“How did you do it?”

Madrid > Barcelona > Rome > Cinque Terre > Venice > Zadar > Dubrovnik > Athens > Santorini > Chaing Mai > Luang Prabang > Siem Reap > Dar es Salaam > Zanzibar > Mt. Kilimajaro > Amsterdam

May 2, 2018 > August 2, 2018

“How did you do it?”

This was a question I was asked numerous times when explaining my summer. In response to this question, I wanted to share with you a few tips in hopes of inspiring more people to chase their travel dreams.

  1. Just do it.

You get one life, as cliché as that may sound. My dad pointed out to me that there are only two times in your life when you can travel easily: before you start your career and after you retire. That’s when you have the most time and flexibility of schedule, but before you start your career is when you have the most energy and physical capabilities.

Make your bucket list. Set a deadline to complete the bucket list. You won’t regret it.

A friend of mine once told me, “never let your age be greater than the number of countries you have visited”. Let that inspire you and push you to take that step and plan that trip!

  1. Save

What’s the easiest way to save money? Don’t spend it!

When your friends are going out to eat, eat at home and order a drink or small appetizer at the restaurant. Saving money is never at the expense of your social life. Instead of going to the movies and dropping $15, go on a hike or play tennis at the public park. Get a job or two that is flexible with your schedule.

  1. Let people do the planning for you.

In high school, I went on several mission trips. In college, I have studied abroad as well as done volunteer trips. All of these trips were completely planned out for me. I did not have to worry about accommodations, excursions, or food. All I had to worry about was coming up with the funds.

When traveling through a company, you are able to experience things that you would not have otherwise and end up paying significantly less than if you had planned it on your own. Some of my most favorite places I have visited during my travels were places that were off the beaten track only known by the organizations that I travelled with.

My study abroad program was called Discover Abroad Spring Semester – Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji through the University of Georgia. Open to in- and out-of-state students offering in-state tuition to all applicants. It actually ended up being cheaper to go on this study abroad than to live on campus my freshman year. I learned about sustainability, and this experience broke down “the American ideal” complex I had. It challenged me to consider how others live and how I can learn from them. This is also where I met my forever friends.

My volunteer programs in Thailand, Laos, and Tanzania were through Growth International Volunteer Excursions (GIVE). This is an amazing organization that allows you to truly experience the culture of many remote areas while also experiencing the incredible excursions. This is where I gained the knowledge to become a global citizen and be aware of how my actions can affect people around the world. It stretched my perspective to see other people through a clearer lens untainted by predisposition or previous integrated knowledge.

Also, one of my best friends took on the task of booking all of our month-long Europe backpacking trip which was amazing. She just told me when and how much to pay with the links. Not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a friend like her, but working together is also helpful- splitting up the planning and referencing travel books and blogs helped me plan the parts of my trip I did alone.

Other random tips:

  • Bring a speaker. There’s never a bad time for a jam sesh’.
  • Hydroflask. When volunteering in the humidity and heat, a sip of cold water really does make a difference.
  • Slip-ons. In a culture where shoes are not allowed indoors such as Southeast Asia, you are always slipping your shoes on and off. It really helps to have shoes that don’t have the toe loop like Chacos or flip flops in case you are wearing socks (for instance, after a work day or after a 10-hour hike). Also, if it was something like a sandal or Birkenstock, this can also double as your “going out” shoe. I only brought hiking boots, sneakers, and Chacos, so I had to wear my Chacos out on the town and take my socks off constantly.
  • Loofa. Some of the dirt gets really caked on, but loofas are cheap to find in most of the major cities.
  • Legging are not a necessity. When it was cold (and it was cold maybe twice during my three-month excursion), I was able to put on a comfy sweatshirt and was fine.
  • Jean shorts. It helps dress up any top when going out or walking around town. People who are not Americans tend to dress up significantly more than Americans. You will not see people in Europe in Nike shorts and a t-shirt.
  • Sweater. This was helpful to slip on whenever I needed to cover my shoulders entering a church or temple from St. Peter’s Basilica to remote temples in Laos and Cambodia. It is also small enough to pack.
  • Only one bathing suit. I made the mistake of bringing two. The only advantage of two would be wearing it as a bra if you happen to run out and all your others are dirty. You do not swim as much as you think and suits dry faster than you think.
  • Light rain jacket. My rain jacket was not breathable, so I chose to be wet rather than sweating. Also, make sure it’s actually waterproof. During monsoons, you learn quickly if your rain jacket is “water resistant” (aka you get just as soaked) or “water-proof”.
  • Carabiners. You can use them to hang water bottles, dirty hiking boots, portable chargers, or anything else off of your backpack.
  • Plugs in Thailand and Tanzania are the same as in the US.
  • Use microfiber towel as a pillow on trains, planes, etc. Mine folds up into this small pouch which doubled as a perfect sized pillow while traveling. This eliminates the need for an inflatable pillow or lugging around an actual pillow. It’s also more compact than using a balled-up sweatshirt.
  • Dry bag. This was very helpful during monsoons in Thailand (although it wasn’t even wet season). It got so muddy that many of my friends’ stuff was completely ruined. I was able to literally stick my dry bag with all of my stuff in it underneath the faucet and wash all the mud off so that none of my clothes accumulated any dirt.
  • Cash + passport pictures. Some countries (like Laos, Cambodia, and Tanzania) require a passport photo and a payment for a visa upon arrival. I was able to order my Tanzania one via mail before I left, but in Laos and Cambodia, I had to pay right after getting off the plane. If you do not have a picture, you have to pay extra, but you must pay in all cash in your own currency.

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