Monthly Archives: December 2012

More than budget….

I was reviewing my posts and realized that this blog so far has mainly been about budget and travel is soooo much more than money. It is about tiptoeing to the edge of your comfort zone…and then taking a giant leap across it! It’s about savoring the feeling of freedom you get from knowing that you can walk out of your hostel and go in any direction you want for as long as you want.  It’s about knowing in your heart that you are exactly where you should be…and that somewhere is (at the moment) being lost in the mountains of Panama.  It’s about breathing in not only air and smog and fumes, but adventure and love and hope, with each breath. That’s what your trip should be about.  Letting go, living free, and being exactly who you want to be. Ok, back to the budget 😉

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To be a Kiwi or not to be…that is the question…

Last night, I couldn’t sleep (starting to be a trend, it seems like) and so I took a serious look at my must-haves, i’d-like-tos, and it’d-be-nice-tos in terms of countries to visit on my trip.  I also took a long, hard look at the cost of traveling in these countries and what it will cost to get to those countries.  

After weighing the pros and cons, I’ve decided to axe Australia and New Zealand from the list. I knoowww, it’s Australia and New Zealand! I feel like I have to go, that I should go and that it is expected for me to go if I’m going to do this huge year long trip. But. The cost of getting to those countries coupled with the fact that I’d be there during their winter makes the prospect of those countries a bit less attractive at this point. So I’ve decided to save them for another trip. I think. I don’t know. I still want to go there, but I’m just not sure it’s a must do for this trip.

Please, please, please someone advise me!  Is it worth going to Australia and New Zealand in what will be the coldest time of year or should I put those off for another trip? When I go, I want to be able to dive the Great Barrier Reef, go on walk-about in the Outback, and explore Maori culture. Plus, I feel like Australia and New Zealand would be awesome places to go to with a few friends.

So, yea, maybe I’ll just hold off. There are 20+ other countries I want to go on this trip and I have to make cuts somewhere. Cutting those 2 countries would save me a buttload of money…over $1,000 just for getting to and from them.  If anyone has any suggestions on how to cut costs to these countries or whether or not it’s worth shelling out the cash, I’d love to hear from you! Thanks!

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Travel Inspiration

So it is 12:09 am…technically tuesday morning…and I just got home from a catering job.  Right now my brain is going a mile a minute and all I can think of is how I just made $100, all of which will be going towards my trip (yay!) This morning, however, all I could think about was how far I still had to go.

 In order to get my vibes going in a more positive direction, I searched one of my favorite travel websites, Nomadic Matt.  He did not let me down (I think he’s probably the only man in my life right now that doesn’t let me down haha). I found success story after success story to inspire me. Here was my fav…maybe it’ll inspire you to!  I love that this guy managed to save $14,000 in 6 months making $9/hour. That is not a typo.

It inspires me because I have only slightly more to save ($15-20,000) in twice the amount of time and I make nearly twice what he does at both of my jobs ($15 at catering not including occasional tips and $15 as a research assistant for a professor). I can absolutely do this!  I’m a huge nerd, so I also took the time to calculate how many hours a week I need to work solely to make this amount (27.7, If you’re wondering) and how many hours a week I need to pay for all my bills/groceries/etc (about 10.2).  

So for under 40 hours a week, I should be able to do this. Keep in mind I am subletting the second bedroom in my rented townhouse out which really helps with keeping my bills low.  

Theoretically, I could make what I need to make in under 40 hours a week. Realistically, I know I’ll have months where I’m super jazzed about the trip and pick up as many extra catering shifts as I can (like now).  Other times, I’m sure I’ll get frustrated with living soo frugally (I’m living on $200/month for groceries/any entertainment including restaurants and drinks/anything extra…like shoes) and blow some money on a night out.

My goal right now is just to ride my trip-planning high as long as I possibly can (I’m hoping to last at least until June).

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The Art of the Deal

Guatemalan girl selling handwoven goods

Guatemalan girl selling handwoven goods

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things about planning for a trip is finding awesome deals.  For instance, on a recent trip to vegas, I decided that I was going to try to do the whole 5 night, 6 day trip for $550.  Where did the $550 number come from you ask? No clue. It’s just the number that popped into my head when my best friend and I decided to go on this crazy trip.  With that number in mind, I scoured the internet for deals on airfare, hotels, attraction, food, and drinks.  I found roundtrip airfare for $240…true, I had to fly a red-eye back home, but I saved about $150.  We ended up getting our hotel for free when a family member decided they wouldn’t have time to use their time share this year.  We got multi-day bus passes that took us pretty much everywhere we wanted to go and saved us boocoodles on taxi fare.  As for attractions, we mostly just walked around, checked out all the casinos, gambled a bit, etc.  We did have one splurge (Cirque de Soleil’s Mystere…freaking amazing) but we even got a deal on that.  For food, we ate several meals out, but most of the time were given some kind of discount card.  We also utilized the nearby grocery store for breakfast and snack foods.  At night, we hit up various clubs and bars, but thanks to an online site of a vegas club promoter that I found, we got into every single place for free AND got free drinks at most of the places we went.  These little cheats filled me with almost as much joy as being in Vegas with one of my closest friends did! Thank goodness she also likes a good deal…my excitement over saving money might have been a touch obnoxious to some.  In the end, we went over the $550/person budget…just barely.  So I guess my point is, if I even have a point, the challenge of sticking to a budget actually increased the amount of enjoyment I derived from this trip.  Before I left, it was fun looking for these deals and learning about the place I was going to visit. During, it was nice to know we were having an awesome time without spending a ton of money.  After, it was a relief that I hadn’t gone in debt for this fun little girls’ trip.

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5 Random Things I Take on a Trip

5. A good quality lock. You will definitely be using it countless times to lock your stuff up as many hostels provide the storage space, but not the lock.  

4. Toilet paper. I’m not suggesting you bring a whole roll, that would take up way too much room. REI has a partial roll especially for traveling that lacks the center cardboard cylinder that makes the roll so bulky.  Last time I went to Central America, I had to use it several times at bus stations with the bathrooms but without paper.  **Side Note: if you are traveling in a developing country, throw your toilet paper in the bin provided.  If you throw it in the toilet, chances are it will clog because most of those sewer systems can’t handle paper.

3. A few pictures of my family, friends, and cat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone on the road, we start talking, and end up pulling out pics from home. Especially pets. For some reason, people with pets seem to really get excited if you also have a pet.

2. Earplugs. Staying in hostels is awesome!…except when it’s not.  It’s really great to have a built in set of people to explore each new place with, it’s not so great when 3 of your roommates come in at 3:30 am and won’t. shut. up. 

1. DUCKTAPE! I’ve used this to patch my backpack, fix a flip-flop, and bandage a wound that I probbbbably should have gotten stitches for. It does it all! You don’t want to take an entire roll of ducktape, you say?? No problem. Just take a pencil and wrap your desired length of ducktape around it. Voila!

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Just say no to the snowglobe

I don’t know about you, but when I’m traveling, particularly if it’s a new place, sometimes I just get so excited that I’m there that I start buying random tchotchkes to “remember my trip” with.  Usually I get home and say why the hell did I buy this and that useless, cheesy knick-knack gets thrown into a box with other random, useless knick-knacks to be hidden away until enough time has passed that I don’t feel guilty giving or throwing it away. I would have saved so much money if I hadn’t let travel euphoria cloud my judgement!

If there is one thing that TV show Hoarders should have taught us, it’s that there is nothing sexy about holding on to random junk. If you are really afraid you are going to forget something amazing that happened on your trip without that crappy plastic keychain, try making a scrapbook.  I guarantee that in five years, those pictures of your trip are going to bring back a whole lot more memories than that “keepsake” you just had to have.

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Volunteering: Nice for others and nice for your wallet

Beach Clean-Up

Beach Clean-Up

I did some reflecting on my budget post from yesterday and realized I forgot to factor in volunteering!  I’ve found so many programs that will give you free room and board if you volunteer with them for at least a week. My plan is to work in at least a month of volunteer time throughout my trip.  My initial thought was that it would all be in Southeast Asia, but there is no reason I couldn’t do some volunteering in Europe and Australia.  As the pricier areas of my trip, getting free room and board for part of my time in those places would really help my budget. So, based on my prediction of $45/day on average, a month of free board/rent and plenty of free things to do would save me $1,350. That pays for a euro rail pass, diving the blue hole in Belize, and maybe even a couple nice meals out or the occasional private room.

My fav sites for free volunteering that I’ve found so far are, (organic farming), Winrock International (all things environmental),, and Let me know if you know of a great site for free volunteering, especially if it includes free accommodation and meals!

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