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.
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.
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.
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.
The following is the joint brain child of myself and the fabulous Michelle Rick, whom you can stalk on Instagram here. Also, check out her website here.
The perfect trip does not exist.
The perfect trip does not exist firstly because the perfect life does not exist, but also, shit happens when you catch flights – mosquito bites, missed planes, food poisoning, having to wear all your clothes to dodge Easy Jet fees. Anyone who describes their trip as “perfect” or “a dream” is BS-ing you at least a little.
Social media, of course, makes it super easy to create and maintain the image of a perfect trip–or even a perfect life. If you’re like us and follow a plethora of travel accounts on Instagram, it’s easy to idealize traveling and forget that even the girls perfectly posed in paradise with a pineapple paloma in their paw (that was fun) have the same travel troubles as we mere mortals. Like, if you went to Renaissance Island and didn’t take a picture of you pretending to feed a flamingo, did you even Aruba?
These days, social media makes sure we’re interconnected to the point where we’re seeing Fijian beach pictures from the vacation of a girl we haven’t talked to since the seventh grade.
Fast forward another 12 years, and the seventh grade acquaintance in question, let’s call her Mindy,is doing the tree pose in a rainforest somewhere, pricking her finger on the top of the Louvre pyramid, and adorning her Thai island pics with quotes Marilyn Monroe definitely didn’t say, and thanks to social media, you get to see it all.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 ways you know that your friend’s picture-perfect vacation was, for whatever reason, not perfect.
1. Excessive Facebook check-ins
Anyone have that one friend who suddenly becomes a FB check-in machine once they go somewhere new and suddenly your feed is flooded with random check-ins?
You don’t need to check in twice during your layover in Cleveland – we know. You’re sitting in an airport lounge waiting for McDonald’s to open and fighting for an outlet so you can charge your phone to provide more unnecessary updates.
2. Instagrams a lot – but doesn’t Snapchat as much
Snapchat is in the moment, so it’s harder to fabricate a dope trip that way, whereas Instagram makes it easier.
3. …Or, alternatively, only posts one photo when they’re gone for a long time
There are exceptions, but if someone posts 5 pictures a week of their cat, their friends, their new shoes, etc. when they’re home in Missouri but then suddenly posts one picture for their two weeks in Amsterdam, something doesn’t add up.
4. Flowery quotes about how amazing and life-changing everything is
Your picture of you on those swings in the sea in Indonesia is cool enough. No need to accompany it with a super long quote that’s meant to be inspiring.
5. Documents every meal they ate/fancy cocktail they drank
Don’t get us wrong, 1-2 are acceptable. Okay, 3-4. No more than 4. But if you’ve seen one paella and sangria picture, you’ve kinda seen them all.
6. Too many selfies
If you’re off doing cool stuff, why can’t you leave your phone alone for more than 3 minutes at a time? Don’t you want to conserve battery for more than just your face?
7. Posts about how great their trip was–six months later
When you’ve posted the same picture twice with the #takemeback hashtag, you know you’re trying too hard.
8. Tagging the same random people they met at their hostel one time in posts weeks or months later – when nobody tagged them in anything
…bonus points if they use a caption like “missing my bitches from Prague.”
9. Doesn’t have any good stories about their trip when you see them in real life…
…because all the good parts (or with some people, every damn moment) is documented in their social media. It’s like a movie where all the good parts were given away in the previews. If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, you know you haven’t really done it right until there’s at least one story you can’t put on the internet or tell your grandma.
Also, if you ask them how their trip was, they don’t tell you any stories but repeatedly assert that it was “incredible”–that’s the word people think they’re supposed to use.
10. …and yet clings to the same anecdote over and over
“You went to Olive Garden last night? Ohhhh my godddd the pasta I ate in Rome eight months ago was sooooo good I literally died.”
Don’t get us wrong – there’s nothing wrong with posting about your travels on Instagram, and we’re pretty active on the ‘Gram ourselves. We just want the Mindys of the world to know that it’s OK if your trip wasn’t perfect. Sometimes, it’s the not-perfect trips that make for the better stories. Social media isn’t everything. We’d rather hear an awesome story than double-tap your Eiffel Tower pictures any day.
Do you have a friend that does this? Have you had a trip that was less than Instagram-perfect? Let us know in the comments!
TL;DR: Social media isn’t everything. We’d rather hear an awesome story than double-tap your Eiffel Tower pictures any day.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first-ever edition of Shit American Tourists Say. Today’s episode focuses on what these most fascinating individuals say when placed in an environment they’re not used to. We’re not in Kansas anymore, folks. Here are the best things I overheard our lovely Americans say in Keflavik Airport in Iceland. Please note these all occurred within 20 minutes.
1. Passenger: “Where’s the big statue with the pot? I want to take a picture for the grandkids.”
Airline worker: “That’s straight down the hall, sir.”
Passenger: “Oh, that’s too far.”
2. “This is so messed up in so many ways.” – man outraged that he needed to wait for a bus to take him to the plane waiting outside #tinyairportproblems
3. “This is just taking so long. I need some liquor.” – 60-something year old woman, on the bus on the way to the plane
4. “They made me pay to check my bag, so I was like, OK, I can drink some liquor.” – the same woman, who clearly possesses a flawless sense of logic and reasoning
5.”I really like how they’ve designed the airport. It’s so modern.” – lady to her husband
6. *young woman takes selfies of self boarding plane, holds up entire rest of line*
7. “Well, I don’t know why they haven’t sat us together. Makes no sense to me.” – husband whose wife and three kids are sat close by but not directly next to each other, and there was a parent seated next to each child. (Yes, sir, because the airline obviously did it on purpose just to inconvenience you and your family of five.)
8. “Of course the ONE outlet that doesn’t work is under MY seat.” – angry teenager (come on, Napoleon, like anyone could even know that.)
9. “Are we going to fly over Idaho? Hawaii? Alaska? Ohio?” – kid behind me to his mother
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 not.
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 sh**show started. And yes – that is the best terminology to describe it.
Sh**show 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.
Sh**show 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. Duh, 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.)
Sh**show Part 3: I confused the time zones.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The year is 1995. The setting is Santa Cruz, California. Four-year-old Jessica is sitting on the couch in the living room, watching a PBS special about lions whilst going to town on a hot dog. Suddenly, the happy-go-lucky zebra who had been prancing about on the screen a second earlier was brutally attacked by a lion and reduced to a bloody carcass on the plains, and four-year-old Jessica freaked out.
Now, this in itself didn’t bother me so much–I had already seen The Lion King a couple hundred times, so I knew about the circle of life and the food chain and all that.
What bothered me what the realization that just like the zebra, my hot dog used to be an animal, moving around on its own volition, and now it was a dead hunk of meat in my hand. (But of course I didn’t know the word “volition.”)
It’s 20 years later, and I haven’t purposefully eaten a chunk of meat since (shoutout to the lotus leaf wrap I accidentally ate in a buffet line in Vegas on my 21st birthday because the signs were switched and it said there was just rice inside).
People give me shit for it, and although sometimes it can be a little difficult navigating what I can and can’t eat when there’s a language barrier, traveling as a vegetarian isn’t as much of a pain in the ass as you’d think. Read on…