Tea Talk 6: Hayden Wahlman | World Traveler

Hayden and I have known of each other practically our whole lives. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration…but our moms were both homeschool moms/friends and so we’ve been connected in the same homeschool circles since we were pretty young.

Hayden had the awesome opportunity to live in Germany, recently, and I’ve been following along on her adventures ever since our mutual friend suggested it! I love how so many of my homeschool friends have taken up their passports and traveled the world. It takes me back to that fact that homeschoolers are the best travelers. Meet Hayden!

1. What started your passion for traveling? 

I always wanted to travel, just like anyone. But I think it was joining the air force reserves that really got me motivated to see the world.

I had been at a minimum wage job for 3 years before joining the reserves and didn’t have many qualms about it. But once I signed the contract for the military I started getting anxious about being “stuck” in a contract. I took a trip to san francisco right before I left for bootcamp.

Once I was in the military my desire for traveling really caught on fire. I felt a little bit like a bird in a cage, which is something I never felt before I joined.

The day after my full-time training ended and I was going to just one weekend per month, I put a sleeping bag in my car and drove to the grand canyon. After that I planned my first eurotrip. I had 5 months to kill before school started and I had been waiting ever since I signed my contract to see the world. So I really felt like I needed to do it immediately.

It’s been 3 years since my first eurotrip and I haven’t been able to kick the habit of spontaneously traveling whenever I get the chance!


2. What’s one travel tip you think the world should know? 

Packing light has been said over and over again, so I’ll skip that one.

One big one that people might overlook is your choice of hostel. You should choose one that is social and has a pub crawl or tours throughout the day, and also one that is in the city center (the price difference should only be a few dollars per night, and well worth it).

I highly recommend going on the free tours they offer and the pub crawl the first night you get there. That way you meet the people and see the highlights of the city. After that, you can kinda make your own way. But skipping the day tours in order to figure out the city for yourself can sometimes leave you missing out on some gem of the city you never would have found on your own.


3. What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

Opening my widows. In Germany (and I’ve heard the rest of the….world..?) they open their windows daily, 365 days per year. I hated it at first, since I was there during the FREEZING winter. But once I got home I started leaving the windows a crack open in my bedroom and I swear it makes a huge difference. I actually hate being in a house with no window open now. I never thought I would get to that point.


4. What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about traveling? 

FOLLOW YOUR GUT! Seriously.

I have definitely done some things during my travels that a lot of people would consider dangerous, but I followed my gut and ended up having the best times of my life. I have also avoided situations that some people would deem perfectly safe, because my gut was just not having it.

Have an open mind and listen to your gut.

5. What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel? 

Not being organized. I have finally perfected backpack and am very comfortable with the items I choose to travel with and the placement of everything.

I lost my entire backpack while in Switzerland once because I had shoved so much stuff inside grocery bags and jumped off the train before realizing my backpack was not on my back! I blame having so many random bags to account for.

6. What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling? 

Talking to people! I am pretty shy, but getting lost in multiple cities around the world will definitely pry you out of your comfort zone and get you talking to whatever stranger is in sight!

7. What is your favorite way to travel (ex. plane, train, automobile?) and why?

I’d say train. The scenery is nice and they usually are really comfortable. I still travel by bus mostly, since it’s cheaper. But if there is a cheap train to somewhere I want to go, I’d take a train over everything.


8. What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self? 

To meet more people during my first Eurotrip. I was still pretty quiet my first time abroad.

9. What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit? 

I got a small taste of Turkey a few months ago and I’m aching to go back and see the rest of it…all of it!

10. Let’s talk about your most recent trip! What was your inspiration for your adventure? 

I got an internship at a company in Germany, it was arranged through my University. I minored in German because it seemed like the most logical language to learn for traveling Europe, which in turn got me this internship.

11. What has been the best/toughest part of your most recent trip? 

The toughest part was definitely making friends while trying to learn the language. I was not in the best state of mind when I moved to Germany and all I wanted was to talk to family and friends. But when you are meeting new people everyday, the only appropriate things to talk about are pretty small. A lot of my conversations revolved around the weather and politics, as my language skills were not advanced enough to speak of anything else.

As for the best part. I think learning how to LIVE in another country. Living and traveling to another country are very different things.

 

12. What’s one thing you’ve learned from your most recent trip? 

To be ready. I was NOT ready to leave for Germany, not by a longshot. Even with my constant desire to travel. I left very reluctantly.

In hindsight, I wish I would have spent the summer (I left for Germany in September) with more friends and got my life in the States more organized before I left.

13. What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself from your most recent trip? 

I learned how quickly I shut down when I’m overwhelmed. I never knew this about myself at all. I think when you are in your own country, speaking your own language, it is easier to work through problems. I always felt like I was pretty resilient and could tackle most problems.

But man, I think living in a foreign country has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know how quickly I would give up on it. I think I cried daily while I was there, the smallest task could turn into such a chore. Everyone told me I would be homesick, which I scoffed at. But it was true, it was not the type of homesick you have as a child. It’s different. I can’t even explain it. But I really learned I need to go into my next move much more prepared.

If you are an American, keep in mind that there are a lot of people who have an opinion on America and American citizens (whether it be positive or negative). I had no idea how much Europeans knew about America and was not ready for all the questions they had for me concerning our politics and other things.

I highly recommend reading travel forums and learning about how the citizens of that specific country feel about americans. It’ll help you navigate some pretty common conversations you’ll be bound to have with the people you meet.

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How I Paid Off My Plane Ticket To London…In 1 Week

Oh, travel, how I love thee. But my bank account does not. Sound familiar?

Let’s get real for a second: I do not make a lot of money. That being said, I’m pretty good at managing the money I do make. So much so that people often think I make a lot more than I actually do. How? I hack every single thing. ALL THE HACKS.

It all started back in my mom’s kitchen when my brother was explaining to my child self about “inherent value.” I guess there are advantages to having siblings that are five years older than you, because I actually learned a lot during that conversation. The main lesson was this: value is determined only by what people are willing to pay. Nothing is actually “worth” anything.

When it comes to travel, this is huge because I’ve decided that I just WILL NOT pay $1200 for a plane ticket to Europe. No.

But how do I do it? As a social experiment (because in another life I was an anthropologist), I bought a plane ticket about a week ago…and then decided to see if I could “pay for it” in a week. Here’s how I did it:

1. Price Alerts

I’m signed up for a couple different types of price alerts. I set price alerts on Skyscanner for specific cities I want to go to. This means that when cheap tickets are flying out of that specific city I get an alert! I also subscribe to Scotts Cheap Flights (email newsletter/price alerts) which periodically sends me “cheap ticket” alerts. The thing about these is that they aren’t always for flights going out of Seattle, so you have to sift through them a little, to find your city. But when you do find one? BAM! I just paid $350 for a round trip ticket to London.

2. Work yo’ butt off

We all have jobs. In my case I have about five jobs, but I always encourage people to find alternative incomes that they can tap into, if they need a spare buck. For me, it’s:

  • Selling my art in my Etsy shop
  • Babysitting (shoutout to care.com)
  • Picking up extra shifts at work
  • Freelancing (copywriting via UpWork)

For this past week I really called in the reserves on this one, because I needed to make some quick cash to meet my “deadline.”

3. Prioritize

I once heard a saying that the fastest way to make $5 is to fold it up and put it back in your pocket (or something like that) and I wholeheartedly agree. Making cutbacks is a great way to finance your passions, like travel. For this experiment, I didn’t count the money I saved, but I wanted to point out that being really intentional about purchasing groceries, clothing, coffee etc. really does add up!

The Breakdown:

Here’s how I paid off my $350 plane ticket, in vivid technicolor description: Drumroll, please!

  1. I babysat an awesome Star Wars obsessed 8 year old | $70
  2. I took a couple of freelance copywriting gigs | $157
  3. I took two extra shifts at work | $70
  4. I babysat a couple other cool kids | $90

TOTAL = $387

And with my extra $37 I might even buy a Starbucks travel mug while I’m in London.

Cheerio,

What I Pack for a Two Week Trip (Winter)

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Something I love about backpacking is there is no “right” way to do it. You do what works for you. You use the pack that works for you. You go where yuo want to go, and you pack what you want to pack. This blog is definitely not guide of how to be successful at backpacking, in the strict sense of the word. All I can do is tell you about what has made me successful, in my travels. That being said, I thought I would let you all in on what I’m traveling with. The key to packing successfully, when it comes to backpacking, is to remember 3 rules:

1. There are needs and then there are wants. Go with the needs.

2. Going monocromatic means creating more diversity in your outfits (really!).

3. Things seem much more disposable when every pound is strapped to your back for days.

Once again this is not the “how to guide” for success. But here’s what I have in my pack on this trip, so you can have an idea of what I bring when I go on a two week long backpacking trip.


Clothing: 

1 Puffer Vest

7 Pairs of Underwear: I usually pack half the amount of the number of days I’ll be gone…but obviously that’s for trips 2 weeks and less.

Two Tank Tops

2 Bras

3 Pairs of Wool Socks

5 Sweaters

1 Hoodie

1 Pair of Pajama Bottoms

2 Pairs of jeans

1 Dress

1 Pair of Insulated Tights

1 Rain Jacket

1 Wool Wrap around Poncho: So many uses! From being cold on the plane, to needing an extra layer over your bed to having  a great way to change up your outfits.

1 Scarf: Originally I packed 2 but I’d rather buy a new one as a souvenir and onlybring one on the trip.

Earmuffs: It’s supposed to be 17 degrees in one of the cities I’m visiting.

1 Rain Jacket

1 Puffer Jacket

1 Pair of flip-flops: For shower/easy access.
1 Pair of TOMS boots


Accessories: 

Phone

Umbrella

Camera

NeckPillow

Canvas Bag: These fold up tiny, but can be used for groceries and as a purse, when you don’t want to trek around carrying your whole pack.

Book: I know this isn’t exactly sensible for weight reasons, butI really like having something that’s not dependant on wifi or battery life. There’s also always the option of leaving it in a hostel, if you finish it on the trip

Rain cover for my pack

Eye Mask: Because there’s nothing like getting awoken at 4am by your hostel roommate.

 

Toiletries: 

Makeup/ makeup wipes

Mini conditioner, face wash

Earplugs

All the Chapstick

2 Tea bags

Sunglasses

Hand Warmers

Mini deoderant, toothpaste, toothbrush

Travel size laundry detergent (dry)

Matches/First Aid Kit

Whistle and Grapling Hook

Mini Case of Advil

Disposable razor, nail clippers, tweezers

Washcloth

Travel Towel

 

Electronics: 

Adapters for each country

Tablet

Keyboard: I have a keyboard that connects via bluetooth to my tablet. It’s super light, hot pink and my favorite thing ever.

Charging cords for everything…and I mean everything

Extra batteries

Mini flashlight

 

What are some things that you love to travel with? Comment below with your “must haves”!

How to Pick a Perfectly Awesome Hostel Every Time

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My hostel last time I was in Edinburgh (I’m taking the picture from in front of Edinburgh castle).

11 countries down, four more next month. You could say I’ve stayed in my fair share of hostels. Love them or hate them, when you’re traveling on a budget, they’re a necessary stop along the way. Lucky for me, I love them. In fact, many of my favorite memories come from various hostels around the world.

Like that time I got cooking lessons from a super cute Australian guy, or the time I stayed up all night talking to an older Hawaiian lady about age and what it means to travel when you’re no longer “young”, or when I ended up engaged to a Scottish guy for a night. And that’s not even to mention the countless day tours I’ve gone on with people I’ve met in the hostels.

There’s something beautiful about people from all over the world coming together in a common place to break bread, play games, go on tours, and exchange stories. I’ve made so many good friends from my travels, that I’d say that staying in hostels is right up there with my other favorite way to find international accommodations, Couchsurfing.

But how do you find a good one?

The reality of the situation is that not all hostels are created equal. So how do you find one that isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg in exchange for bed bugs and crazy parties that keep you up until 4am?

Well, to be honest, sometimes it’s luck of the draw. But overall I’ve had great experiences by using these tips for finding the very best hostels:

Actually Read the Reviews

Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. You’d be surprised how many people gloss over these. Don’t be that person. Before my last trip my friend and I were reading reviews for a place (Airbnb) and person after person was complaining about the same. exact. problem. Cockroaches. Okay, gross. But I think this was a really great example (even without being tied to a hostel) of how people don’t read reviews before they stay in a place…or at least don’t pay attention to patterns if they are reading them. But don’t follow this trend. There’s a reason they’re there, and ignoring them could literally leave you sleeping with disgusting little bugs. Take the extra 15 minutes to skim through the review section.

Look at What’s Offered

I travel with a towel so having one provided isn’t necessary. BUT staying in a place with no Wifi (yes, those really exist – feel free to gasp in horror) is not an option, since most of the time I’m working while I travel. Different things are important to different people. Make sure you’re not going to be hating your stay because essentials are being left out. Here are a few things I look for on every posting:

  • Breakfast (Is it included?)
  • Lockers (Where can I put my valuables while I’m sleeping?)
  • Accessible kitchen (Can I make my own food if I want to?)
  • Linens/pillows (Some places charge you more for bedsheets.)
  • Wifi/Internet (Non-negotiable for me.)
  • Showers (What’s the situation? Check it out before you assume.)
  • Location (It really is everything…but we’ll talk more about that, below.)

Location, Location, Location

Here’s the deal. If you pay $10/night, but you’re miles away from anything you want to do, you’re going to spend as much time/money on transportation as you would have on getting lodgings closer to the city center. No matter how much travel-know you think you have, ALWAYS google the address of a hostel, before booking. It takes an extra 5-10 minutes to see what’s in the surrounding area where you’re potentially staying, and saves you a whole ton of stress, once you’re there. This is also when you can see how difficult it is to get to it from the station or airport you’re coming into.

Ask Around

I love social media because I get some of my best recommendations from my friends on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t be shy! There are people out there who have been where you’re going, and WANT to share info and help.  Wouldn’t you rather take their advice on a great place to stay, than end up somewhere sketchy? Who knows? They may even have a friend who will take you in for a couple of days (money saving 101).

Lockers

Okay, so it’s not something anyone wants to talk about, but the fact of the matter is that things get stolen, sometimes. It does happen in hostels, and while it’s never happened to me, personally, I’ve definitely heard stories. But before you throw your hands in the air, know that there’s a rather easy solution. Most hostels have some kind of locker system (but again, never assume) where you can store your valuables. Most of these require a cash deposit of around $10 (for a deposit which you get back once you leave), so make sure that you have cash in the currency of the country you’re visiting before you show up at the hostel.

Think Before You Spend

Depending on the hostel, the prices for different rooms can vary drastically. For instance, when I was looking today I noticed that a room with 6 beds was only $1.50 more per night than a room with 8 beds. Okay, let’s do the math. Is it worth $1.50 to have two less people in the room? Hint: The answer is yes. Make sure you’re comparing the prices of the rooms that you’re staying in before idly clicking away at things that you think you need. Do your research and you’ll be rewarded!

There are lots of ways to book hostels, one of my favorites being HostelWorld. I use HostelWorld the most frequently for numerous reasons (mainly because you only have to pay a deposit down when you book, rather than the full amount). One of my favorite hostels I’ve stayed in, though, was one found by a German friend in Berlin. It wasn’t on HostelWorld or any of the other big sites, and maybe that was part of its charm. Oh, and it was $70…for the entire week.

Your turn! What tips do you have to find that perfect hostel? Share your tricks for success in the comments below! 

Homesick For Somewhere

Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about not being here. Some may call it wanderlust, some may call it daydreaming, but I just CANNOT shake the feeling of needing to go somewhere. Not necessarily France, not necessarily anywhere particularly, but just the need to go.

In a weird way, I feel like I’ve outgrown my life, and appropriately, for my Slytherin (nerd alert!) nature, I need to shed my skin. I’ve always been a daydreamer. I stare out windows dreaming about places probably more often than I ought to. But the truth of the matter is, I’m homesick. Not in a depression way (although, PTD – or Post Travel Depression, is a real thing) but just in a wistful wonderment kind of way. In a way that makes you get goosebumps when you feel like an adventure is on the horizon.

Where have I been homesick for? Well, right now, it’s Scotland. Or, to be more specific, Scottish sheep farms. I don’t know why, but taking trains and buses along the coast of Scotland brought me more joy than is probably normal. I remember traveling in a bus, passing by old stone ruins – sheep dotted across fields of every color green, and thinking, “You know what, if I won the Lottery today, I would buy a Scottish sheep farm, paint all day every day and never look back.” Because, honestly, that’s what I would do with millions of dollars. Buy a farm, change my identity, and run away to Scotland with my paintbrushes. Standard.

But, in the meantime, to combat the devilish voice in my head telling me to pack everything up and run away, there are some tricks of the trade that I thought I’d pass on for the chronic travel nostalgic like me.

1. Never Travel.

Just kidding. Duh, you should travel! But the way you travel can really make or break your post traveling experience. When I travel, I make sure it’s never to run away from things. Because, no matter how much you wish, you’re probably going to have to come back at some point. It’s in my nature to want to throw all of my belongings in a suitcase and run away the moment something bad happens in my life, but I really try hard to only travel if I have all of my ‘ducks in a row’ on the home front. That way, I’m not dreading coming back the entire time I’m away. And it also gives me the motivation to keep a happy home life, in order to be in a healthy mental and spiritual place to travel beyond it.

2. Send Yourself Post Cards: 

This is something I’ve done for a while. First off, if you’re backpacking, it’s a good way to get yourself a souvenir without having to lug something around in your pack. Second, you get proof that you actually went somewhere, instead of owning something someone could find in a thrift shop where you’re from. Last, I just love writing – and writing myself is weirdly fun. Snail mail isn’t given enough credit.There’s something magical and priceless about finding a note from a place you loved in your mailbox when you get back home.

3. Write About It:

Blog or journal about your experiences! I love finding just the right journal to keep with me while I’m traveling. I generally go for the ones without lines on the paper, so I can sketch, paint or tape in little extra bits I find around when I’m traveling. Blogging is also a fun way to keep a day by day account of where you’re traveling, if you have access to a computer.

4.  Tell Your Friends: 

Sharing your knowledge is one of the best things you can do for travel nostalgia. There’s something about sharing stories and inspiration with those around you that not only builds you up, but helps the rest of your friends to get on the train with traveling as well. Inspiration goes a long way. One of the only reasons I’ve had the guts to travel in the past is that some of my friends did it before me. Sitting down to coffee, and hearing one of your peers talk about their experiences, really makes you want to go out and make your own memories!

5. Start Planning Your Next Adventure:

No matter how often I travel, the minute I get back I start planning my next trip. Not necessarily in the way of  buying a plane ticket as soon as I touch ground, but I really love having maps, dream boards, Pinterest inspiration boards and thoughts stashed away for where I want to go next. Before I went to the UK I had  (still have) a giant map of Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales taped to the back of my bedroom door. I guess that could be partially blamed for my nostalgia every night before I go to bed, but I also like looking at it and remembering all of the great adventures I had.

Bon Voyage!

Me and my mom adventuring per usual
Me and my mom adventuring per usual