20 Reggaeton Songs That Are Better Than Despacito

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This week, the music video to the vastly overplayed Spanglish summer hit “Despacito” bypassed “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth as the most-watched YouTube video of all time, according to TechCrunch.

The most watched YouTube video of all time.

So, more than cat videos, more than baby videos, more than people skating off of things and into things and into each other, more than any type of challenge video ever, more than pranks – more than any of those things, people want to continue listening to the song that’s already permeated every club, bar, restaurant, even the occasional grocery store within a 6,000 mile radius…?

I’ve been all over the place this summer, and regardless if I was on a beach in Nice, France, in a pool hall in Santa Cruz, California, or at a karaoke bar in Boston, Massachusetts, whenever the song’s signature Spanish guitar-esque opening riff pierced the air, at least 5-10 people in the nearby vicinity would let out a seemingly involuntary shriek and start grinding on each other.

It’s true that reggaeton is one of the most twerk-inducing genres out there. If you’re not exactly sure what reggaeton is, keep reading, because I’m about to name-drop a bunch of tunes that are going to have you shaking your booty in your cubicle in like, T-minus 70 seconds.

I’ve been listening to reggaeton for literally a decade. My MySpace page’s theme song was – appropriately – MySpace by Don Omar ft. Wisin y Yandel, my first Zune contained more Spanish songs than English ones, and my friend Laurel and I stayed up all night one Saturday in high school eating popovers and watching the Daddy Yankee movie on the edge of our seats (it’s called Talento de Barrio, and it’s exactly like you think it is).

Given my Reggaeton Resume, I am (albeit irrationally) a little pissed off that of all the great reggaeton songs out there, the one people apparently want to listen to the most, although it does involve the aforementioned reggaeton legend Daddy Yankee, also exists in an almost-as-popular version that features J-Beibs, and I really hope I don’t have to explain why that’s upsetting.

And, yes. Before you even think it. I am a white girl. Great, now that’s out of the way.

It should be noted that reggaeton is a huge genre. This is in no way intended to be a list of “the best” reggaeton tracks, just…reggaeton tracks that are better than Despacito. So like, all of them. But these are some of the best of the best.

Side note: just because a hip-hop song has some words in Spanish does not automatically make it a “reggaeton song.” Reggaeton is classified by the underlying beat you’ll hear in all of these. So this means that no, Pitbull is not a reggaeton artist.

So, without further ado (the following is to be read in a corny announcer voice): “if you liked ‘Despacito,’ you’ll looove”…all of these much better songs listed below.

*in no particular order

1. Gasolina – Daddy Yankee

“Gasolina” is essentially Reggaeton Lite. Some of my fondest middle school dance memories have “Gasolina” as a soundtrack. If you are currently older than, say, 15 years old, there is no way you have not heard “Gasolina” at least 75 times. However, no matter how many times I’ve heard it, I still catch myself going “dalé WHOOP! Dalé gasoliiinaaa” along with DY at least once. I can’t help it. It’s just a thing that happens.

2. Dile – Don Omar

So, although like I said there is no order to this list, I did put DY, Don Omar, and Wisin y Yandel in the top 3 spots on purpose, as they were all undeniably some of the absolute biggest names in reggaeton ten years ago and are still relevant today.

While varying in style from year to year, Don Omar’s tracks all have one thing in common: they make you shake your hips and wish you spoke Spanish (if you don’t already), and the 2003 track “Dile” is no exception.

3. Abusadora – Wisin y Yandel

I stressed out more than was probably necessary about which Wisin y Yandel song to put on here, because there are approximately a metric shitload. I chose this one because it exemplifies Wisin y Yandel’s style – an intense beat with sort of aggressive-sounding verses and then a surprisingly melodic chorus. Wisin y Yandel took a break from being a duo in 2013 in order for them to each pursue their own solo careers, and Yandel put out one of my current favorite jams, Nunca Me Olvides in 2015, which sounds waaaay different than his songs with Wisin, but is much too catchy not to like.

4. Ven Bailalo – Angel Y Khris

Psssh. Angel y Khris, you don’t gotta tell me to “come dance;” by the time I hear the beginning of this song, I’m already doing it.

5. Oye Mi Canto – N.O.R.E. ft. Daddy Yankee, Gem Star, and Nina Sky

“Oye Mi Canto” by rapper N.O.R.E. was basically a reggaeton anthem as soon as it came out. It was originally released as a single in 2004 and later appeared on his only reggaeton album in 2006.

6. Danza Kuduro

While much different than Don Omar’s earlier stuff (see #2), the 2010 hit Danza Kuduro has now become a reggaeton classic in its own right. It is also hands-down one of the happiest songs I have ever heard. Try to put on Danza Kuduro and be in a bad mood, I dare you. It can’t be done. It’s also physically impossible to sit still while it’s playing.

This one is also close to my heart because it brings back memories of when I was 19, living in Guatemala, drunk off of Gallo and shout-asking “como se llama este canción???” at people whenever it came on in the club because I loved it desperately and wanted to be able to listen to it on my own accord. Googling “oy yoy yoy” had not been super helpful in the way of providing me with a title. Shock.

7. Si No Le Contesto – Plan B

Plan B has lots of bangers, but my hands-down favorite is “Si No Le Contesto,” probably partly because it also reminds me of being 19 and drunk off of Gallo in a club. But also, it’s insanely catchy. If you’re into it, check out some of their other stuff.

8. Rompe – Daddy Yankee

Anyone else remember this one from middle school dances? It was usually played somewhere in between Gasolina and Candy Shop. There was probably a Sean Paul song thrown in there somewhere too.

There’s also a remix with several members of G-Unit, which also contains more English, but I like the Spanish version a lot better.

9. Reggaeton Latino – Don Omar ft. Fat Joe, N.O.R.E. and LDA

As far as I’m concerned, this is just one of the reggaeton classics. If you’re feeling it, peep the original that’s just Don Omar, not ft.-ing anybody. The verses sound a lot different, but the beat and the chorus are basically the same.

10. Lo Que Paso Paso – Daddy Yankee

“Lo Que Paso Paso” combines a reggaeton beat with a bachatón feel, making it extra extra dance-y. (Bachatón = bachata + reggaeton, and bachata refers to a genre of music that sounds something like this.)

11. Atrevete Te Te – Calle 13

“Atreve Te Te” by duo Calle 13 is about as far as you can get from “Despacito” while still loosely being in the same genre. This raunchy track was released a full three years before the Beibs was singing his very first cover song on YouTube. (See also: “Vamo Animal“).

12. Pasarela – Daddy Yankee

Released eight whole years after “Gasolina,” this song has a much different sound than earlier DY tracks, but it’s so damn catchy. The word pasarela means “runway” in Spanish, and that beat will have you strutting to the damn grocery store like you’re walking on a catwalk. Oh, just me? Oh. K. Cool.

13. Estrellita de Madrugada – Daddy Yankee ft. Omega El Fuerte

You know how I said reggaeton is a huge genre? Welp, there’s the upbeat, pop-y “Danza Kuduro,” and then there’s songs like “Estrellita de Madrugada” that have you booty-popping so aggressively that you’re sore afterwards. Boom, case closed.

14. No Hay Igual – Nelly Furtado ft. Calle 13

Did you guys know Nelly Furtado has a reggaeton song? Well, she does, and it slaps. Also, Calle 13’s part is fire. Syrop de banana.

15. Perdoname – La Factoria ft. Eddy Lover

Aside from being impossibly catchy, this 2007 song is cool because it’s essentially a conversation between Eddy Lover and duo La Factoria. Eddy Lover sing-begs La Factoria to forgive him for whatever he did (he doesn’t make it super clear), and La Factoria rap-agrees to give him a second chance.

16. More – Zion and Ken Y ft. Jory

The chorus of “More” is essentially one big Spanglish play on words. The line is “pues toma para que te enamores,” which means something along the lines of “so take that to make you fall in love,” but then they repeat the end of enamores (pronounced mor-ay) so it’s like they’re saying “more” – “so take that to make you fall in love more.” But, the word for “more” in Spanish is obv not “more,” so by putting an English word and keeping the English meaning but pronouncing it like a Spanish word, Ken-Y, Jory and Zion are just being super clever.

Unless, of course, I am wrong. It’s entirely possible that I’m completely wrong and hearing word play where there is none just because I love word play, and they’re just saying the end of “enamores” a couple times for effect. In any case, it’s really fun to sing “zippy zippy zippy zippy zippy” along with Zion.

17. Lejos de Aqui – Farruko

I’ve just accepted that it’s physically impossible for me to listen to this song and not sing “quítate la ropa encima de mi” out loud, which has attracted very startled glances from other people walking down the street.

This isn’t Farruko’s biggest song by a long shot, but for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, it’s my favorite. “Chillax,” a collab with Bob Marley’s son Ky-Mani Marley, is a close second. Even though there’s no lines about taking off ones’ shirt on top of people.

18. Borro Cassette – Maluma

No, this is not a song about how Maluma accidentally erased his cassette tapes. I’m not going to translate the phrase “borro cassette” because I’ve heard different definitions and I’m not a native Spanish speaker so I don’t want to mess it up but, essentially, this song is about a girl who gets wasted one night, hooks up with someone and can’t remember anything the next day. Also, the official video is awesome and you should hop on YouTube and give that shit a few views to make up for all the people who are watching the “Despacito” video instead.

19. 6 a.m. – J. Balvin ft. Farruko

Hey! This is another song about getting super drunk and not remembering anything the next day! And it’s like, alllmost as catchy as “Borro Cassette.” And it also has an entertaining video.

20. Ginza Remix – J. Balvin ft. Farruko, De La Ghetto, Nicky Jam, Arcangel, Daddy Yankee, Yandel, and Zion

Think of this as like the grand finale to this list. Eight artists with very different styles came together to bring you this super long and highly danceable track. Si necesitas reggaeton, dále.

It should be noted that I had a super hard time limiting this list to only 20 songs. Wanna hear more? Slide into my DMs and I’ll send 20 more your way. Think I missed one? Drop the link in the comments!

 

Learn From My Mistakes: My Week in Budapest Was An Enormous Shitshow – and I Loved Every Second

If you were at Stansted Airport in London on June 12, you would have seen me running from security to the gates in my socks, my backpack bouncing from one arm while I clutched my shoes to my chest, shrieking “missing flight sorry!!!” and trying not to notice how sweaty I was from the three layers of clothing I was wearing to avoid Ryanair baggage fees.

This is, unfortunately, pretty similar to how I end up boarding most of my flights, and my flight to Budapest was no exception.

My friend Katie – current travel buddy who I’ve known since I was literally nine years old – and I took one look at the security line an hour before boarding time and were so convinced we were going to miss our flight that we started looking at later flights to Budapest and other nearby countries, BUT, by some miracle, we made it.

But, also like, it’s me, so of course the shitshow only continued once we arrived. But that’s what keeps it interesting, am I right?

To get to and from the Ferihegy airport in Budapest, you need to take a bus called the 200 Express. It’s blue and says “200E” on the front. Next to the bus is a ticket machine, and annoyingly enough, it only takes exact change. Unless we just got unlucky, but at least, the machine that we used only took exact change.

Always have a little currency of the country you’re about to land in.

Luckily, Katie had some HUFs with her. HUF = Hungarian Forints. At the time of writing, 274 Hungarian Forints are equal to $1 USD. The 200E costs 350 Forints per person, which is roughly $1.28.

Depending on where you’re going, you might have to take an additional train after the 200E, like we did.

The first thing we did when we got to the airport was look up directions to our hostel. Well actually, the first thing we did was hit up the grocery store attached to the airport to get cheap cheese and baguettes. And then we looked up directions to our hostel.

Actual footage of Katie eating cheese and looking up directions to our hostel #youhearditherefirst

Google Maps is magical and if you look up directions from Point A to Point B when you have WiFi but then leave the WiFi zone, the little blue dot on the map showing where you are will continue to move with you as long as you leave the Maps app open. This is incredibly useful for things like, you know, using public transportation at night in a country where you don’t speak the language.

Looking up directions is all well and good, but it doesn’t really do much if you don’t pay attention to the little blue dot. I was busy talking to Katie and ignored my map, and I only knew to get off because the automated voice thing announced our stop, so without really looking at the blue dot, I told Katie to grab her stuff and we hopped off in a hurry.

Once off the bus, we realized we had gotten off in literally the middle of nowhere, so we followed the little blue dot to where we were supposed to be, which was a proper train stop instead a random sign beside the highway, which is where we initially were.

We met a Hungarian lady who said the 200E usually stopped at the end of the platform, not right smack dab in the middle where we were, and we had to walk waaay down to the end in order to buy tickets. Whoops.

We finally got to our hostel, but didn’t have any more HUFs, so we had to go to the ATM to withdraw cash. Always take out as much as you think you’ll need for the duration of your trip because the ATM will probably charge you a fee, so the less times you visit the ATM, the less fees you’ll be charged.

Katie was weary about using the ATMs on the street because she was worried that it would eat her debit card, but we did anyway.

Two days later, we went to go to the ATM again because we clearly didn’t follow the above rule, and as soon as Katie put her card in, a little message popped up saying “this card has been captured for security reasons”…and ate her damn card.

Use the ATMs inside/attached to the bank – not the ones on the street.

Speaking of money, Budapest is very cheap in comparison to the U.S., so it’s easy to spend a lot of money on accident, because you get caught up thinking how cheap it is and forget to keep track of how much you’re actually spending. This isn’t actually something we did because we were actively trying not to.

Something we did do, however, was spend roughly $40 on a “Sparty Party,” which is essentially like a Vegas pool party but at night and on steroids. If you’ve never heard of this, lemme break it down for ya.

Budapest is famous for its bath houses (among other things). The most popular one is called the Széchenyi Spa and Baths, which costs about $17 to visit during the day and is basically the ultimate hot tub experience. There’s a bunch of hot tub-sized pools indoors – cold pools, really hot pools, hot tubs with sulfur, etc. Outside, there’s two massive swimming pools, one really warm one and one less warm one. The less warm one also has a whirlpool, which is relaxing during the day, and absolutely terrifying at night when it’s full of drunk people going around and around endlessly.

The “Sparty Party” usually happens twice a week  on Wednesday and Saturday nights and runs from 10:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. If you buy your ticket ahead of time online or through your hostel, it’s a little less than 11,000 HUF, but if you buy it at the party directly, it’s 18,000 HUF, which is $65.

During the party, only the two outdoor pools are open, and the cheapest beers are roughly 600 HUF, which comes out to a bit more than $2, which isn’t that bad, but when you get there, you have to put money on a special card thing you wear around your neck, and there’s a minimum amount you can put on the card.

Included in the price, you get assigned a locker you can put your stuff in, which you can open by using a FOB key wrist watch they give you when you walk in. They give out one wrist watch/locker per group, so try not to lose your friend. In a massive pool party with hundreds of drunk people, that’s pretty easy to do. I lost Katie for like an hour and it was super stressful. Hold hands with your travel buddy and don’t let random Scottish men pick you up and carry you around the pool. Not that I did that. Or anything.

Going to the bath house during the day is an entirely different ball game. For the bath party, you don’t necessarily need a towel, but during the day I’d recommend bringing one. I’d also highly recommend you bring flip-flops, both during the day and at night, since both the floor of the locker room and the pavement next to the pools is covered in pool water other people have been stepping in, which is nasty.

Also, for whatever reason, the locker situation during the day works differently than at night, and is really complicated. You have to select an empty locker and then look for someone who works there – when I was there it was women in blue shirts and white name tags – to close it for you, and then open it for you again when you want to get your stuff out. Each locker comes with a little wooden tag that has a number on it that doesn’t correspond to the number on your locker, but you have to keep it with you and remember your locker number. See, I had to figure this out myself, so now I’m telling you so you don’t have to.

The day of our flight out of Budapest, we decided to leave four hours early because we almost missed our flight there. Which ended up being nothing in comparison to the situation we ran into while trying to leave.

From our hostel, we walked to the train station and asked someone who worked there how to get a ticket for the airport, and he pointed at something on the screen and nodded, so we printed that out.

Once we were on the train stuffing our faces with bread rolls and cheese wheels (again) (don’t judge OK it’s the cheapest thing to eat that’s also portable), a guy came by to collect the tickets, frowned at ours and said something in Hungarian.

“….airport?” I said meekly.

He shook his head and said more stuff in Hungarian. “Airport no.”

He sort of just stood there smiling and shaking his head, and I don’t know how to say “someone who worked at the train station told me to buy this” in Hungarian, so I just pointed at my ticket and said “….is okay?” and he laughed and said it was okay. Lucky.

If it doesn’t say Ferihegy on the ticket, it’s not for the airport.

Unlike the bus we took on the way in to Budapest, the train didn’t announce any of the stops, so all of a sudden we were passing a sign with a plane on it and I was like “is that….?”

The smart thing would have been to look up how many stops we had to go and then count the stops, but we didn’t do that, didn’t get off the train in time, and had to go an extra stop (about 15 extra minutes on the train), hop over the fence with our suitcases to go buy the correct train ticket, and wait 40 minutes for the train.

This is what waiting at a random bus stop for 40 minutes in the middle of nowhere Hungary looks like

Our story isn’t over yet, folks.

Once we got off the train at the correct stop – the stop that said Ferihegy with a little airplane sign – we looked around and quickly realized something was wrong. Although all the signs said “airport,” and from glancing at Google Maps we could clearly tell we were at the airport, we were somehow at the wrong one. It looked nothing like the airport we had flown into – there was just a parking lot and a big building that a) had a sign about military aircraft b) was locked c) appeared to have nobody inside. There were also no signs about where to catch a plane or really anything explaining anything. If I had been alone, this would have been a panic moment, but I was with Katie, so we both kind of just wandered around in circles and triple-checked the map and went “wtf?!”

The third or fourth time we approached the so-called abandoned building with the sign about military aircraft, a man suddenly appeared, came out, saw two confused girls standing there with suitcases and told us we had to cross the street and take the 200E bus to get to the airport. Which makes sense, since we had to take a bus and then a train to leave the airport in the first place.

The 200E bus is your direct transportation to and from the airport! Also, use your common sense!

After all that, we were still an hour early for our originally scheduled flight – and it was delayed.

Be early AF for ya flights because YOU NEVER KNOW!

That’s just the short version, folks. Our five days in Budapest were essentially devoid of sleep, full of stories, possibly involved the acquiring of a tattoo or two and absolutely involved lots and lots of walking, cheap beer, and literal hundreds of pictures. Going to Budapest and want advice? Get at me in the comments, I got lots more.

I swear I didn’t always stand on this side of her in pictures on purpose.

How To Tell That Your Friend’s Vacation Was Straight-Up #CuratedLife

The following is the joint brain child of myself and the fabulous Michelle Rick, whom you can stalk on Instagram here. Also, check out her website here

The perfect trip does not exist.

The perfect trip does not exist firstly because the perfect life does not exist, but also, shit happens when you catch flights – mosquito bites, missed planes, food poisoning, having to wear all your clothes to dodge Easy Jet fees. Anyone who describes their trip as “perfect” or “a dream” is BS-ing you at least a little.

Social media, of course, makes it super easy to create and maintain the image of a perfect trip–or even a perfect life. If you’re like us and follow a plethora of travel accounts on Instagram, it’s easy to idealize traveling and forget that even the girls perfectly posed in paradise with a pineapple paloma in their paw (that was fun) have the same travel troubles as we mere mortals. Like, if you went to Renaissance Island and didn’t take a picture of you pretending to feed a flamingo, did you even Aruba?

These days, social media makes sure we’re interconnected to the point where we’re seeing Fijian beach pictures from the vacation of a girl we haven’t talked to since the seventh grade.

Fast forward another 12 years, and the seventh grade acquaintance in question, let’s call her Mindy, is doing the tree pose in a rainforest somewhere, pricking her finger on the top of the Louvre pyramid, and adorning her Thai island pics with quotes Marilyn Monroe definitely didn’t say, and thanks to social media, you get to see it all. 

We can’t help but wonder: if Mindy really felt as #blessed as she claims to be, would she feel so compelled to convince her IG followers that this was the case? Similar to the phenomenon that couples who over-post on social media are overall not as happy as the ones who don’t.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 ways you know that your friend’s picture-perfect vacation was, for whatever reason, not perfect.

“I Really Like The Post Of That Yoga Post From That Place You Visited” #irony

1. Excessive Facebook check-ins

Anyone have that one friend who suddenly becomes a FB check-in machine once they go somewhere new and suddenly your feed is flooded with random check-ins?

You don’t need to check in twice during your layover in Cleveland – we know. You’re sitting in an airport lounge waiting for McDonald’s to open and fighting for an outlet so you can charge your phone to provide more unnecessary updates.

2. Instagrams a lot – but doesn’t Snapchat as much

Snapchat is in the moment, so it’s harder to fabricate a dope trip that way, whereas Instagram makes it easier.

3. …Or, alternatively, only posts one photo when they’re gone for a long time

There are exceptions, but if someone posts 5 pictures a week of their cat, their friends, their new shoes, etc. when they’re home in Missouri but then suddenly posts one picture for their two weeks in Amsterdam, something doesn’t add up.

4. Flowery quotes about how amazing and life-changing everything is

Your picture of you on those swings in the sea in Indonesia is cool enough. No need to accompany it with a super long quote that’s meant to be inspiring.

The aforementioned swings. Photo credit: Dennis Keller. https://www.flickr.com/photos/dennisk/

5. Documents every meal they ate/fancy cocktail they drank

Don’t get us wrong, 1-2 are acceptable. Okay, 3-4. No more than 4. But if you’ve seen one paella and sangria picture, you’ve kinda seen them all.

6. Too many selfies

If you’re off doing cool stuff, why can’t you leave your phone alone for more than 3 minutes at a time? Don’t you want to conserve battery for more than just your face?

7. Posts about how great their trip was–six months later

When you’ve posted the same picture twice with the #takemeback hashtag, you know you’re trying too hard.

8. Tagging the same random people they met at their hostel one time in posts weeks or months later – when nobody tagged them in anything

…bonus points if they use a caption like “missing my bitches from Prague.”

9. Doesn’t have any good stories about their trip when you see them in real life…

…because all the good parts (or with some people, every damn moment) is documented in their social media. It’s like a movie where all the good parts were given away in the previews. If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, you know you haven’t really done it right until there’s at least one story you can’t put on the internet or tell your grandma.

Also, if you ask them how their trip was, they don’t tell you any stories but repeatedly assert that it was “incredible”–that’s the word people think they’re supposed to use.

10. …and yet clings to the same anecdote over and over

“You went to Olive Garden last night? Ohhhh my godddd the pasta I ate in Rome eight months ago was sooooo good I literally died.”

Photo credit: Glenn3095. https://www.flickr.com/photos/steamster/

Don’t get us wrong – there’s nothing wrong with posting about your travels on Instagram, and we’re pretty active on the ‘Gram ourselves. We just want the Mindys of the world to know that it’s OK if your trip wasn’t perfect. Sometimes, it’s the not-perfect trips that make for the better stories. Social media isn’t everything. We’d rather hear an awesome story than double-tap your Eiffel Tower pictures any day.

Do you have a friend that does this? Have you had a trip that was less than Instagram-perfect? Let us know in the comments!

TL;DR: Social media isn’t everything. We’d rather hear an awesome story than double-tap your Eiffel Tower pictures any day.

S**t American Tourists Say: Iceland Edition

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first-ever edition of Shit American Tourists Say. Today’s episode focuses on what these most fascinating individuals say when placed in an environment they’re not used to. We’re not in Kansas anymore, folks. Here are the best things I overheard our lovely Americans say in Keflavik Airport in Iceland. Please note these all occurred within 20 minutes.

1. Passenger: “Where’s the big statue with the pot? I want to take a picture for the grandkids.”

Airline worker: “That’s straight down the hall, sir.”

Passenger: “Oh, that’s too far.”

2. “This is so messed up in so many ways.” – man outraged that he needed to wait for a bus to take him to the plane waiting outside #tinyairportproblems

3. “This is just taking so long. I need some liquor.” – 60-something year old woman, on the bus on the way to the plane

4. “They made me pay to check my bag, so I was like, OK, I can drink some liquor.” – the same woman, who clearly possesses a flawless sense of logic and reasoning

5.”I really like how they’ve designed the airport. It’s so modern.” – lady to her husband

6. *young woman takes selfies of self boarding plane, holds up entire rest of line*

7. “Well, I don’t know why they haven’t sat us together. Makes no sense to me.” – husband whose wife and three kids are sat close by but not directly next to each other, and there was a parent seated next to each child. (Yes, sir, because the airline obviously did it on purpose just to inconvenience you and your family of five.)

8. “Of course the ONE outlet that doesn’t work is under MY seat.”  – angry teenager (come on, Napoleon, like anyone could even know that.)

9. “Are we going to fly over Idaho? Hawaii? Alaska? Ohio?” – kid behind me to his mother

The “big statue with the pot.”


7 Travel Mistakes I Made–And How You Can Avoid Them

My first experience traveling alone hasn’t been anywhere near the disaster I (and my mother) thought that it would be. However, I did mess up a little, and I’m going to tell you all about it so you don’t do the same things.

No, this is not one of the mistakes. Traveling in a cow onesie is always a good call.

1. Make sure you know the visa requirements for wherever you’re going way before you go.

As romantic and adventurous as it sounds to semi-spontaneously book a one-way ticket to another country without any concrete idea of when you’re going back home, the friendly people over at Customs At Any Airport In Any Country Ever don’t like that very much. This is why I almost couldn’t board my Madrid-bound plane in Panama.

People travel without return tickets and/or a visa all the time, and not everyone gets in trouble, but you never know. It’s just a good idea to look up each country’s rules regarding visa and length of stay before you go. (That rhymes, by the way.)

A lot of countries require that you apply for a visa several months before you go, and that you do so in your home country. If, for example, you’re a non-European citizen planning a longer trip to Europe, read up on the Schengen Zone and its various rules about where in Europe you can go and how long you can stay there.

2. If you know for sure you are going to be gone for a long period of time, you don’t have a guaranteed place to live when you’re back, and you have a lot of stuff, sell it.

Since May 21, I have been paying for a storage unit in San Francisco every month to store my bed, dresser, desk and miscellaneous other items. It’s taking a toll on my bank account. I wish I had sold my stuff instead. Don’t get a storage unit! You’ll have more money for traveling!

3. Keep track of everything you spend. Little things add up, big time.

I had been working almost every day for four months, so when I went to Vitoria-Gasteiz in early October, I was able to bring a sizable wad of cash with me. I stayed with friends in Vitoria and my friend and I were mostly splitting 80 cent bags of pasta to cook for dinner so I didn’t think I had spent much. After staying there for six days, I booked a €7 bus to San Sebastian, three €13 nights in a San Sebastian hostel and a €44 bus back to Barcelona, which by my calculations shouldn’t have made a dent in my cash wad.

However, about a week after returning to Barcelona and resuming my normal practice of purchasing €1 beers from the dudes selling them in the streets, I realized I was in financial trouble.

I sat down, counted up everything I had spent in the 10 days I had been gone, and realized I had spent way more than I thought I had. (Beer, snacks, a spontaneous surfing lesson in San Sebastián…)

Write down everything you spend as you go along instead of doing it after the fact so you can keep yourself in check. I’ve done this before and it worked–I should take my own advice, geez.

Speaking of money:

4. If you’re planning on doing Workaway or another work exchange program, make sure you have another source of income or enough money saved up to get by.

Workaway and similar programs are a great way to stay in a new city for free. Basically, Workawayers agree to work for a certain amount of hours each week in exchange for a bed to sleep in and, usually, a meal or three every day. Workaway situations range from reception at a hostel to “come help me with my organic arugula farm in the South of France while I endlessly complain to you about my midlife crisis and my ex-husband just because I want someone to talk to.”

However, many people (read: me) may underestimate the amount of money in the bank (shawty what chu drank) it actually takes to be able to live comfortably (read: afford to eat more than once a day when the hostel you’re working at has free dinners) without another source of income. If you have enough money saved and/or you have another way of making that skrilla, Workaway away. Maybe avoid the arugula farm, though.

5. Before your trip, thoroughly read each airline’s carry-on luggage requirements and follow them as well as you can.

The setting is Berlin Schönefeld Airport at 5:30 a.m. on a weekday in mid-June, 2015. Our protagonist, Jessica, had been on a bar crawl until an hour and a half previously, had made the mistake of napping for half an hour, and now felt like absolute hell.

As she squinted in the sunlight starting to filter in through the windows, a lovely (Easy Jet) airline worker announced to the line of passengers that they would only be allowed to carry one item onto the flight with them-which means not a small backpack and a small suitcase, which were the items Jessica had with her, since most of the flights she was taking on her eight-week European jaunt were with Ryanair, and Ryanair was OK with two carry-on items if they both met the height and width requirements.

Jess and her five travel companions had read Easy Jet’s baggage requirements online previously, and four of her companions had decided before they got to the airport that they would check their bags, so they just threw them onto the conveyer belt when they went through security. Jess and her friend Elena, however, had been determined not to pay to check a bag, so they decided they would just “figure it out at the airport.”

So, here they were in the airport very shortly before their early-morning flight suddenly having to open their suitcases and see if they could also squeeze their backpacks in there and still meet the weight requirements for carry-on luggage.

(Spoiler alert: they could not.)

After a solid ten minutes of squishing and cramming, Jess and Elena were told they had to check their suitcases, which would cost them €70 and, from the looks of the line of others waiting to do so last-minute, would absolutely ensure that they missed their flight.

As Jess and Elena’s companions began to line up for boarding (hidden bulletpoint 4.5: don’t be this late for a flight), in a burst of panicky genius, our protagonist asked the airline worker if she and her friend could take out all of the clothes they had in their suitcases and wear them on the flight on top of the clothes they were already wearing, so their suitcases would be lighter and they could bring them on the plane.

The worker chuckled and said “sure, if you really want to.” So Jess and Elena began to pile on jacket after shirt after dress after shorts after skirt while both lines of passengers watched in amusement. Jess and Elena were each wearing four layers and sweating profusely when the attendant, who hadn’t quite stopped chuckling, said the suitcases were fine now and they could board their flight.

So wearing almost all of the clothing they had packed with them, and Jess holding her toiletries in a straw hat she’d picked up in Ireland, the two arrived safely in Amsterdam with their friends, without having to pay an extra cent for luggage.

That’s dedication right there.

A less dramatic verson of the same story happened, at the time of writing, roughly 20 hours ago, in which Jess straight-up did not try to find out WOW Airlines’ carry-on requirements until she was at the airport and had to pay to check her suitcase, which was eight kilos over the maximum. (Although that one was going to be hard to get around, as she had crammed the past six months of her life in there and it’s hard to make six months fit into five kilos, especially if a large part of those six months was a fluffy cow onesie).

Moral of the story: know each airline’s requirements and be prepared.

6. Don’t carry all of your cash AND your debit card AND your ID on you!

Seems obvious, right? Yeah, you’d think. I went through the wonderful experience of being mugged by three dudes in a park in Barcelona at 3 a.m. three weeks ago, and they took my purse, which contained 60 euros, my ID, my debit card, my iPhone, all my makeup, my headphones, and three colors of UV paint. Why did I have all those things with me, you ask? Because after traveling through 15 countries (16 if I include my own) without anything like that ever happening, it’s easy to get a little cocky. Don’t.

Carry a copy of your ID and not your actual one, carry your card OR cash, and absolutely do NOT carry all the cash you have in your life. As for the iPhone, I know I knocked Hank from Massachusetts before, but this might be where the tourist pouch comes in handy.

Or, don’t walk through parks late at night. Take your pick.

7. Bring airplane snacks-always!

No matter how late you think you might be to your flight, if it’s more than four hours, stop at a store and buy snacks! Airport food is expensive and there’s something about traveling that makes everyone hungry.

All of the those things being said, I am in one piece, and I have been having an amazing time. Traveling alone is awesome because you can do whatever the hell you want and not have to worry about what anyone else wants to do. Just use common sense and you’ll be good.

Got any solo travel shitshow stories? Hit me with ’em in the comments, I wanna hear!





10 Things I Wish I Knew About Barcelona as a Tourist

After four days of visiting Barcelona in 2015, I was completely in awe of the city and knew I wanted to come back and live here. So, a year later, I did. While I’m obviously still technically a tourist in Barcelona, since I’m not from here and have only been here for four and a half months, four and a half months is a lot different than four days. So, knowing what I know now, here is everything I wish I knew before I went.

1. Spanish is not the main language spoken in Barcelona.

While 98 percent of Barcelona residents speak Spanish, 50 to 60 percent also speak Catalan. Therefore, most of the signs posted around the city/in restaurants (open, closed, no parking, please wait to be seated, etc. etc.) are in Catalan.

Both Catalan and Spanish (known here as Castilian Spanish) are the “main” languages spoken in Barcelona, but Catalan is the primary language taught in schools. Of course, knowing some Spanish doesn’t hurt, because locals are way more likely to speak Spanish than English.

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2. Barceloneta isn’t the only beach in Barcelona.

You know the beach in Barcelona you see all the photos of, with the big half-circle shaped silver building on it? (See above if you have no clue what I’m talking about.)

That’s called Barceloneta Beach, and it’s essentially inevitable that you will end up here when you’re in Barcelona as a tourist.

Although it’s the one in all the pictures, there are many more beaches in Barcelona than Barceloneta, which is frequently so jam-packed during the summer that you can’t even move. However, between the vast amount of tourists from all over the world and people who walk the beach selling blankets and various beverages, Barceloneta is some of the best people-watching you’ll get in the city.

If you want a vaguely less touristy beach experience, walk down Barceloneta Beach towards the W Hotel–the aforementioned “big half-circle shaped silver building”–and you’ll find the nude area of the beach, which has less beach sellers and drunk English teenagers on vacation and is mostly full older locals letting it all hang out.

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If you walk down Barceloneta Beach in the opposite direction towards the gigantic golden fish statue (see above), and keep walking down the boardwalk, you’ll find Port Olímpic, a much quieter beach where the water is much clearer and there are less people trying to sell you stuff.

The gigantic golden fish statue is also where all the beach clubs are. There are five (Shoko, Opium, Pacha, Carpe Diem, Catwalk) and they’re all pretty pricey.

3. Don’t buy the mojitos from the dudes wandering the beach.

This is a common bulletpoint in almost every “What Not To Do In Barcelona” list I’ve seen. (There are a lot.)

Although the lime green beverages being peddled by dudes carrying trays of them and shouting “sangria mojitos!” are admittedly super refreshing, they’re wildly overpriced and I’m not entirely positive that there’s actually any alcohol in there at all.

As Pinterest-esque as this picture is, that cocktail cost me 8 euros and then I just fell asleep in the taxi on the way to Park Guell.
As Pinterest-esque as this picture is, that cocktail cost me 8 euros and then I just fell asleep in the taxi on the way to Park Guell.


 

4. But also don’t buy the mojitos at the beach bars.

As someone who is guilty of having bought both the mojitos from the beach and the beach bars the first time I visited Barcelona, I can assure you that although they are on the whole more legit, the mojitos/other cocktails they sell at the beach bars are roughly three euros more expensive than the ones being sold right on the beach and have only a little more alcohol in them. (Read: one shot instead of none at all.)

If you’re on a budget and you want to get your drink on at la playa, you’re better off buying booze at one of the many supermarkets near the beach or from one of the dudes walking around selling beer.

5. It’s okay to buy the beers from the cerveza sellers.

Yeah, the mojitos are a scam, but it’s pretty hard to mess up a beer. Barceloneta aside, you can literally find a cerveza man everywhere you go throughout the city at any time of day or night, especially in the summer. Drinking in public is illegal in Barcelona, but you’re going to do it anyway, so you might as well do it cheaply. Just be warned that you might get fined if you’re caught with an open container in public, so avoid glass and don’t go waving your beer around in the air and screaming drunken nonsense.

6. Don’t eat on La Rambla.

Like Barceloneta Beach, La Rambla is full of people trying to sell you stuff. (Bulletpoint 6.5, don’t call it “Las Ramblas.” You’ll sound hyper-touristy.)

It’s basically a long street that starts near the harbor and ends at Plaça Catalunya, which is a big square with two fountains and is next to a Hard Rock Café, just as every good tourist hub is. La Rambla is also lined with restaurants that look super appealing because of their outdoor seating and big signs promising 2 tapas, a cerveza and paella for only 18 euros!!!

However, since La Rambla is possibly the most touristy street in all of Barcelona, most of the restaurants located directly on the street will charge you an arm and a leg for some mediocre food.

If you want food that tastes good and doesn’t break the bank, head to less touristy areas for your paella. As a general travel rule, restaurants next to massive tourist attractions in any city aren’t going to be great.

While we’re on the topic, paella is kind of an “omg we’re in Barcelona we should totally get paella” thing, so if you want a less touristy eating experience, try tapas (appetizers) or pinchos (appetizers attached to pieces of bread) instead.

Also, many restaurants offer “menú del dia” in the middle of the day, which is when you get a main course and a salad and usually bread and a drink for a set price, which is usually between 6 and 12 euros. It’s a cheap way to eat a lot of food. (But again, don’t try to do this at restaurants on La Rambla).

One more thing, most “Things to Do in Barcelona” lists I’ve seen on the Internet say to check out La Boqueria, which is a super big market near one end of the La Rambla, but in reality it’s essentially a massive tourist trap. You can get some decent fresh fruit juices there for a euro, but in terms of getting actual groceries you’re better off shopping at the Dia (a cheap supermarket) or the Simply Basic (another cheap supermarket), so I’d say skip it.

Park Guell
Park Guell

7. Taking taxis everywhere is unnecessary and expensive. 

If you read my caption on the picture of my hand holding a pricey cocktail up in front of the sea, it says that I took a taxi to Park Guell, since I was a silly little tourist and didn’t know anything. Taxis aren’t that expensive in Barcelona in comparison to other cities, but it’s still a lot cheaper to walk or take the metro, and Barcelona is a pretty easy city to do both of these things in.

To be fair, Park Guell is super far from the beach, which is why Tourist Jessica thought she had to taxi there, but just don’t plan to go Park Guell on the same day you check out the beach. Simple as.

It makes a lot more sense to take the metro from Sagrada Familia to Park Guell, which brings us to…

8. Buy a ticket for the Sagrada Familia ahead of time.

I can’t say this enough. La Sagrada Familia is hands-down the coolest building I’ve ever seen and I’m not even super into architecture. You 100 percent have to see it if you’re in Barcelona, and you 100 percent have to go inside to check out the amazing stained glass situation, and while you’re inside you might as well climb up the tower for one of the best views of the city. (That’s where I took the picture that’s at the way top of this page.)

The inside of La Sagrada Familia, but pictures legit do not do it justice.
The inside of La Sagrada Familia, but pictures don’t do it justice.

It costs roughly 18 euros to go inside, but I promise it’s worth it. If you’re broke and can afford to do one expensive touristy thing when you’re in BCN, make it be this, seriously. Book your ticket online ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line, because nobody likes lines.

9. Contrary to what the Internet tells you, there isn’t someone waiting to rob you at every turn. 

A lot of articles about Barcelona on the Internet make it sound like unless you have one of those dorky under-the-jeans tourist belts that nobody actually uses unless your name is Hank and you’re a 55-year-old white man from Massachusetts, your stuff is likely to get stolen everywhere you go.

Yes; people do get robbed in Barcelona. (I’m sorry to say it happened to me.) But people also get robbed anywhere. Just like when you’re anywhere else in the world, keep an eye on your belongings, don’t wave your brand new iPhone around in public or keep it in your back pocket while you’re dancing at a club, and don’t walk around late at night on your own in a shady area. Boom. 

10. It’s going to be really hard to leave. 

Even if you don’t drink from the Font de Canaletes, which is located on La Rambla and apparently makes everyone who drinks from it fall in love with the city, there’s a good chance you’ll just end up not leaving.

I get all of my water from 30 cent big-ass bottles I buy in the supermarket, and I’m still head over heels in love with where I live. Barcelona has that effect on people.

TL;DR: Don’t be surprised when all the signs are in Catalan, don’t eat on La Rambla, walk or take the metro instead of taxis, and be careful, because Barcelona makes it hard to leave her.


Le Reve at Wynn Las Vegas - Save on Tickets!

GUEST POST: A Basic Bitch’s Guide to Bali

Guest post by Michelle Rick. You can find her on Instagram or at michellearick.com.

According to Pinterest, there’s a place that has beaches for days, because it’s an island, and islands tend to be surrounded by water. Its menu is designed to nurture the taste buds of a deliciously, nutriciously Instagrammable diet. And there’s many an opportunity to get in sunrise yoga selfies until you literally can’t even.

If you find yourself headed to Bali in the near future, buy yourself a Bintang bro tank and saddle up with this proudly basic guide.

A rundown of Bali hotspots:

Ubud:

This is where you’ll live out your Eat, Pray, Love fantasy. Yes, you can see Ketut, the medicine man from the book. According to this article, he tends to tell every tourist the same thing and you’ll pay more than if you see a medicine man who hasn’t been name dropped in a New York Times bestseller. If yoga is what you’re here for, Yoga Barn is the spot. Hello, sun salutations!

PSL frapps after class (no whip), anybody? Starbucks is totes in Ubud.

Also in Ubud: Monkey Forest, coffee plantations, rice paddies. Luwak coffee can retail for more than $600 per kilo. Find out what makes it so…special.

Kuta:

Also known as the Cancun of Bali. It generally gets a bad rap, but really it’s all about what you’re looking for. If tequila shots off an Aussie named Ethan is your jam, fuck it. Come to Kuta and let your freak flag fly.

You guys can nurse your hangovers together with fresh juice and share childhood stories while tiny fish nibble your feet. Hashtag the dream.

Kuta is home to beach clubs, kiddie waves and people hustling the shit out of you on the beach to buy souvenirs and surf lessons. You’ll probably end up getting an infinity tattoo here.

Don't forget to Instagram your food to show your friends how exotic and well-traveled you are! Photo courtesy of Michelle Rick.
Don’t forget to Instagram your food to show your friends how exotic and well-traveled you are! Photo courtesy of Michelle Rick.

Canggu:

Canggu is an awesome place to catch some waves away from the hustle and bustle of Kuta. You’ll also find boutiques, chilled out nightlife and even more awesome restaurants like the super raved-about Betelnut Cafe.

The girls over at Gu Guide have even put together a list of the best Insta-spots to visit while you’re there.

When you hit the beach, you’ll definitely come across Old Man’s, and Deus Ex Machina is known to throw a great party on Wednesday nights.

Uluwatu:

Home of big wave surfing and possibly the most beautiful water on the planet. Hashtag, no filter. A must if you come here is Sundays at Single Fin surf club, where you can hook yourself up with a Nalu bowl and an amazing view. Which one will you make your friends back home jealous with first?

Getting around

Motorbikes are a very popular method of transport in Bali, but some may find the idea of driving in a place where nobody cares about traffic rules in any form to be a bit fucking terrifying.

If you’re super loaded, your resort’s transfer service will pick you up at the airport and you won’t have to leave to go anywhere. Ever.

If that’s not the case, hit up Aussie Ethan from Kuta so he can drive you around. Other options are GoJek and Uber. GoJek is basically Bali’s motorbike taxi app. Try to download this before you leave home, for some reason I had trouble downloading it in Bali.

Uber is present in Bali but not technically allowed. My driver told me he’s not allowed to do pickups in certain towns, so do your homework before making it your lifeline.

Speaking of Insta…

Kickstart your Bali dreaming with these handles…

@thebalibible

@balibucketlist

@guguidebali

 


Live. Love. Save!

Baecelona: My Love Letter to the Spanish City That Stole My Heart

When you’re in love, you’ll do anything to be with the object of your affection. You look past their imperfections, you cherish every moment with them, you’ll travel thousands of miles to be with them if you have to.

I fell in love like this in June 2015, and when I still felt the same way almost a year later, I decided it was time to pack my bags and move across the world so I could be with her.

Last summer, I stood knee-deep in Barcelona’s crystal blue waters for the first time and snapped a picture of the city-lined oceanfront, which I later Instagrammed with the caption “the sea is warm and the clubs are open and poppin’ until 6 a.m. Pretty sure Barcelona isn’t real and I’m in the middle of a long-ass awesome dream.”

It’s 14 months later, and I’m still having the same dream.

View from the top of La Sagrada Familia

I realized that my favorite places are the ones that aren’t just one thing. Like San Francisco, where I spent the past five years, Barcelona is a bustling city, but also has beaches and other places to go to escape the crowds. Unlike San Francisco, the sea is warm and one can swim in it without a wetsuit.

But it isn’t just the sea and the nightlife that still have me so in love a whole year later. It’s the fact that there are people awake and walking around at any time of day or night, the fact that you can purchase beer for a euro from people walking around the streets selling them (even at 7 in the morning, if you were so inclined), and the cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways that all look the same.

It’s the fact that there are always people hanging out around the fountain at Placa Reial, the monthly full moon parties on the beach, the fact that the city has as many posh nightclubs as it does clubs on top of roofs or tucked away in cave-like areas or under restaurants, Antonio Gaudi’s bizarre, colorful architecture and the buildings that have gargoyle statues looming out at you as you walk by. They just have anything like that in California.

My least favorite question I get asked is “you’re from California–why did you move out here?”

My answer is always the same. “Look where the hell you are,” I say, “Barcelona is incredible.”

I’m nine weeks into having the same dream every night, and I’m nowhere near ready to wake up yet.

Sale at Sandals Royal Bahamian

I Went to Colombia and Didn’t Die, and You Can, Too!

Cartagena’s streets are lined with colorful houses, bustling with the constant sound of horse-drawn carriages clopping down the cobblestone and full of guys with push carts selling beers for the equivalent of 33 cents each.

That’s probably not what you picture when you think of Colombia, though.

Thanks to movies, television and the widely-known fact that Colombia is a major hub for cocaine, the country is regarded by most of the rest of the world as a highly dangerous country, and certainly not a safe vacation destination for 20-somethings.

Except it is, because I vacationed there, and nothing bad happened.

It should be said that since my three friends and I were only in the hyper-touristy Cartagena and its surrounding beaches, I can’t say with 100 percent confidence that the whole of Colombia is safe to visit, since I haven’t been to the whole of Colombia, so I have no idea.

I can, however, say that Cartagena is beautiful, and cheap, and I can give you a bunch of tips on how to have a fun and safe trip.

JESSICA’S DOS AND DON’TS FOR CARTAGENA:

DO: Go to Playa Blanca

Located about a 45-minute car ride from Cartagena’s city center, Playa Blanca on the Isla Baru is easily one of the top 5 most beautiful and laid-back places I’ve ever had the fortune of visiting.

Also, on the way there, we checked out the Aviario Nacional de Colombia, which is basically a conservatory with a bunch of unusual birds running around. It is also where I saw two emus engaging in intercourse, which is definitely not something you see every day. Or really ever.

Sorry that isn’t a picture of emu intercourse, but parrots are cool too.

We hadn’t booked any accommodation at Playa Blanca before we arrived, so when we first got there, we walked to the various hostels that dot the beach (which were either beach shacks or hammocks mounted between palm trees in lieu of beds) to compare prices. I was incredibly excited about the hammock prospect, but we opted for a shack instead, which only ran us the equivalent of $3 USD per person. Sleeping in a hammock would have been chill, though.

We spent the 24 hours that followed either floating in the clear blue water or laying out in the hammocks or on the sand. I also went snorkeling and spent the better part of 20 minutes floating around with a school of around 50 squid, so that was dope.

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The island also contained a bunch of cheap places to get food. I got an arepa and a rum and Coke for the collective equivalent of $5 USD.

Which brings us to:

DON’T: Get food poisoning 

The arepa/drink combination was a good idea, but getting pre-cut fruit in a bowl from a dude wandering the beach peddling fruit bowls probably wasn’t. I am not providing details at this juncture, but I was quite sick and it was highly unfortunate and you should avoid it at all costs.

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DO: Be very clear on the exchange rate

My mathematical skills leave something to be desired, so there was a good 3-5 hours in which I thought I took out 200 Colombian pesos (Copa) and not 20, so I thought I had lost the equivalent of roughly $66 USD, but then I looked at my ATM receipt and saw that I had not. Cartagena is very cheap, so it can be easy to spend a lot by making a ton of inexpensive purchases and losing track of what they are. Make a budget, learn the conversion rate, and keep track of what you’re spending.

DON’T: Be an idiot about doing drugs 

I’m not your mother, so I’m not going to tell you not to do drugs, but I am going to advise you not to be an idiot about it if you decide to do so.

On my last night in Cartagena, I was leaving a rooftop club around 4 a.m. (additional DO: go to a rooftop club. This one was called El Mirador) with some people I met at my hostel, and two cops pulled up on motorcycles and asked to search us.

They didn’t search me, presumably because I was the only girl in our group of seven, but everyone else got shaken down, and they found cocaine in one of the guys’ pockets and ended up taking him to an ATM to make him withdraw money as a bribe.

We were all unscathed, but the guy lost the equivalent of $100 USD.

MAYBE: Go to the mud volcano

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I agreed to go on a day trip to Volcán de Lodo el Totumo (or “Mud Volcano,” in Gringo Speak). I just heard “volcano” and I was sold.

Basically what it is is a giant pit full of liquid-y mud located at the top of a volcano. You have to climb up some pretty steep stairs to get to the pit, and then down a sketchy ladder to get into the pit itself. Around ten volcano-goers are allowed into the pit at one time, and are then told to lay down in the mud while under-tipped employees massage you.

I’m not a fan of a) being slathered in mud or b) strangers touching me, so while I’m glad I did it for the experience, I was a little stressed out by the whole thing. It’s absolutely impossible not to get completely covered in mud, which is why after 15 minutes or so, you’re escorted to a spot back on land where more under-tipped employees dump water over your head and wash the mud off of you so thoroughly that I almost thought I should have bought the woman who was washing me dinner first.

I’m putting this down as a hard maybe because I did it more than two months ago and I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but if this sounds like your cup of tea, go forth and mud volcano, my friend.

TL;DR: Don’t be scared out of going to Colombia. As with traveling anywhere else, use some common sense and you’ll be golden.

My First 48 Hours of Traveling Alone Was a Total Shitshow–And I Lived to Tell the Tale

As someone who was still prone to getting lost in San Francisco after living there for five years, I got a lot of raised eyebrows when I told people I a) bought a one-way ticket to Colombia to meet up with friends and b) was traveling alone after.

Three weeks before my flight to Cartagena, I took a job in Barcelona, fully aware that that’s nowhere near Colombia, and spent literally an entire day researching the cheapest and most effective way to get there from Cartagena, which turned out to be flying to Panama for a three-hour layover before landing in Madrid and then taking a bus to Barcelona from there. I decided to spend a couple of days in Madrid because why the hell not.

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After my friends left Cartagena, I checked into a hostel by myself, met a bunch of cool people and ran around the city with them for the night, got to the airport the next morning, and flew to Panama for my layover without any drama.

When I tried to board the plane from Panama to Madrid is when the shitshow started. And yes, that’s the best terminology to describe it.

Shitshow Part 1: I almost couldn’t board my plane.

A few minutes before the first boarding group lined up to get on the plane, I noticed I didn’t have a boarding group number, so I went to the front desk to ask them about it. The gentleman working there asked if I had a permanent address in Spain, and when I said no, he told me I couldn’t board the plane to Madrid without some kind of return ticket, and said I had roughly five minutes to do so.

After the mandatory 1-3 minutes of panic, I started trying to buy a ticket to Portugal for mid-August, since it’s close to Spain and therefore cheap to fly to. (Completely ignorant at the time of Schengen Zone rules.) Of course, the second I put my credit card information in and was about to hit submit, the WiFi stopped working.

I refreshed the page a million times and tried to disconnect and reconnect to the WiFi ad nauseam on both my phone and my tablet, and it still wasn’t working. I went to ask the people at the counter if I could possibly use their computer, because I wasn’t sure what else to do, and they basically said “too bad.”

The last boarding group was starting to get on the plane, so I tried to board at the other desk. They too said I needed some type of return ticket, and when I said I was trying and the WiFi wasn’t working, they said they couldn’t help me and it must be my phone. (Even though I was trying to connect with two different devices.)

I started going into panic mode, explaining (in Spanish) that I paid for the flight, and I could buy a ticket out of Spain, but needed the WiFi to be working, and they just told me to go away. This is what I get for not getting an international SIM card before leaving the country.

I started thinking that worst case scenario, I would sleep in the airport overnight and just keep trying to get the WiFi to work. However, a flight from South America to Europe isn’t cheap, I knew the airline wouldn’t reimburse me, and I can’t afford to lose the money I’d already spent on the flight, so I was like, hell no, I’m not letting this happen.

I said three or four times (in different phrasing) that I’d buy a ticket but I just needed a WiFi connection, and in the process of doing that, I watched the last person board the plane.

Finally, the woman at the gate called over another employee and had him make a hotspot on his phone for me so I could connect to the WiFi and buy the ticket. He did, I bought it, I thanked them both an embarrassing amount of times, and got my ass on the plane.

The second I buckled myself into the seat, I was like wait, hell yeah, I’m going to Portugal in two months.

TL;DR: Make sure you’re 100% clear on the visa policies to any country you plan to stay in for a long period of time without a visa, and that you have proof of leaving the country before you try to board the plane. Also, it’s probably a good idea to have a phone that works abroad before you go to a different country.

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Shitshow Part 2: I literally walked myself out of Madrid.

After spending nine hours flying through various time zones, I landed in Madrid. When I got out of the two-hour-long customs line, I realized my phone was dead, so I went to ask the people in the tourist information booth how to get to my hostel, and they gave me a map of Madrid and showed me that it took two trains and took about 45 minutes to get there, but that would put me right outside the hostel.

When I got off at the second stop, I found a cheap place to grab food. The super nice guy who worked there let me charge my phone behind the counter while I ate, and when I got it back, I saw that I was actually an hour away walking, which isn’t a big deal, because walking around a new city is the best way to explore it anyway.

So I started walking, but 15 minutes into it my phone died again, so I took out the map from the airport, but I’m embarrassingly terrible at reading maps, so I started walking in what I thought was the general direction of the hostel. After what must have been 45 minutes, I stopped to look at a metro map to see if taking a train would be easier, but the metro symbols on the map didn’t match the ones on the map I had, and I saw a taxi drive by, so I hailed the taxi and showed the driver the address of where I was trying to go.

He looked at the paper, looked back at me, and said (in Spanish), “this is in Madrid.”

“…Sí…,” I said. No shit, sir.

Pero no estamos en Madrid,” he explained. Turns out I ended up in some random Spanish city. Because of course I did.

It was about a 20 minute car ride to where I was trying to go, and he initially said it would be 40 euros, but seeing my facial expression, he only charged me eight. I got lucky.

TL;DR: If you’re in a new city and awful at directions/general map reading, it would probably be a good idea to have a charged phone when you arrive. Also, I now know that the app MAPS.ME is a freaking godsend. (No, they did not pay me to say that.)

Shitshow Part 3: I confused the time zones.

So I finally get to the hostel (Cat’s Hostel), but because I had reserved the hostel bed in America (time zone #1) for when I got to Madrid (time zone #2) after Panama (time zone #3), I had tried to do the math but messed it up, so I was a day late for my reservation. They said they had room at their sister hostel, and I asked how far away it was, thinking that with the luck I’d been having, it would be an hour away by foot, but it was just around the corner (Mad Hostel).

TL;DR: Be super clear on time zones. Check your math. Use the Internet.

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What started out as a series of unfortunate events (book series from 2002 reference intended) ended up as a lovely four days full of lots of new friends. I managed to take the bus from Madrid to Barcelona without incident and have been in Barcelona for a little over a week now.

I’m awful at directions and apparently can’t deal with things like time zones, so if I can travel alone and end up fine (albeit make some stupid mistakes), you can, too.