my focus off things. It didn’t, and it just made it worse.

For months after that ring was on my finger, I still wasn’t myself. In fact, I was worse. I broke down a lot. But we traveled—me mainly hoping that the adventures would take me out of my state of mourning and would bring joy to my life again. First, a road trip around Ireland. Then a boat trip throughout Miami. Then San Francisco. Then Montreal. Then Cuba. Then NYC. The traveling brought more and more joy to me. But with each trip, the person traveling along side of me brought more and more pain.

More fights. More anger. More of his dark past being put on me. More of the loss of my father being put on him. It went from disagreements to screaming, to storming out of the house, to holes in walls. And then eventually, to bruises on me.

I thought I had met the one, so I figured once my mourning had passed, all would be good. I mean, we traveled together and that’s what I wanted, right? I had found a partner that shared my one true passion, who was hardworking and driven but wasn’t afraid to see the world. What I didn’t know was that all of that was more shallow than I thought. That the values, the beliefs, the family, the friends, the life I wanted and longed for were no longer there. The traveling was covering it all up. My fear of travel started to set in again.

Was I traveling to run away from the fear of what I had to experience at home? Was I traveling to hide the fact that I was so unhappy—hell, terrified—to be with this person? That coming home every day scared of what would happen next could be solved by distracting him and myself in a brand new city to explore?

I held on, I made a promise that day I said yes. But the love was fading away fast. I felt guilty for always wanting to explore. When he refused to go on trips longer than a week, I felt trapped because of the anger I knew would come at me if I went with anyone else and because of the jealousy I would get if I went out alone. I felt trapped because the life I wanted to live, mainly moving out of South Florida to explore something new, was no longer an option as I slowly started to sink into the life he had settled into.

I was terrified to travel once again.


Fishing_Mahi_Lobster

I’ve come to peace with the loss of my father. And don’t get me wrong, the pain of losing him will never go away. But he is the one that sparked my love for travel. I have him and my mother to thank for taking me on all those trips to go explore. I have him to thank for getting me out on a boat to fish, to find my love of the sea and of adventure.

He wanted me to travel. He still does, because I know with each new place I discover, he’s with me there as well.

When I realized that I was the one who was choosing to be held down by fear—fear of losing someone else in my family, and the fear of the person who was supposed to be my partner—I realized only I could do something to overcome it.

As for that relationship that was killing my single greatest passion, I got over my fear of walking away and giving up. I got over my pride to stay and fix something I knew was far too broken. I stopped crying myself to sleep out of fear of him. I let go of the weight on my shoulders of canceling a wedding. I found myself again, and found what made me happy. For the first time in a long time, my soul felt at ease.


In just three short months since then, I’ve explored one new country on an entirely new continent for me and explored three brand new cities in the country I’ve called home for so long. My fear from travel is gone, and I’ve fallen in love again.

And now, it’s time to call a new place home for awhile. In three short weeks from today, I’m making the change I’ve always wanted to make but was held back from doing for so long.

I’m thrilled to announce… I’m moving to Indonesia!

Nusa_Penida_Island_Indonesia

If you’re interested to find out more about what I’ll be doing over there, to follow along, or to help out with my efforts, you can learn more here.

 

Click here to HELP SAVE THE SEA TURTLES!

A Solo Female’s Journey from Casablanca to Marrakech

Last I wrote to you guys, I let you know there was more to the story than just Casablanca and my fears the day I arrived in Morocco. A lot more.

It has been a very hectic and exciting last month. And while I didn’t mean to take forever to catch you up on the whole trip through Morocco and what I loved most, the exciting news that took over all of December was well worth it (you’ll find out more soon, and soon as in less than a month—I promise not to slack off this time).

Morocco was more than I could ever have imagined. But what I realized is that there are few words that will truly explain the beauty that is North Africa. And what better way to fill in that lack of words than to put together a quick highlight video for you of my road trip from Casablanca to Marrakech and everywhere in between. Check it out!

And read about some of my favorite spots and tips below, not if, but when you decide to visit Morocco for yourself.


Casablanca

You won’t need more than a day here unless you want to spend an extra day at the beach. While Casablanca has some beautiful views of the ocean, there really wasn’t much here to explore. However, if you do make it to Casablanca, do NOT miss out on the Hassan II Mosque. It is what architecture dreams are made of.

Hassan_II_Mosque_Casablanca

Tip: If you are a solo female, don’t be afraid to walk alone here. While you do have to be VERY prepared to be hollered at and catcalled, ignore it, keep your chin up and forward, and be brave. I never felt unsafe here, even at night. If you do choose to take a taxi, be aware that many taxi drivers only spoke Arabic so know where you are going before getting in the taxi.

Meknes/Fès/Volubilis

These stops were some of my favorite of the trip. One of the best views you’ll see is at Volubilis, the ancient Roman ruins. Make it a quick stop, but not before exploring the ruins, taking in the sites, and standing over what was once thought to be Hercules’ bedroom.

Volubilis_Roman_Ruins_Morocco

In Meknes, be sure to explore Heri es-Souani, Moulay Ismail’s granaries and stables. Another incredible architecture site, these stables were home to over 12,000 horses.

Heri_es_Souani_Meknes_Morocco

As for Fès, this is a city you absolutely cannot miss. From mosaic shops to the tannery, there is no shortage of color and life here.

Fes_Tannery_Morocco

Tip: While in the Fès medina, be aware that you will get very easily lost, so if you can find a reputable guide, do it! As well, hold on tightly to your purse or personal belongings. While the people of Morocco are incredibly nice and caring, the tight quarters and large crowds in the medina are a recipe for pickpocketers.

Merzouga/The Sahara Desert

Sahara_Desert_North_Africa_Morocco

The Sahara Desert is where my life changed forever. I know, I know, a bit dramatic. But it’s really no exaggeration. You will NEVER experience something like camping in the middle of the Sahara Desert with a few new friends (along with a few new furry camel friends, too).

Camping_Sahara_Desert_Morocco

I went at the beginning of November and the weather could not have been more perfect for camping here. Just be sure to bring a jacket and thick socks for when the sun sets. With the cold sand between your toes, you’ll have the chance to take a break from technology, and take in the insane beauty of the rolling golden dunes lit up by the full moon.

Sahara_Desert_North_Africa_Morocco

Tip: I am beyond thankful to have partnered with G Adventures to take a caravan out into the desert to camp beneath the stars. You’ll have an incredible adventure this way, as they organize the camel ride and campsite for you, supply an amazing authentic Berber meal, and even provide a little entertainment in the form of hookah and drums 😉 Could not recommend them more if you’re looking to have the time of your life!

Todra Gorge/Ait Ben Haddou

Be ready to walk! For both these locations (which are both ones you really shouldn’t miss), you’ll be hiking quite a bit, so wear your most comfortable shoes. If you love rock climbing, Todra Gorge is your little slice of heaven in Morocco. If you’re not a rock climber, don’t be afraid. There is a well-paved road to walk along and still take in the sites.

Ait Ben Haddou is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a must-see, but you won’t need more than a day here. Explore the kasbahs and see where movies such as Gladiator were filmed. Along the drive from here to Marrakech, you’ll travel through the Route of 1000 Kasbahs and through the Hollywood of Morocco, passing by quite a few movie studios and sets.

Tip: I would definitely recommend staying at Hotel Amazir near Todra Gorge. Not only did they have some of the best tangine that I had the entire trip, but come on… look at this view!

Todra_Gorge_Morocco

Marrakech

Marrakech_Sign_Morocco

If you’re going to stay at any of these places (besides the Desert), stay in Marrakech the longest. I was a little let down that I didn’t save enough time on my trip to truly explore Marrakech for all it’s worth, as I only had two days there. The medina alone could take an entire day to explore!

Tip: Save all your shopping for Marrakech. You’ll find the best bargaining and best prices in the medina here. Just be aware that the shop owners will be quick to charge you far above local pricing. For example, one bracelet I bought, the owner was trying to charge me the equivalent of $55 USD. I left with it at the equivalent of $6 USD, and probably could have gotten it lower. So be ready to haggle! A LOT!


Morocco was one of the most exciting and interesting countries I have ever been to! Planning to go? Feel free to ask any questions, and I’ll be happy to provide any information that I can (hotels to stay at, restaurants in the area, etc). And if you’ve been to Morocco or any of the cities mentioned, I would love to hear what you enjoyed most!