7 Pictures That Show That Mostar, Bosnia is Straight Out of a Fairy Tale

The historic city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina is so beautiful it doesn’t look real. Like, I expected fairies and dragons to be strolling along the bridge and popping out from behind the waterfall. Check out seven of the best pictures I took when I was there and you’ll see what I mean.

1. This shot of the Neretva River 

See that bridge? That’s Stari Most, or “Old Bridge.” It was built in the 15th century under the Ottoman Empire and destroyed in the Bosnian Wars in the early 1990s, but rebuilt in 2004. I couldn’t believe the color of the water in the river. I mean, look at that.

2. This picture of Stari Most that literally looks like a painting 

Fun fact, when I was there, there was a dude (not pictured) sitting on top of the bridge in tiny swimsuit bottoms and holding a sign that said he would jump for €30. I didn’t stick around long enough to see if anyone took him up on that.

3. This gorgeous view I casually saw while walking from my hostel to the supermarket to pick up dinner 


The color of the water gets me every time. I’ll shut up about it, but LOOK at that.

4. This idyllic babbling brook 

Talk about dinner with a view.

5. Kravice Waterfalls

This was easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. And I’ve been around. 

Although not locate in Mostar, these waterfalls are in Studenci, which is roughly a 50 minute drive from Mostar.

Our hostel offered a day-long tour all around Mostar and surrounding areas that cost €30 and took you to a bunch of different places, including the waterfalls. Like always, I am on a super budget, as were the two other people I was traveling with. Instead of doing the tour, we rented a car from Enterprise for the day for a grand total of €16 (without insurance). We met two girls in our hostel room who also wanted to see the waterfalls, so we split the price five ways and spent a few hours swimming and exploring the caves. If you do this, just make sure the person driving has driven an automatic before and is also used to driving on the right side of the road so you don’t spend the journey with one eye open while gripping the bar above the window. 

The waterfalls cost 4 km, or roughly €2, to enter. They’re open between 7 in the morning and 10 at night. If you only have a day or two in Mostar like I did, definitely check them out.

6. Just in case you weren’t convinced, this other picture of Kravice Waterfalls 

Seriously, LOOK AT THAT.

7. This dreamlike view

 

Even the view out of the bus window on the way out was beautiful. Check out those clouds. 💫 


I Missed My First Flight

  1. After years of almost missing almost every flight I’ve ever taken, and once almost not being allowed to board the plane due to a visa issue, I had my biggest flight-related shitshow to date: I missed an international flight.

I live in San Francisco, CA, and I had planned to meet my friend in Split, Croatia on June 1. I found a one-way flight from San Francisco to Split on May 31 that would get me to Split on June 1 (because of the time change), and cost $392 – but would have two stopovers and take a total of 30 hours.

I knew that Norwegian has really cheap flights from Oakland, CA to London. Oakland is near to San Francisco, so I thought I was being SO clever by buying a May 31 $250 flight to London, and then buying a separate $200 flight from London to Split four hours after I landed, meaning $450 total. This would make my total travel time 16 hours instead of 30 hours, for only 58 dollars more. Smart, right?

WELL, it would have been, EXCEPT, the Warriors (basketball team from Oakland) had their big playoff game on May 31. The stadium is right next to the Oakland airport, so this caused an insane traffic jam. I didn’t know about any of this, because I don’t follow sports, and the fact that a basketball game might affect my flight isn’t something that even occurred to me. (Except from now on, of course, I’ll always check to see if there’s a nearby game on the same day I’m traveling.)

It also happened to be the one day that my friend who lives in Guam (whom I see once every two years or so) was in San Francisco. In typical me fashion, I hadn’t really finished packing, so my friend came over to help me shove all my clothes in my backpack and see me off. I was wearing my cow onesie, of course. Best plane attire.

My flight was at 6:30, and the airport is about an hour and a half from my neighborhood on the metro, but 40 minutes in a car. By the time my friend and I had finished shoving everything in my backpack, it was 3:30, so I decided to call a Lyft just to be safe. Oh, the irony.

What should have taken 40 minutes took TWO HOURS AND 50 MINUTES. When I saw I still had half an hour left until arrival time, and we were still stuck in insane traffic, I called Norwegian to ask when the next flight was, and was met with a recording announcing the wait time was “longer than usual.” I was on hold until I got to the airport, so I hung up.

I got to the Oakland Airport at 6:20, rushed to the kiosk, slid my passport under the scanner and frantically entered all the information it asked for. It said my flight number and reservation number were invalid, and it didn’t recognize my last name. I rushed to the closest airport official to ask for help, but he said “they don’t train us to use these machines, I’m just a TSA agent.” Fair enough. The line for the Norwegian check-in counter was almost out the door, so I ran up to the front and stood on the side while the agent helped the customer standing there, and then quickly explained my situation before it was the next customer’s turn. She said they couldn’t help me, and that check-in closed at 6, and the only thing I could do was call Norwegian and have them rebook me. Picture a girl in a cow onesie with a large blue backpack frantically bouncing around the airport doing all this, because that’s what was happening.

I went back to the kiosks and called Norwegian again, and decided to wait in line while I did so, just in case they would rebook me now that I had officially missed my flight. I got to the front of the line before Norwegian picked up, and they were vaguely apologetic but said that only the people over the phone could help me.

About five minutes later, after being on hold for 34 minutes, Norwegian picked up but said that because it was more than 30 minutes after my scheduled flight takeoff time, they couldn’t rebook or refund me and I had to buy a whole new flight. 

So, instead of cleverly creating my own layover and saving myself money and travel time, I was now missing two flights.

My friend Elena happened to text me right then to wish me a safe flight, and I told her what happened, so she came and picked me up, took me to her house and calmed me down while simultaneously feeding me a burrito. 

After calling Norwegian to try to get a partial refund since they put me on hold for so long, they reluctantly refunded me a whopping €23. Woo-hoo.

I ended up having a buy a whole new flight for the next day, June 1, which was not cheap, but it did have a sixteen hour layover in Barcelona. If you’ve been reading this for awhile, you know Barcelona is my favorite city. I couldn’t sleep on the way there, since I was sandwiched between two dudes who were fully utilizing both their leg space and communal arm rests. 

After a brief visit to BCN, a quick wave to some of my old stomping grounds and refueling with some ice cream and sangria, I headed to the Barcelona airport in the wee hours of the morning to finally get on a damn plane to Croatia. I hadn’t slept in 35 hours and hadn’t showered in about 39, but at 8:30 a.m. on June 3, I made it!


I’ve now spent a week running around Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro and having a great time. Well, I mean, it’s me, so I have a mysterious rash on both knees and have somehow managed to lose my hairbrush and break my phone charger, but I’m still having a great time. I’ll tell y’all about it shortly. Watch this space.

Moral of the story: plan to get to the airport five hours ahead of time for international flights, because you never know, and get you a friend like Elena who will pick you up and feed you a burrito in stressful situations.


#MOOYORK: Udderly Affordable Things to Do In New York City

It’s no secret that New York City is hands-down one of the priciest cities in the U.S. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t visit on a budget. Here’s six fun and FREE things you can do in New York, illustrated by pictures of me traipsing around the city in a cow onesie last week, because it was cold as hell and it’s the warmest thing I own. And it makes for some pretty amoosing photo ops.

(Amoosing = amusing. Get it? Yeah, if you don’t like puns, reading this might be hard for you.)

As always, unless otherwise stated, all pictures are my own.

1. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

The icow-nic Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River, connects Brooklyn to Manhattan, and looks like this.

You can start at either the Brooklyn side or the Manhattan side. Walking the entire thing takes about an hour. Expect it to be full of other tourists, and be mindful of the bike lane. A lot of non-tourists bike across the bridge to get home or to work, and there are constantly people wandering into the bike line to take selfies, which could easily end dangerously for everyone involved.

 

2. Walk the High Line

The High Line is actually dope. It’s a public park built on a train track that’s no longer in use. It starts at Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, and goes to West 34th Street. It takes about half an hour to walk, and is lined with art projects, dope views, and lots of photo ops. It opens at 7 a.m. each day, and closes between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., depending on the season. Check their website for schedule information.

3. Take the Staten Island Ferry

Tired of walking and want a different way to mooove? Okay, that was bad. Sorry, I’m just really trying to milk this for all its worth.

The Staten Island Ferry leaves from Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan every half an hour between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Trips to Staten Island take roughly 25 minutes each way (so that’s roughly 50 minutes total).

From the ferry, you can see a decent view of the Statue of Liberty herself. Going at sunset is highly re-cow-mended.

Once the ferry stops at Staten Island, you are expected to get off and wait in the terminal for the next ferry to take you back to Manhattan. Don’t do like me and use the bathroom on the ferry right when it stops and then leave and wonder where everyone went.

4. Get lost in Central Park

Central Park is HUGE. Go. Run around. Use this map.

Two icownic spots to find:

  • Strawberry Fields – 2.5 acres of Central Park are dedicated to John Lennon! How cool is that! They’re referred to as “Strawberry Fields” and are marked by a giant “IMAGINE” mosaic. From the Mosaic, you can also see the apartment building he lived in. If you don’t know who John Lennon is, then I must kindly ask you to stop reading and spend the next 5-10 minutes of your life educating yourself via the wonderful world of the Internet.
  •  The Alice in Wonderland statue – This trippy bronze statue depicts Alice and pals kickin’ it on a mushroom, and can make for a cool picture, although I advise against trying to slide yourself up onto the aforementioned mushroom when you’re very sick with the flu because it might be a confusing ordeal to get back down. Tried and true.

5. Check out Times Square

Hold onto your stuff, be prepared to get run into, and brave the technicolor wonderland that is Times Square. It’s surrounded by shops, which aren’t free, and dudes hawking temptingly cheap tickets to Broadway shows, which is not free and also probably absolutely a scam. Trust. Been there.

But what is free is to stand in the midst of it, take in all the lights, and snap a few pictures.

6. Go look at the Flatiron Building

The Flatiron building looks like…well…a flat building. At 22 stories, it’s a New York landmark, and also currently houses several prominent publishing companies.

The Flatiron building is also a six-minute walk from the Museum of Sex, which is not on this list, since it costs $20 for entry, but it allowed for some hilarious Cow-dak moments, such as the following.

Did I forget your favorite free NYC activity? Lemme know in the comments! And remember, happy cows come from California. Cowlifornia? I’m really done now, I swear.

P.S. If you’ve ever wondered where I got my onesie, you can get your very own here and traipse around Moo York in style. Well, and extreme comfort.


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

From the same cow onesie-clad traveler who brought you “7 Travel Mistakes I Made – And How You Can Avoid Them,” I present to you…7 more travel mistakes I made! Wait another 6-8 months and maybe we’ll have a third edition! Yippee!

So, without further ado, here’s some things while traveling I did that you should try to avoid doing. Enjoy!

1. Waiting to book transportation between countries until the day of

Just like booking a one-way flight with no return date is a romantic idea that can easily get squashed by airport officials, floating around the globe and seeing where the wind takes you is a romantic idea that can easily get squashed by your wallet. Well, my wallet, at least.

My friend Katie and I had three weeks to travel through Europe together, starting June 8. The cheapest flight out of California was to London, and we wanted to end our trip in Barcelona for the Festival of Sant Joan, i.e. the best day ever. Fireworks and dancing on the beach all night? Yes please.

In between London and Barcelona, she wanted to visit the South of France, and I wanted to visit Budapest. When we initially talked about places we wanted to go, in late February, I saw that Milan, Italy was kinda sorta in the middle of Budapest and France, and that a Megabus from Milan to Nice was €7. What we should have done was buy bus fare as soon as we saw it, because €7 is cheap as hell. But, we didn’t buy it until we were in Milan and hoping to leave the next day, and it was around €40.

Affordable ticket-booking website GoEuro doesn’t always accept American credit cards, so although it’s usually the cheapest site to buy bus tickets on, if you have an American credit card, you have to go to the station day of and hope there’s still tickets left.

SO! Cheaper tickets and ensuring you have a seat. That’s two good reasons to buy bus tickets ahead of time if you only have a limited amount of time.

If you do have a one-way ticket and no set time that you have to be back home, then by all means, follow the wind.

2. Not booking accommodation ahead of time – especially in peak season

You know how you’d love to party it up in New Orleans on Mardi Gras, get down at a pool party in Las Vegas in the summertime, or relax on a beach along the French Riviera when it’s nice and hot out? Yeah, so would literally everyone else in the entire world. Therefore, these and other beach, pool, and party-centric vacation destinations become much more crowded during the warm months or during a special occasion (such as Mardi Gras).

That means that flights will be more expensive and hotels/hostels/Air Bnbs will fill up fast, and the rooms that are available will go way up in price.

With its warm weather and booming nightclub scene, including some nightclubs right on the beach, Barcelona gets crazy busy in the summer. Having lived there during the summer of 2016, I knew this, and stupidly thought late May was far enough in advance to book accommodation for the end of June. Nope.

By the time Katie and I finally looked at accommodation, every hostel that was remotely near the city center was €40 at cheapest, and I love hostels dearly, but a hostel bed should never cost anywhere near €40.

We ended up staying at this janky hotel with bunk beds 45 minutes away from the center. Sharing our room with us was eight large Russian men who sat in circles on the floor, chain smoked cigarettes at 9 a.m. and would stop talking and stare at us whenever we left to go to the bathroom. Which is like, not ideal.

So, don’t do like me – if you’re going somewhere that’s bound to be poppin’ when you’ll be there, do yourself a favor and start figuring out where you’re sleeping 2-3 months ahead of time.

3. Thinking “it will be warm, it’s summer” and not packing a proper jacket

…and finding yourself in a torrential downpour on Grafton Street the minute you arrive in Dublin with nothing but a light hoodie to protect you.

I’ve made the “oh, I won’t need a jacket” mistake countless times, but I refuse to become one of those tourists who ends up having to buy a €30 “I Got Lucky in Ireland” sweatshirt, so until I finally learn, I’ll just travel cold.

Be prepared! Check the weather forecast for your destination before you go.

4. Not paying attention to where you’re going

It can be really easy to get lost in a foreign country, especially if you don’t know the language. That’s why maps come in handy, but my directional sense is abysmal, and it’s much easier for me to just punch in where I’m going to Google Maps and then follow the little blue dot. Yeah, yeah, so millennial, I know.

However, Google Maps only works over WiFi. But, if you look up where you’re going on Google Maps while you’re in a WiFi zone and leave the Maps app open when you leave, the little blue dot will still tell you where you are, even without WiFi! Yes, I know I talked about this before, but important travel hacks bear repeating.

You can also download an area on Google Maps prior to your trip so that you can navigate without WiFi.

To do this, you’ll need a Gmail account. Go into your Maps app on your phone, click the three little horizontal lines in the top left hand corner, sign in with your Gmail, click “offline areas,” then click “download offline area” and type in the name of the city you’ll be needing navigation in. BOOM.

I also use the app MAPS.ME, which functions entirely offline. However, if you’re not going somewhere super popular, the app might have a hard time finding it unless you pre-load the address into the app before you leave the house. So like, if you wanted to find the nearest Starbucks on a whim, you could easily punch that into the app and figure it out, but if you were supposed to meet your friend at Elegant Emily’s Family-Owned Teahouse, that’s probably something you needed to pre-load directions for before you left.

5. Treating your international SIM card like a normal SIM card

When I’m in another country, I normally either just use WiFi when I happen to find it or purchase a little janky SIM card and stop at shops to load it with more credit as needed. However, this time, because I knew there would be a lot of people I would be wanting to meet up with and because it’s a pain in the ass having to find open WiFi networks all the time just so you can use your GPS, I decided to purchase a legit international SIM card and use that.

However, I was stupid, and was treating it like it was my normal SIM card in America. When I first arrived in London, I was browsing Facebook and Snapchatting a bunch of people when I wasn’t in a WiFi Zone. I think I even posted an Instagram picture once, complete with a zillion hashtags and tags, which takes forever and eats up a lot of data.

The SIM card I had automatically refills itself when you dip under $10, which is a handy feature because it won’t ever leave you stranded if you’re unable to top it up, but it also won’t let you refill it anymore after you’ve put a certain slightly large amount of money on it, which I hit in under a week, and then I couldn’t use it at all for the next three countries I was in. Whoops.

When I arrived in Barcelona, I bought an aforementioned janky SIM card at one of the little shops for a total of €10, and it lasted me the entire 10 days I was there, plus continued to work when I was back in the U.S. Go figure.

 6. Not leaving enough time to catch your flight

There’s a million little things you have to account for when catching a flight. Maybe the security line is moving extra slow that day. Maybe you couldn’t print your boarding pass beforehand and you have to get it at the airport and all of the machines are broken except for one. YOU NEVER KNOW.

So, because of all these potential factors, especially if it’s an international flight, I’d recommend getting to the airport like obscenely early.

I’ve been to London twice, once on this trip with Katie and once in 2015. When I went in 2015, my friends and I flew out of Stansted Airport, and nearly missed our flight because we got there only an hour because our flight was supposed to depart, the airport was packed, the lines were long, and the people at security were taking every single passenger’s luggage and thoroughly searching it. The only reason we didn’t miss our flight is it left half an hour later than it was supposed to.

Now, since this was my only experience at Stansted, you’d think I would have thought to leave for the airport at least four hours prior to my flight just to be safe. Welp, I did not, we got there about an hour before our flight was set to leave, it was packed again, the security line was long again, they took forever to go through everyone’s bags again. While waiting to go through security and seeing the literal hundreds of people in front of us, 30 minutes before boarding time, Katie and I were so convinced we were going to miss our flight to Budapest that we started looking at other countries near Hungary we could fly to on the cheap. Spoiler: there were none.

After finally going through security, we ran through the airport in our socks, clutching our shoes and jackets to our chests. And guess what? Our flight was half an hour delayed again, and we made it just in time. Yeee!

When we were leaving Budapest five days later, we checked out of our hostel at 8 a.m. when we had a 12:30 flight, just in case something happened. Which it did. Which brings me to…

7. Not being prepared for/missing transportation

Once when I was in Barcelona, I was supposed to take a 7-hour train ride to Northern Spain at 5 a.m. So, naturally, I hadn’t yet packed at 3 a.m., and was still planning on sneaking in a nap before my train. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, and I had to take a train the next day.

That’s surprisingly the only transportation I’ve ever missed.

It’s a good idea to pack the night before you travel.

But here’s the thing, even when you do that and leave super early, stuff just happens sometimes, and you gotta prepare for it.

When we left Budapest four hours before our flight, we got the wrong ticket for the airport train, but when the conductor came by to check our tickets, he decided our incorrect tickets were okay, probably just because of our massive language barrier. Then, we missed our stop because we weren’t following our blue map dots or paying attention to signs. We got off the train and had to hop a fence with all of our luggage to buy the correct train ticket, since there was nowhere in the waiting area to buy a ticket, because passengers couldn’t get in without a ticket. Of course, we had tickets, but they were the wrong ones.

Then, we had to wait 45 minutes for the train in the correct direction. Once it finally came and took us to the airport, it was the wrong airport. We had to take a bus, the 200E, in order to get to the correct airport. Our Google Maps couldn’t save us there – the only reason we knew that is after walking around a desolated airport for half an hour which appeared to only be for military aircraft carriers, some dude appeared out of nowhere and told us what to do.

So, if we had only left an hour or two before our flight, we wold have been screwed. But because we left four entire hours ahead of time, we were cool.

Lemme know your travel mistakes in the comments. I wanna hear em!


20 Reggaeton Songs That Are Better Than Despacito

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 watch/listen to the song that’s already permeated every club, bar, restaurant, and even the occasional grocery store within a 6,000 mile radius.

I’ve been all over the place this summer. Whether 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 grind-inducing genres out there. If you’re not exactly sure what reggaeton is, keep reading. I’m about to name-drop a bunch of tunes that are going to have you low key twerking 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 what you think it is).

Given my Reggaeton Résumé, I am (albeit irrationally) a little pissed off that of all the great reggaeton songs out there, the one song that 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. This means that no, Pitbull is not a reggaeton artist.

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. 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 Daddy Yankee, 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 so many good ones. 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 to each pursue their own solo careers, and Yandel put out one of my current favorite jams, Nunca Me Olvides, in 2015.

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 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

This is a straight up reggaeton classic. 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 Puerto Rican rap 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 the beat will have you strutting to the damn grocery store like you’re walking on a catwalk. Oh, that’s 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 the Panamanian musical group La Factoría. Eddy Lover sing-begs La Factoría to forgive him for whatever he did (he doesn’t make it super clear), and La Factoría 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.” They repeat the end of enamores (pronounced mor-ay) so it’s like they’re saying “more,” making the line, “so take that to make you fall in love more.” But, the word for “more” in Spanish is obviously 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 in public and not sing “quítate la ropa encima de mi” out loud, which has elicited very startled glances from other people walking down the street.

This isn’t Farruko’s most popular 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’ clothing whilst on top of people.

18. Borro Cassette – Maluma

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_0jgWjcmfk

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. 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 it 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 almost 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!


A California Kid’s Guide to Getting Buzzed in Boston on a Budget

Boston, Massachusetts isn’t exactly party central. But, like pretty much any city, you can find fun and cheap nightlife/other drinking opportunities if you know where to look. Except for maybe like, Dubuque, Iowa, but then again, I haven’t been there, so I wouldn’t know.

I recently flew from my California hometown to Boston to meet up with a friend who was visiting from out of the country, and she wanted to drink, but we quickly realized that Boston wasn’t as nightlife-focused as the other cities we’ve been in together. (Madrid, Valencia, London….)

Grocery stores in Boston do sell 6-packs of PBR tall boys for $5.70, though, so that’s pretty cool.

But, I discovered a few things when I was there, so if you’re in Boston and want to go out, without spending a lot of money, I gotchu.

Firstly, the number one thing you need to know about drinking in Boston is happy hours are illegal, so don’t traipse into a Massachusetts bar at 5 p.m. and expect to get a discounted gin and tonic.

What you can do, though, is:

1. Get $1 pints of Bud Light at Coogan’s – essentially whenever you want 

Located within walking distance of the Boston Harbor, Coogan’s has $1 Bud Lights literally all of the time during open hours. On weekend nights they charge a $10 cover to enter the bar, but I was there at roughly 5 p.m. on a Friday and there was no cover and dolla Buds a-plenty. It gets super crowded, so sit right at the bar and have your ones ready.

Also, just so you’re not surprised, they will ask for your credit card when you show them your ID to verify that it’s you, so bring both your card and your ID.

Speaking of IDs, while we’re at it. Anyone else like me and doesn’t drive? I’ve been carrying my California-issued ID card with me since I turned 21 (i.e. a long time ago), and haven’t run into any trouble, but this doesn’t fly in Boston.

The bouncer at Hong Kong (not officially on this list because it has a cover, but the cover was $5, and there’s karaoke, and dudes selling chicken chunks on a stick for $1, so if you’re into that kind of thing, check it out) told me that bars in Massachusetts can’t legally let patrons in with an out-of-state ID unless it’s a driver’s license. This isn’t a problem for you real adults who have a driver’s license, but if you are like me, bring your passport out with you to make sure you can still get in to bars. (I weirdly had mine with me, so I was good to go.)

2. Catch a dope (free) view from a rooftop bar

Apparently, rooftop bars are a huge thing in Boston, but most them come with a cover charge. Lookout Rooftop at the Envoy Hotel, on the other hand, is 100 percent free to enter. You don’t need to be on a list or anything, just show up. I went on a Thursday night and it was poppin’. Plus, there was a great view.

Drinks are a little pricey, but no more so than your standard nice bar ($14 for a cocktail and $7 for a beer).

I also heard good things about Yotel, which apparently also does not have a cover.

Rooftop chillin

 

3. Drink free beer at Samuel Adams Brewery

You read that right! Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday – Thursday and also Saturdays, the Samuel Adams Brewery gives free one-hour tours every 40 minutes. On Fridays, the last tour is at 5:30. They’re closed Sundays.

Your guide will walk you through all the different ingredients of a Sam Adams beer, and let you smell/taste each one. Then you literally all sit around in a room for half an hour and sample various types of beer from different pitchers while your guide tells you about each kind. For free. I mean, there’s a suggested $2 donation, but essentially, free. Or very very cheap. You also get to keep your glass.

Free Sam Adams beer for 3

When the tour is over, if you’re not done drinking, walk out the gift shop side door and wait for the free “party trolley” that comes every 10 minutes. The driver is super hilarious, has party lights going, plays karaoke classics such as “Sweet Caroline,” and encouraged dancing and singing on the five-minute drive to Doyle’s, an Irish bar. It has some kind of deal with the brewery that if you buy a Sam Adams beer (roughly $6) they give you a super nice Sam Adams glass that you get to keep. (Fo fwee).

So! There ya have it. Any cheap Boston drinking options I missed? Lemme know in the comments!


My Week in Budapest Was A Huge Mess – 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 misadventures 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. 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 way down to the end in order to buy tickets, which was roughly half a mile. 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, but it would be very easy to.

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

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 tubs, hot tubs, 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 costs a little less than 11,000 HUF, but if you buy it when you get there, 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 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 either of us 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, because you’ll probably be either in the pool or at the bar and not trying to lay out and dry off. During the day, however, 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.

For whatever reason, the locker situation during the day works differently than at night, and it 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 out the ticket that corresponded with that.

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 confused circles and triple-checked the map.

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 clearly lost 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 super early for 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.

Six Online Resources to Help You Make (And Save) A Little Money for Traveling

I’m part of roughly one billion (read: 12) travel-related Facebook groups, and at least once a week someone posts something to the effect of “what do you guys do to make money for traveling??? I’m super broke and could use some extra cash!!!”

(Side note, the other type of post I see once a week in these groups is essentially the exact opposite:”help!! My husband and I have only $6K to spend on a honeymoon, he wants Tahiti and I want the Bahamas, and we just don’t know which one to take!!!!”

I’d just like to say, if this sounds like you, then your life must be filled with much strife and hardship, and I just don’t know how you cope with every new day, you brave, brave soul.)

But if you’re a normal person, and you’re looking for creative ways to make extra money instead of worrying about how you’re going to spend it, then this post is for you.

Because of the Internet, we now have a million resources available to us, which includes a million platforms on which to pick up a little extra work and a million platforms to help us save money on flights, hotels, etc.

However, since there are probably literally a million resources, some are more legit than others. Like, getting paid to create a PowerPoint presentation on Fiverr? Super legit. Doing a (clothed) photo shoot with a Craigslist photographer in which you get paid in drinks as well as cash? Maybe not so legit. But it made for a good story. Ask me about it if you see me.

Some of the photos came out OK though. Don’t try this at home, kids.

Below is a list of Internet resources that are 100 percent legit, and I know, because I’ve used them all.

Every app listed is available for both Android and iPhone.

1. Sell your skills on Fiverr

Are you an aspiring graphic designer? Maybe you’re a songwriter. Or maybe you can translate something from English to German in record time. Maybe you’re just really, really good at drawing trees.

No matter what skill you have, there’s someone on Fiverr.com who wants to pay you to do it.

Basically, decide which skill you want to market, and create a gig on the site. “I will draw you a very accurate portrait of a sycamore,” for example.

As the name suggests, lots of gigs on the site are sold for $5, but you can sell your gigs for $10 or even $60 if it’s a larger project that merits that. Browse the site first to see if anyone is already doing what you want to do, how much they’re doing it for and how qualified they are.

Keep in mind that Fiverr takes $1 for every $5, so if your gig is $5, you’ll make $4, if it’s $50, you’ll make $40, etc.

I’ve been Fiverr-ing for several months now and it’s decent side cash and super fun. Wanna give it a shot? Sign up for Fiverr here.

2. Get money back from the stuff you buy online with Earny

If you shop online a lot, you’ve probably heard of price protection.

(It’s cool if you haven’t, keep reading!)

Let’s say you’re a bridesmaid in your cousin Julia’s wedding in September. Julia’s being a bit of a bridezilla and wants everyone to purchase one specific dress that she found online for $300. You’re reluctant, but you buy it anyway, on Website #1.

Three weeks later, you see the exact same dress on Website #2 for $250, which obviously is a way better deal.

A lot of credit card companies and online stores will give you that money back if the same item is sold in another store within a certain number of days (usually around 90), but in order for that to happen, you have to do a bunch of paperwork and then find and submit the receipts for each item to the store or credit card company, and it takes forever.

However! There’s an app called Earny that will automatically give you money back when the price drops on something you bought online. No paperwork required.

After you set it up with your CitiBank or Chase credit card info, it then tracks all of your online purchases. If something you bought drops in price, it will automatically refund you the difference to the card you used for the purchase, without you having to do anything.

So, in the case of the bridesmaid dress for Julia’s wedding, you’d get $50 back. Except the company takes a 25 percent cut, so really it would be closer to $37.50, but that’s still $37.50 that, like, magically un-spends itself, so that’s pretty cool.

Want to start Earning? (Hehe.)

3. Let go of the past on Letgo

This is the only app on this list that sort of depends on where you are in the world, because if there aren’t a lot of people using it yet in your city or country, there will be less people to sell to and buy from. Also, as far as I can tell, Letgo only works in the U.S. and Canada.

Letgo makes it super easy for you to sell stuff you don’t want anymore, or buy stuff you need for a cheaper price than it would be if you just went to the store. You take a picture of the thing you want to sell – chair, lamp, Smashmouth CD, boots you never wear, etc. – through the app, assign it a price, post it and boom! That’s it. Super easy. The app uses GPS to display your posting to everyone else with the app in your area.

Remember to exercise a normal amount of caution re: stranger danger when meeting up with people from the Internet to sell them your stuff. If you get a weird feeling about the person who wants to buy your lamp, suggest to meet them at a nearby Starbucks with the lamp instead of them coming to your house.

4. Get cheap flight deals through TravelPirates

The folks over at TravelPirates are really good at finding “error fares,” which is basically when an airline screws up and posts a flight for way cheaper than it normally would be. If you download the app and set up their messaging service, TravelPirates will send you a Facebook message as soon as an error fare is posted. It’s also just a good resource for finding flight deals in general, error fare or not.

ExpertFlyer.com - Empowering the Frequent Flyer

5. …and then book said cheap flights on Skyscanner

Skyscanner is great because you plug in where you’re leaving from, where you wanna go to, and the dates you’re looking at going, and it quickly scours the Internet for the cheapest airlines and shows you good flight deals.

I know what you’re thinking: “Has this girl never heard of Kayak?”

Of course I have, and Kayak’s dope. I just end up using Skyscanner more because it’s the most flexible in terms of putting in a general date instead of a specific one. Most airline aggregators don’t handle “I want to go in July-ish very well, but that’s like Skyscanner’s specialty.

You can just click “cheapest month” if you know you want to go to, say, Thailand sometime next year but you don’t care when, as long as it’s cheap, and it can suggest flights for ya.

Skyscanner and Kayak also have this really cool thing called price alerts.

Say you’re going from California to Montreal in August for Julia’s wedding (her husband’s Canadian, I just decided) but you want to book the absolute cheapest flight. Go into Skyscanner and search for a flight out of whichever airport is closest to you (you can also just type in your city if the airport isn’t important. Airport-ant? Sorry too easy) and into Montreal around the weekend of the wedding. Then click “set price alert.” Whenever that price rises or falls, Skyscanner will let you know immediately via email or Facebook Messenger. If the flight suddenly drops by $40, get on it.

Skyscanner is not an airline, so once you find a flight you want, it then takes you to that airline’s site to book it.

6. Save money on accommodation with Airbnb referrals

Got a friend who hasn’t used Airbnb before? Send them your referral code. Not only will they get some money off their first stay at an Airbnb, but you’ll get some credit to use, too. Money off accommodation for everyone! It’s a win-win!

Side note, something really weird happened a few months ago when my Airbnb account got hacked and I was getting notifications send to my phone in Chinese. Then I checked and someone had used my credit card info to book a property somewhere in China. Airbnb customer service was super awesome and helped me fix it. Keep that password secure!

Speaking of, hey there, you want some money off your first Airbnb stay? Here ya go.

Yes, that’s me.

The #1 way to make extra travel money is just to be super resourceful.

A couple of months ago, I saw a Facebook post asking for outgoing people to be a mascot for something, and that’s how I ended up spending a whole weekend inside of a very hot mascot costume shaped like a blood drop, bopping around from room to room of a pharmacy convention, dancing inside my costume and posing for selfies with convention goers.

The convention’s main objective was to convince people to donate blood, as there was also a blood drive. I mean, if a dancing blood drop came up to you and told you donating blood saves lives, who wouldn’t want to donate?

Apparently, the blood drop costume’s been around and used for conventions for several years, and I’m the first girl to ever wear it, so that’s kinda cool. I’m like Amelia Earheart or Mulan. Except not really at all.

Is there a super dope money-saving app or site I missed? My bad. Tell me in the comments!


An Open Letter To Everyone Who’s Afraid to Travel Alone

Dear Individual Who’s Afraid To Travel Alone,

Hey! How are you? Your hair looks great today, has anyone told you that yet?

So! You want to travel. You’re in your final semester of high school and planning to go to college, but don’t feel mentally prepared to start yet. Or, you’re about to finish college, and you don’t quite feel ready to be a real adult with a real job. Or, you recently got out of a six-year relationship and want to be somewhere else for a while. Or, nothing dramatic happened, but you’ve simply never been out of your home country and you just want to see what else is out there.

You have an O.K. amount of money in your bank account and an idea of where you want to go, but you don’t know anyone with whom you can imagine traveling, so obviously, that’s not happening, because you clearly can’t go alone. Right?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

And no, this isn’t going to be one of those “if you can dream it you can do it” blog posts, don’t worry. I’m aware that the Internet is filled with cute little Pinterest pictures of supermodel-looking girls sitting on a mountain at that place in Turkey with all the hot air balloons–if you’ve spent any time on Instagram, you know what I’m talking about–or gazing out on some landscape involving a waterfall accompanied by big, bold text about how to travel alone is to know yourself or how the world is your oyster or something to that effect.

Most of your “traveling alone” selfies will look like this–backpack, sweat, no makeup. But yo, the park behind me is pretty. (Parque El Retiro, Madrid, June 2016)

Most of what I’ve read online about traveling alone (especially for women, but this post is for everyone) either says that:

a) you’ll have the most amazing time and amazing Instagram pictures to go along with it

OR

b) it’s super dangerous and scary and you’ll be alone and sad and scared.

I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s both. You’ll most likely have an amazing time, and you’ll also most likely be sad and scared sometimes. The thing is, traveling alone is like everything else in life. Nothing else is either this thing or that thing, so why would this be an exception?

Even though you’ll have scary and sad and maybe even dangerous moments, what I want to make sure you take away from this is that, at least for me, it was 100 percent worth it.

Before you decide if it’s worth it for you or not, because everyone’s different, let’s rewind back six years for a second so I can tell you my story.

The year is 2011, I’m four months into 19 years old, and eight months past finishing an exhausting, intensive four years of high school, during which I struggled to pass every math- or science-related class I took, drowned daily in a pile of homework, barely slept, and almost never raised my hand. I had plenty of friends, and had no trouble making new ones one-on-one or in small groups, but public speaking was the scariest thing in the world to me. I was too anxious to even show up to a friend’s birthday party by myself.

I had known since the beginning of my last year of high school that I needed a break before starting college, so I applied to a bunch of colleges with the plan to defer for a year once I got accepted, but I didn’t really have a plan for what I wanted to do with my extra year.

I ended up staying home in Santa Cruz, California to work two jobs while all my friends went to colleges all over the country. I really wanted to go somewhere to get better at my Spanish–I had taken it in school for the better part of 13 years, so I could speak pretty decent textbook Spanish (“where is the bathroom in the library? The pen of my uncle is on the green table”), but I had always wanted to be fluent.

My stepdad had gone to Guatemala years before to take Spanish classes, and said it was one of the cheapest countries to do that in, but all the programs I found online wanted you to pay an arm and a leg to only volunteer for two or three weeks. And, I was afraid to go by myself.

One night, my stepdad’s friend came over for dinner and said he knew of a volunteer program in Guatemala called Common Hope, that didn’t make you pay to volunteer and allowed you to do so for 1-6 weeks if you met certain requirements. He also said that plenty of people went there on their own to volunteer, so that once I was there, I wouldn’t be completely alone. I applied for the program, and got accepted to work in their daycare unit. I also applied for (and got accepted to) a language school, which also set me up with a host family.

So, after two more months of working in Santa Cruz, I found myself on an airplane on February 6, 2011, heading to a foreign country by myself for the first time ever. I’d been on two family vacations to Mexico when I was younger, but aside from that, I’d never left the U.S., and definitely not by myself.

Fountain at Parque Central from my first day in Antigua

I arrived at my host family’s house at nighttime and in a daze and immediately fell asleep. The next morning I woke up super early, ate breakfast with my host family, and stumbled through Spanish small talk.

Check out this excerpt I found from the blogspot.com blog I kept while I was gone to prove to my friends and family that I was alive–it perfectly sums up the minor breakdown I had while trying to unpack after breakfast that day:

after breakfast i kinda freaked out…everyone was at school or work and i had this moment like, what the hell am i doing, im all alone, im bad at reading maps and also directions, i dont have a working phone, i don’t speak fluent spanish, GOD I AM SO DUMB WHY AM I DOING THIS. but then i was like yo broski, this is what you’ve wanted to do all year. this is what they call “diving in headfirst,” and you’re here now, so put your big girl panties on and just dive. (yeah i talk to myself and yeah i call myself broski when i do it.)
so i dove!
and i got lost!
but im alive, hi.
and it was fun!

Once I pulled myself together, I spent a confusing but pleasant morning walking through the town’s cobblestone streets and stopping to look at every interesting statue, garden, or storefront.

From my blog post exactly six years ago

I’m not going to lie–my three months in Guatemala started out rough. Over the first few weeks, I dealt with getting ripped off, first while buying a phone to use while I was there and then while buying credit for my phone (multiple times), I fell ill to the point of being unable to eat or stand, and once I ended up on the wrong bus going to the wrong city with no map or phone credit.

When little emergencies happen in the comfort of your home country when your family is right there, they’re easier to deal with. When they happen to you when you’re completely on your own thousands of miles away, you have to deal with them yourself right then and there. And doing that made me way, way stronger.

After a month or so of being in Guatemala on my own, even though I had the best host family ever and a few housemates, I got pretty lonely. Everyone was doing their own thing, and I basically did the same activities every day–volunteer job, language classes–and read a lot alone in my room.

Two months in, my (incredible) Spanish teacher told me that there was another girl around my age from California at the same school who took Spanish classes in the morning (mine were in the afternoon), so one day I went to school a little early, and looked for a girl about my age.

I saw some girl reading by herself in the corner, so I walked up to her and said, “Hey! This is super random, but I’m from California, and I’m here by myself. My teacher told me there was another girl alone here from California, and that’s you, right?”

She said yes, and I asked if she wanted to hang out sometime, since we were from the same place and by ourselves, and she said okay.

24 hours later we were dancing at a club together making plans to climb Volcán Pacaya (one of the many volcanoes in Guatemala) the next morning.

The following morning, as I was ascending an active volcano with a girl I had met 48 hours earlier, she told me I had intimidated her when I first came up to her because I seemed so confident. She said she would have never just walked up to a random girl and asked if she wanted to hang out, and I realized that two months earlier, I wouldn’t have either.

Volcano climbin’

The chick who once had been afraid to go to a birthday party by herself and didn’t talk between 7th and 12th grades was now going up to people she didn’t know, asking them to hang out, and climbing volcanoes with them two days later. Whoda thunk!

The month that followed was my last one in Guatemala, and by far the best. While climbing the volcano, I met a bunch of people from all over the world, and for the next week, we all met at the same spot every night to hang out, play cards, drink wine and go to bars.

In my last two weeks in the country, I had my first experience staying in a hostel–and loved it (at Lake Atítlan), I rode horses at sunset on the most beautiful beach I’d ever been to (Monterrico), I went on a candle-lit cave tour despite the reviews I read online saying it was unsafe, and it ended up being amazing (at the Lanquin Caves), and I visited the beautiful, naturally turquoise pools of Semuc Champey–all with people I had just met.

At the Lanquin Caves – the only light we had was from the melting candles we were holding!

 

Hiking through the forests of Semuc Champey to get to the pools. It was too hot for clothes, so hiking boots and bikinis was the obvious choice.

I arrived back in California on May 5, 2011, a much, much more confident person. That confidence got me through five years of college, that confidence got me my bachelor’s degree in journalism, and that confidence got me to and from 13 more countries since then.

Since that first morning in Guatemala, arriving in a new country has always been exciting, and not scary, because I know I can do it–because I’ve done it before.

Traveling alone gave me confidence that I don’t think I could have gotten from any other experience. There’s nothing quite like showing up to a new country completely alone and having to learn how to navigate the city you’re in by yourself (especially if you’re directionally challenged like I am), getting sick, dealing with language barriers, etc. etc. etc.

Also, it’s waaay scarier thinking about traveling alone than it is once you’re there doing it.

If you wanna go, work work work, save up money for a plane ticket, put ya big girl panties on, and just dive.

Love,

Jessica

P.S. Here are some resources you can use to find people with whom to meet up and do things with once you’re there:

  1. Gapyear.com discussion board – membership to the site is free
  2. Tourlina – If you identify as a woman, this app helps you find other female travel companions (and no, I don’t work for them, I just think it’s a great idea)
  3. Backpackr – This app helps anyone find travel buddies of any gender

TL;DR: Traveling alone can be scary but also so worth it. 

Semuc Champey

Women Writers to Watch in 2017

Everyone and their mother has a travel blog these days, or at least an Instagram account packed with envy-inducing travel photos a-plenty.

With all the travel bloggers/influencers out there, it might be hard to pick which ones to keep up with and which ones to ignore.

Here are some of my favorite female travel bloggers and their online presences that are definitely worth checking out.

From www.blondeseashell.com

1. Nadine Rohner

Originally from Switzerland and now living and writing in Bali, Indonesia, Nadine Rohner covers all things Bali on her blog, Blonde Seashell: where to stay, where to eat, and everything else you might want to know about one of the most-Instagrammed tropical paradises.

Originally, Nadine said, her blog was just a way to keep in touch with her friends while she traveled, and was more about her personal traveling experiences instead of full of travel advice, as it is now.

Nadine said that several months ago, she decided to think of her blog as more of a business instead.

“I started writing about what to do and see instead of only writing about my personal daily life,” Nadine said.

Talk about an an envy-inducing IG account–Nadine’s Instagram is full of palm trees, tropical beaches, and the occasional pineapple that make you want to book a plane ticket to Bali ASAP.

Nadine said the #1 place she would love to travel to is the Maldives, the luxurious chain of tropical islands in the Indian Ocean.


Studio Classes without Studio Prices at 24 Hour Fitness!

2. Michelle Rick

Speaking of Bali, I featured Michelle on my blog in October when I posted her “Basic Bitch’s Guide to Bali.”

Michelle is currently based in California. On traveling, Michelle says, “The hardest part is going. You never really know what to expect, but that’s part of the fun!”

Michelle’s website also features a blog, full of advice regarding books, films, travel, and life in general.

“There are so many times I was nervous to board a plane to a place I’d never been, but it always turned out great,” Michelle said. “Not perfect, since there’s no such thing in travel, but great.”

High up on Michelle’s travel bucket list is Dublin, Ireland.

“When in doubt, just book the ticket and let life do the rest,” she says.

You can follow Michelle on Instagram here.

From travelhippies.in

3. Purvi Kamaliya

A self-described “travel addict,” Mumbai-based teacher Purvi writes her blog, Travel Hippies, to be more like a collection of stories than a blog. Most of her posts are to help readers plan trips to and around India. Reading her blog is like you’re talking to a friend who just got back from a trip.

“Traveling…is an adventure where you get out of your comfort zone,” she says.

Purvi would love to explore Croatia to see its “beautiful and secluded beaches, museums and cathedrals.”

Check out Purvi’s colorful Instagram here.

From www.memoriesabroad.wordpress.com

4. Lizzy and Eloise

Lizzy and Eloise are too mysterious to have last names. Like Madonna. Or Cher.

Or, they just didn’t tell me and don’t have them listed on their blog or IG, take your pick.

From Germany (Lizzy) and Australia (Eloise), Lizzy and Eloise decided to start their travel blog, “Memories Abroad,” when they were working as au pairs together in the U.S.

“We bonded over how much more we felt at home (in the U.S.) rather than in our home countries, so we decided to share this with others, along with our travel experiences,” Eloise said.

Eloise’s dream destination is Greece.

“As a child, I would always talk to my Nan about going to see the blue water and white buildings, and we plan to go together someday,” she said.
Lizzy said she wants to visit Australia so she can “make my childhood dream of walking up the stairs of the Sydney Opera House come true.”

Give ’em a follow on the ‘Gram.

Know any badass babe bloggers I missed? Lemme know in the comments!