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!

How Not to Suck as an American Tourist 101

If you’ve talked to me for longer than ten minutes, you know that I’m about as patriotic as a potato. (Read: not patriotic at all.)

Whenever anyone asks me where I’m from, I always say “California” instead of America. I even went as far to lie on my Couchsurfing.com account that I’m from Montreal (which only led to my host in Venice, Italy trying to speak to me in French).

Aside from all the obvious reasons that I’m not a huge fan of my own country (NSA get at me), the main reason I’m not quick to announce I’m American when I’m traveling is simply because, generally speaking, American tourists suck.

We’re loud, we’re entitled, we get too drunk in public too early in the day, we assume everyone speaks English, we act like the rest of the world is our personal maid and exists only to pick up all of our red Solo cups and cigarette butts.

Clearly, not every American tourist is like this. I’ve met plenty of lovely Americans while out here in Spain, don’t  get me wrong, but I’ve also met a lot of people who remind me exactly why I’m still saying “California” and not tying an American flag to my luggage.

Without further ado, here are some ways to not suck as an American tourist when repping our country while abroad (based on things I’ve noticed my fellow American tourists doing).

1. Learn the language.

I’ve talked about this before, but when you’re traveling, it’s just straight-up a good idea to know at least a few key phrases in the language of whatever country you’re in, if not out of respect then just to make your own life easier. (Pretty hard to find out how much something costs if you don’t know how to ask).

I’ve witnessed a lot of American tourists walking up to restaurant workers and street vendors in various countries and just rattling off English phrases like there’s no tomorrow. If you were walking around in Florida and someone came up to you and started talking to you in Cantonese, you’d be like what the hell, right? Same deal. I definitely don’t speak Cantonese and the whole world definitely does not speak English. I’m not saying learn a whole new dialect, but at least make the effort. People will appreciate it.

2. Pack your trash.

I know I knocked red Solo cups earlier, but I enjoy a mixed drink in a plastic cup as much as the next guy. I also try to throw my garbage in the trash can a little more than the next guy. If you make a mess, clean it up. Boom.

3. Maintain a sense of cultural sensitivity.

You know what Americans love aside from guns, beer, and chanting “USA” at inappropriate times? Why, cultural appropriation, of course! Learn something about the country before you go, brush up on recent news events (not as much work as it sounds. Just be aware if there is a financial crisis or recent other traumatic event). Which brings us to…

4. Read the room.

One of my most cringe-worthy moments while traveling was when I was on a tour with a bunch of other Americans in Costa Rica and one older woman was trying to get a dude selling bracelets on the street to sell it for twice as less when the original price wasn’t even worth one American dollar. This dude probably got all his money from selling beaded bracelets to rich older white ladies. (Which she was). I’m not saying you gotta break the bank on bracelets, but exercise some sensitivity.

TL;DR: Be respectful while traveling. Make our country look good out there, folks. Someone has to.

Sandals Sweepstakes

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

Why Friendships Abroad are Different than Friendships at Home

In August 2010, most of my friends left my small hometown of Santa Cruz, California to go off to college in various other parts of the country. I was taking a gap year, so I stayed in Santa Cruz for six months working at a daycare before I moved to Antigua, Guatemala to volunteer.

When everyone left, I was a wreck. I had grown up with these kids, they had made Santa Cruz what it was for me, and now they were all leaving.

At the same time, while I knew I would only be seeing them a few times a year instead of every day, I still knew I would see them again, since our families were all still living in Santa Cruz and people would be back for Thanksgiving or Christmas or summer or what have you.

As I learned in May 2011, when I was leaving Guatemala after being there for three months, the friends you make while you’re abroad are different. Because everyone has different lives and plans and schedules, there’s a good chance that the people you meet while traveling you’re never actually going to see again, and I think it’s for that reason that traveling friendships often happen so fast and people get attached so easily.

This coming Saturday, I will have been in Barcelona for three months. Three weeks ago, one of my best friends whom I met over here announced he was going home to the UK a few weeks earlier than he had initially planned. On his last night, we grabbed drinks with some other people and went to a club. Suddenly around 3 a.m. he wrapped me in a hug and said he was leaving to pack for his early flight.

I’m horrible at goodbyes, so I hugged him back and then instantly fled to the bathroom, where I broke down and cried. I’m not a break-down-and-cry type of person, so my assessment of the situation was that it was about 40 percent because he was leaving, 30 percent because alcohol makes people do weird shit sometimes, and the other 30 percent because one of my best friends leaving was a rude reminder that even though I’ve met lots of people I care about since moving to Spain, we’re all out here doing our own thing, and I’m still traveling alone.

People come and go, so possibly sooner than I realize, I’m going to be on my own again, trying to convince airport security in a foreign country to let me board a plane without a return ticket and doing my best not to end up in the wrong city on accident.

How fitting is it that this is written on the wall opposite the hammock I was in while writing this?? Talk about a coincidence.

Here’s where it comes full circle: at the time of writing, I’m laying in a hammock at Mimhostel in Oporto, Portugal–the trip I had to take so I could go from Panama to Spain. I bought a flexible ticket, so I was able to change the date, and my friend–one of the friends I had been the most sad to say goodbye to in August 2011, as chance would have it–happened to be in Barcelona last week, so we came to Oporto together.

Because of how the timing worked out, when we fly back into Barcelona tonight, most of the friends I’ve made in Spain will either be gone or will be leaving tomorrow. Therefore I’ve been a huge bitch almost the entire time we’ve been in Portugal–50 percent because my friends are leaving, and 50 percent because very soon, I’ll be alone on a different continent with no actual plan for what the hell I’m doing. And it’s way easier to be a bitch than to admit that you’re scared.

(Sorry, Chris.)

A couple of days ago, my friend from Dublin who I met in Barcelona said goodbye to one of his other friends, and he was bummed, but said that the thing about meeting other travelers when you’re traveling is that there is a chance you’ll both end up in the same city again. Even in my current cynical/fear-avoidant state, it helps a little to remember that he’s right. When I was in Dublin in June 2015, I grabbed a couple of beers with someone I met when I climbed Volcán Pacaya in Guatemala in 2011, and I never had any reason to think I would see him again. Hey, look at that, more full circle.

TL;DR: People come and go, but the world is small, and goodbye doesn’t always mean goodbye.


BestofVegas. Best Shows. Best Hotels. Best Prices.

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.

wp-image-216146063jpg.jpeg

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.

Why I Ditched My Own College Graduation

I have always been a huge proponent of taking chances. For one, it makes for way better stories. I’m not talking like Steve-O level stuff, but more like, taking a year off after high school and moving to Guatemala (check), singing karaoke at a bar in Costa Rica when you’re the only non-native Spanish speaker there (check), or staying out all night before your early morning flight and just sleeping on the plane (check times a billion).

The latest chance I took is that I skipped my own college graduation yesterday and wore my cap and tassel on a beach in Colombia instead.

Five months ago, my best friend since I was born (literally) invited me to meet her in Cartagena, Colombia over Memorial Day Weekend. I live in California and she lives in New York, so I see her for 24 hours out of the year if I’m lucky. I said I would go and started saving up, and two months ago when I went to buy the ticket, I realized that those dates coincided with graduation weekend.

I spent the better part of three weeks debating about what to do, and you already know what I decided. I only regretted it for a few minutes when I saw my graduating friends’ Snapchats of them all together at graduation, and I had a serious case of FOMO…for five minutes, and then I remembered I had been floating around in the Caribbean with my best friend I never get to see instead of standing in a hot, crowded stadium for six hours, and I felt better.

Last summer, I backpacked around Europe with a friend and fell head over heels in love with Barcelona, Spain. Ever since I left eleven months ago, I’ve been saying I wanted to live there and have a post-college non-office job for a few months before I decided to Adult. After buying my Cartagena ticket with no real plan, I decided just to go for it.

Next week, I’m traveling to Madrid, Spain by myself for four days before moving to Barcelona.

I have no idea how long I’ll end up doing that for or what I’m doing after, and about once a day, I have a momentary freak out about traveling alone, running out of money, etc. etc. etc. But this is what I’m doing, and obviously, I’m pretty excited about it.

Do it for the story, yo.

Lurk the IG if you want to see what I’m up to.

 

Traveling as a Vegetarian Isn’t as Much of a Pain in the Ass as You’d Think

You know the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the main character was explaining that her fiancé is a vegetarian and therefore doesn’t eat meat and her aunt was like “don’t eat no meat?!…it’s okay, it’s okay, I make lamb”? Well, that legitimately happened to me when I was in Greece, except it was my friend’s godmother and she said it was okay if I didn’t eat meat because there would also be oysters at dinner.

It turned out to be fine because almost every meal in Greece is accompanied by bread, French fries and salad (with a big ol’ hunk of feta cheese on top), and any one of those things are a meal in itself.

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was four years old, and I’ve been to 13 different countries (and counting). Weirdly, the only place I’ve traveled to where my vegetarianism has been an issue was Key West in Florida.

I’ve talked to a bunch of vegetarians who told me they opted to start eating meat while traveling because they thought it would be easier, which is one option, but if you’d rather try not to eat meat no matter where you are (which I’ve been able to get away with), it’s not impossible.

Check out my tips on how to do so from one veggie to another.

1. Don’t avoid a country solely because you’re worried about the vegetarian factor.

There will always be ways around it, but it helps to be willing to be flexible when necessary, in terms of eating the same thing more than once, eating a snack from a corner store instead of a full-on meal, etc. There will always be options, and it’s definitely not worth not going somewhere you want to go.

Which brings us to…

2. Be willing to be flexible when necessary.

Like I said, out of all the places I’ve been, I’ve legit only had a problem with non-veggie options in Florida, but I’m also very not picky. Well, except for the whole no meat thing, but yeah.

When I went to Israel for a week and a half, I ate a falafel wrap for almost every meal, and when I was backpacking in Europe with a friend for two months, we split way more large cheese pizzas than I’d care to admit (that’s a lie, it’s 13 and tbh I’m low-key proud of it).

Falafel is delicious and pizza is pizza, so no complaints from me.

3. Be mindful of where you are.

In my experience, a lot of people around the world are cool with vegetarianism but don’t necessarily understand it. Don’t be the type of vegetarian that gets vegetarians a bad reputation and ask for like, the carne asada taco sin carne , or something. Order a side of tortillas and a side of rice and beans and make ya own taco.

TL;DR: Don’t let your vegetarianism scare you out of traveling! Not being picky helps.

Sick Sunsets From Around The World

Who doesn’t love a little sunset porn? Nobody, that’s who. Scope these dope sunsets from around the globe. All of these are pictures I’ve taken in different places I’ve been.

Lefkada, Greece
Lefkada, Greece

 

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy

 

Berlin, Germany
Berlin, Germany

 

Staten Island, NY
Staten Island, New York, USA

 

Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

 

San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, California, USA

 

Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz, California, USA

 

Big Sur, CA
Big Sur, California, USA

 

Venice Beach, CA
Venice Beach, California, USA

 

Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica
Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica

 

Netanya, Israel
Netanya, Israel

 

EuroMyth: Common Misconceptions about “Euro Trips” and Why They’re Wrong

When I was backpacking across Western Europe (Friends references will never get old, that’s a fact), I had some experiences that negated some “advice” I had heard before I went. I’m here to debunk some “Euro myths” about your upcoming Euro trip. (See what I did there? That was funny.)

Suitcases double as excellent chairs while you're waiting for the bus in Florence, Italy (or anywhere)
Suitcases double as excellent chairs while you’re waiting for the bus in Florence, Italy (or anywhere).

1. “Hostels are dirty and full of sketchy people who will stab you in your sleep.”

I’ve said this before  and I’ll say it again: despite what a lot of people think, hostels are awesome. Everyone loves a spacious, relaxing hotel, but if you’re traveling on a budget, hostels are the way to go. Obviously, check the reviews before  you book anything–that’s what the Internet is for. I’ve stayed in my fair share of hostels, and shared a room with at least three strangers each time, and the only slightly unfavorable hostel housemate I’ve had was an older gentleman who wouldn’t stop talking about the color wheel for no reason and was super vocal while taking care of his business in the bathroom. And that’s more of a funny story than anything else.

In my experience, checking into a hostel and meeting the randos with whom you’re in a room is like being given automatic friends for the next couple of days. Most other people who I’ve met in hostels are 20- and 30-something (with the exception of the Bathroom Gentleman) and just trying to explore a new city.

Most hostels also offer some kind of meal and/or host a tour of the city, and sometimes even a pub crawl, all of which are great ways to meet the other people staying in your hostel. Also, people who work at hostels are generally super chill and laid-back.

2. “Everyone in Paris is stuck-up and won’t talk to you if you don’t speak French.”

If you’re an American living in, say, Missouri, and someone just walked up to you on the street and started speaking to you in French, and you don’t speak French, you’d be like, “what the hell,” right? It’s the same thing. If you learn a couple of important phrases in the language of every country you visit–like “hello,” “thank you,” “what time does happy hour start,” etc.–you should be good to go.

I needed to ask for directions several times while I was in Paris (and everywhere else), so I learned how to ask “do you speak English?” and also to say “I don’t speak much [language]” in the language of each country I visited. When I opened with that, people were more than happy to help me out wherever I went, and most people also knew a substantial amount of English.

Which brings us to…

3. “Nobody will speak a word of English anywhere you go.”

While this is certainly more true for some countries than for others, most people in most countries speak at least enough English to have a short conversation. Which is unfortunate, actually. It’s a little harder to have a full-fledged cultural experience if there’s still English everywhere you go, but it is what it is.

Regardless, it’s a good idea (and the respectful thing to do) to learn some words and phrases in the language of wherever you are.

4. “Pickpocketing is a huge problem and you’ll definitely get robbed.”

Pickpocketing is for sure a thing, but it can be a thing anywhere. Just like everywhere else, keep an eye on your belongings, pay attention to where you are, and don’t be an idiot. Those are solid rules for life, actually.

Picnics are the cheapest way to eat in Paris, hands down. Six euro wine is a plus.
Picnics are the cheapest way to eat in Paris, hands down. Even with wine.

5. “You have to be rich in order to be able to go.”

You don’t have to be wealthy to go to Europe, but you do have to know how/be willing to a) save up and b) budget.

5a. Saving up: This is easier said than done, but before your trip, try to start thinking things like, “Would I rather spend $7 on this burger right now or have 7 more dollars that could go towards a night at a hostel?”

(This isn’t as crazy as it sounds–yesterday I was lurking different hostel websites and saw that there’s a hostel in Thailand that costs $7.95 a night. True facts.)

Start putting some extra time into making food to bring to work and/or school instead of buying meals out, don’t buy drinks at bars (except for at happy hour occasionally), leave your friend’s party before midnight so you can take the last bus home instead of calling an Uber. Save a little now, and you’ll thank yourself later. Is that already the slogan for an insurance company or something, because if not, it should be. Any slogan-less insurance companies out there, get at me.

"A penny saved on a sandwich in Missouri is a penny that can go toward gelato in Venice," just like the old saying goes.
“A penny saved on a sandwich in Missouri is a penny that can go toward gelato in Venice,” just like the old saying goes.

5b. Budget: Although I liked the idea of bouncing from European city to European city without any actual plan, it was waaaay cheaper to book my accommodation and transportation ahead of time (and I’m glad I did). I also printed out all of the confirmation pages for all of my hotels, trains, and flights before I left, and lugged them around with me everywhere in a folder in my backpack, which was a slight pain in the ass, but still saved me a ton of trouble when I was there, since sometimes the WiFi was crappy or nonexistent and we wouldn’t be able to pull up our confirmation emails at the hostel or train station.

I budgeted around $40/day not including flights or accommodation, which ended up working out fine, especially since in some countries you will definitely spend more (cough cough drinking in Spain), and in some countries you will definitely spend less (Greece).

Once I was there, I was also super careful about picking which activities I wanted to spend more on. I literally didn’t eat a legit meal the whole 36 hours I was in London because I heard it was expensive and I wanted to save my $$ for experiences, like the London Eye. I don’t necessarily recommend only eating nuts and janky half-frozen sandwiches for a day and a half like I did, but you get my point.

TL:DR; Hostels are dope! A lot of people speak English, but it helps/is considerate to learn some phrases! Keep an eye on your stuff and you should be fine! You don’t have to be ballin’ to go to Europe, but you do need to learn how to save up and budget!