Q: How are you able to afford to travel so often?
A: The simple answer is I can’t afford not to travel. The cost of living in the United States is incredibly high compared to other countries around the world. It is often times cheaper for me to travel than to live at home. But that’s probably not the answer you are looking for.
I’m not rich, nor do I have a trust fund. I’m just your average college graduate who is struggling to find a well-paying job with a degree that cost way to much to get. So how the heck do I pay for these big trips? Well to start, I choose to make travel a priority. All of my money goes towards my travel fund. I choose to bypass Starbucks and shop at thrift stores when I need clothes. I have embraced the minimalist lifestyle for ease of picking up and leaving whenever I please.
I Currently I have a pretty great system down. I work my little butt off May- September as a river guide. I get free housing and food while working and I make great tips (although my wages are criminally low). So I end up spending almost no money during the summer. If I play my cards right, the money I make in those 5 months can get me through the rest of the year. Here’s the real kicker- according to U.S. standards I live well below the poverty line. But oh my, my life is so RICH.
Q: How do you meet people when you travel solo?
A: Just say hello. It’s an incredibly hard concept to put to action, but I promise you that it works. You will rarely be turned down, trust me. If you can’t bring yourself to walk up to a complete stranger there are still a few options. One of my favorite things to do when I arrive to a new location is to sign up for a tour. Any tour. It can be a pub crawl, an activity or simply just sightseeing. Most are free or very cheap and will instantly set you up for friendship success! I also recommend booking shared accommodation, especially dorm room style, because there is no better way to make friends than to sleep with them!
Q: Is it safe to travel alone as a female?
A: Yes and no. If you abide by a few precautionary practices, I believe that you are just as safe abroad as you are in the streets of your hometown. Don’t walk alone down dark alleys at night, act confident, listen to your gut and dress culturally appropriate. Aside from cat-calls, unwarranted marriage proposals and one roofied drink experience, I’ve yet to feel threatened because of my gender. I will admit however, that if you are sensitive to feeling objectified you will have a hard time traveling through certain countries. My best advice is to take an anthropological point of view and try to understand that this is a part of their culture whether or not you morally agree with it. Many regions, especially latin america, are more sexually expressive than we are in the U.S. and catcalling is just a way of flirting. If the interaction transforms into something physical though, then I absolutely think you have the right to respond accordingly. Check out this post for more detail on solo travel safety.
Q: What is your favorite country?
A: That’s like asking a mother who their favorite child is. Although I am sure my mother would say I am her favorite! Anyways… every single country I’ve been to has been amazing in its own way. Even the countries that I didn’t necessarily “enjoy”, taught me some serious life lessons and opened my eyes to other ways of living. But for the sake of playing along, I will do my best to answer this question.
Nicaragua was my favorite country for ease of travel and cultural immersion. Thailand was my favorite country for adventure and spiritual exploration. Chile (Patagonia) tops my list for most beautiful landscape. And Ireland was my favorite in terms of feeling welcomed and included.
Q: How do you fit everything you need into a backpack?
A: Let’s first define the word need… Need means necessity, something you can’t possibly travel without. If we only pack what we really NEED, you could easily travel with a small carry-on. But let’s be honest, sometimes you want a second pair of shoes or that cute outfit for going out. So I first pack all of my necessities and then choose a few items that are just extra fluff to make me feel a little more comfortable. I typically travel with a 50 liter pack, which has more than enough room for everything I need plus a little space for that extra bikini and jar of nutella 🙂
Q: How do you keep track of your travel expenses?
A: There are numerous ways to keep your finances in order. Most travelers use an excel spreadsheet or some sort of budget tracking app. I am too technologically challenged for any of that mumbo jumbo though. So instead, I stick to the good ol’ journal method. I’m talking tangible paper journal and a reliable pen. Every single day, usually at night, I sit down and write down all of my expenses for that day. I write the location and date on the top then break my spending down into categories. My categories are lodging, food, transportation and miscellaneous. I also make a few notes for later reference such as “souvenir” or “beer” or “couchsurfing” next to expenses that might not be typical.
Beyond this, I also keep track of big expenses on a separate sheet for each country. This includes one time activities and airfare. At the end of my travels through each individual country I go through with a calculator (stop judging me, I flunked math), and write down my total spending. I take it one step further, with my calculator again, and break down the numbers into an average daily spending total. For example, I could flip to the section in my journal where I traveled in Thailand and see my average daily spending, along with the trip total.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a new traveler?
A: Stay in each location long enough to really grasp the culture and energy. It’s tempting to knock off 8 bucket list countries in one trip, but that really isn’t providing you with an authentic experience- neither you or the local community will gain anything from that. Stay awhile. Learn the local language, shop at the markets and cook the regional dishes, create friendships with the locals and interact with your surroundings. And don’t forget to share your story too.
Got more questions? Need some answers? Comment below!