Tag Archives: couchsurfing

Women with Wanderlust

24 Jan

Proven travel strategies for less than the price of a green smoothie.

What’s that all about?! Well I just launched my travel book! All my travel knowledge wrapped up in a nice little book.

I’ve always been a little bit different especially in my travel strategies as you know from reading my blog. While some spend their hard earned money on lattes I’m always saving for my next adventure. With travel hacking I’ve traveled cheaply which has enabled me to go further than I ever dreamed. I would never have been able to take that dream safari last January without my insatiable will and thousands of miles. Over time I’ve honed my travel strategy to rack up the points and maximize my award bookings to travel to more places faster.

Travel makes us better and smarter, it shouldn’t just be the rich that get to do it. Everyone should be able to travel and live the life of their dreams. One of the last things my mother said to me before she passed, was “go, live your dreams, don’t wait.” The future is impossible to predict so it’s important to not wait to fulfill your dreams and goals. If travel is your dream, then figure out how to do it sooner rather than later!

If you haven’t learned everything you need to know about how to travel more or travel outside the U.S. I’d love for you to buy my book and leave me a review on Amazon. Reviews are the best gift you can give me…especially in the first few days after the launch.

If you pre-order now you also get my “20 Tips to Better Photos” guide. Woohoo! Just contact me with your receipt.

Share this with anyone you know that wants to travel more and doesn’t know where to start. I want to start a movement of more #roamingwomen

If not now

As always, you can follow my adventures on Instagram and Twitter @rouxroamer

Read more stories or see photography at rouxroamer.com

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Three scary things about travel

16 Jun

Here are three things that may scare you about traveling

Hint: they aren’t that bad…

Driving overseas

I’m not sure why so many people seem so shocked when I tell them I have rented and driven a car in Europe and the UAE, heck, even Vegas. I just want to set the record straight that it’s pretty easy. For Europe I just had to get an international drivers permit, which was essentially paying AAA to check out my license and give me a small piece of paper to carry with me. It expired a year or so later.

Driving in these other places is actually better than driving at home, in my opinion. I am not a fan of the slow driving, hesitant, gawking driving that most people do in the states. It drives me crazy to know that we are backed up on the freeway because people are staring at a wreck that is not on our side of the freeway. It’s dangerous and you may cause a wreck because of seeing a wreck. It happens all the time.

In other countries the fast lane is truly the fast lane. If you are in it you had better be going fast, or passing someone. I found it liberating to drive 200 km on the autobahn. I also loved weaving in and out of traffic in the UAE. I guess I’m pretty good at offensive driving. Don’t be scared, just do it. Don’t hesitate, that just gets you into trouble.

CarSheep

 

You wouldn’t get this view just driving the highways…take some back roads.

Staying with locals

What’s a good way to save money on vacation and really immerse yourself as a local? Don’t stay in a hotel in the tourist areas. Look at all your options including AirBnB, VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), B&B’s, hostels or CouchSurfing. If you want to live like a local, then stay like one. I know it may seem scary to stay in someone else’s space or to stay with someone you don’t know but it can also be an incredible experience. Maybe you’ll cook together or they’ll show you around town. To me it’s worth the risk to save some money and have a better experience. I love living like the locals. I love experiencing the city in their eyes.

I’ve only ever had one bad experience when CouchSurfing and it wasn’t because I was scared of the host. The host was amazing! He showed us around the city for two days. It was the conditions of his house that made us uncomfortable. I’m a clean person and I like my accommodations to be that as well. This time the place was really a mess, especially the bathroom. I think with a few quick questions maybe you can find out more about their living conditions before you go. Or have a back up plan. That’s the safest way to travel anyway.

 

Theft

I know this one is a scary one for a lot of people but if you live in fear than you never truly live. Well, that’s my philosophy anyway. I usually do the things that scare me because they scare me.

There are things that you can do to prevent theft in other countries like carrying an RFID cut proof bag and dressing like a local. You just want to blend in and not scream ‘I’m a tourist’. Just watch you back and stay out of bad neighborhoods. To me that’s the same advice that you should live by at home. Just do the same thing when you are abroad. Also check out my packing list, it has some good recommendations for safety like the bag I love and copies of all your important documents.

Stay safe and travel often!

Bags

Read more myths about travel.

 

Essentials to pack for travel

19 May

What’s essential to pack?

I try to travel as light as possible in a carry on; everything I need to get by for three weeks in just a backpack. What do I consider essentials for a trip can depend on where I am going, but I have some staple items.

Always in my pack

  • External battery charger for my phone, tablet or other small electronics
  • Printed and digital copies of my passport, credit card numbers in case of being lost or stolen, Visa pictures (if required), flight itinerary and anything else I have booked ahead like hotels and excursions.
  • Saved maps for the places I am going or an app on my phone like Triposo.
  • Small finger nail clippers, file (I’ve broken more nails in airports than anywhere else…ever) and scissors (not sharp, under one inch) or just bring a Swiss Army knife if you are checking your bag
  • Go Toob’s for all my liquids (shampoo, body wash, face wash)
  • Upset tummy meds, sleep aids and Emergen-C
  • Extra memory cards for my camera (I take a lot of photos…everywhere I go) and a small tripod
  • Scarf / shawl and compression socks for the plane
  • Plug adapters for every country I’m going to (I don’t bring anything that needs a converter)
  • Noise canceling ear buds (for the flight and anytime I need some peace and quiet) and the in flight two prong adapter (some flights just don’t have the one prong option)
  • TSA lock (this comes in handy even if you don’t plan to check your bag)
  • Snack bars or trail mix (quick pick me ups for in between meals or when you get lost and can’t find food)
  • Three pairs of shoes, light weight walking shoes that double as running shoes, comfortable sandals and cheap flip flops (they come in handy for beaches, showers, plane travel and double as house slippers)
  • Undergarment bag (if someone has to go through your bag for security they don’t have to touch them, plus, it keeps them all together and they don’t fall out anywhere embarrassing)
  • Sleep sack if I am sleeping somewhere in transit or couch surfing (acts like a barrier for anything unclean and it can take the chill off if it’s cold)
  • Face wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Two credit cards, one Mastercard and one Visa (I learned this the hard way that sometime only one or the other is accepted), and a debit card. Make sure they all waive foreign transaction fees (no need to pay more than you need to for things)
  • Cash (just a small amount, you never know when you will need it and any currency can do in a pinch)
  • PacSafe day bag (or equivalent bag that is cut proof and has RFID protection)
  • Kindle stocked with several books to read (and my reading glasses)
  • Phone stocked with sleep music and a couple shows to watch (just in case I need entertainment on the plane, more than a couple times the TV’s haven’t worked on flights)
  • Aspirin (if its a long flight it helps, assuming you aren’t allergic)
  • Sunglasses (Always! Even if it doesn’t call for sun I wear them almost everyday with my sensitive eyes)
  • Tissue/Toilet paper (sanitary items for women, because it always comes when you’re not expecting it)

Seasonal items I pack

  • Lightweight, water repellant wind breaker (if where I am going has any heavy rains in the forecast. I may also bring a small umbrella if it shows rain everyday but usually just my rain jacket.)
  • Sunscreen (if I am going somewhere sunny)
  • Hat, gloves and scarf (if I am going somewhere cold)

I usually pack three times. I put out all my stuff a week or so before I go, then pack it lightly. With a few days to go, I sort through and get rid of some stuff and fill in if I have forgotten anything. Then when I pack the last time, the day before I go, I get rid of more stuff.

Clothes I bring

I never wear all the clothes I bring so I bring less than I think I need, and I usually, still, have too much. I bring one comfy pair of pants that also doubles as PJ and running pants. I bring at least one pair of jeans and a comfy pair or two of linen pants. I bring one pair of shorts if it’s going to be nice. I bring one shirt for every two days, or less! I also bring long sleeves that double as sun protection and layers for warmth.

Also, wherever I go I usually like to buy an item of clothing.

 

Yes YOU can Travel Too: Debunking Travel Myths

29 Jun

Have you said, for one reason or another, that you can’t travel? I’m guessing your number one excuse is money or that you don’t speak the language. Well, in this post I’m debunking myths of why you can’t travel to foreign countries. If you really want to know the truth: you can travel the world, just like I do. Most of my foreign adventures only cost a few hundred dollars.

Myth: Paris is the only place to see

Pick destinations that are not as touristy. You can find some great undiscovered places just by going away from the tourist areas or the more developed areas. Laos and Cambodia would be two of the cheapest places I have traveled to and they have some of the coolest things to see. Angkor Wat is pretty touristy but not quite as busy as some U.S. landmarks. In Laos I went to 4,000 Islands and saw some really amazing waterfalls and dolphins. It was a great place to chill out and disconnect from the world as there were no cars and Wi-Fi only “sometimes”.

Myth: I need to know the language

One of the biggest excuses I hear about travel to foreign countries is, “I don’t speak the language”. Well the good news, is that you don’t have to know it all to go there. How about picking up a few key phrases or a phrase book? Take the book with you or download some notes to your smart phone. I know there’s an app for that! How about some mp3’s or CD’s you can listen to for pronunciation?

If you want to know more than just a couple key phrases, there are programs to learn another language in three months! Really? Yes, it’s true! These courses are designed for everyone and they work. If all else fails, English is the language spoken almost everywhere in the world. Smile and try your best, that’s all you can really do. Also, don’t be above charades, Pictionary, or saying every word you can think of for that one word they need to understand. I’ve done all of those things!

Myth: Airfare is expensive

If you think you can never afford the plane ticket, how about using airline miles? You don’t have enough miles, no problem! How do you feel about credit cards? There are several cards that offer initial sign on bonuses if you meet the minimum spend. Here’s an example of a card where you can get 40,000 miles in three months (limited time offer). 40,000 miles is one way to Asia or Africa for the price of taxes and fees — that’s almost nothing! Also consider traveling off-peak. Airfares can be half the price to a destination when the weather is a little colder or when school’s in session.

Myth: Foreign hotels run $100-$200 per night

If you have the language worries under control and your airfare booked, you start to worry that you can’t afford nice hotels. For me, I usually go somewhere when I am invited by a friend, then I have a free place to stay. If I don’t have a free place to stay, or as one does, they start planning other places to see from their original destination, I check out CouchSurfing.com. It’s not as good as it used to be but you can still connect with some really amazing people and stay on their couches or spare beds for free (although a thank you gift is a nice gesture). I enjoy Couchsurfing because I like to see destinations through the eyes of the locals and I like to meet new people. It’s not about the free couch so much as the shared experience, the connection and community you build, especially when you travel as a female alone.

Couchsurfing is a global community of 7 million people in more than 100,000 cities who share their life, their world, their journey. Couchsurfing connects travelers with a global network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience.

When I’m not Couchsurfing, I’ll check out hostels or other accommodations on Trip Advisor, AirBnB, Booking.com or Agoda. They usually have some really great options. Again, with AirBnB, you get to stay with locals. You can also check out what VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) has to offer, they are similar but most of the time the host isn’t in residence. In Asian countries you can find hotels starting at about $7 a night. Heck, for about $40 a night I stayed in a super awesome boutique hotel in Cambodia, pictured below. And, because I stayed with two other friends the cost was split! You can’t beat that!

 

 

Copenhagen

6 May

From Spain we headed to Copenhagen, Denmark in order to take the ferry into Oslo, Norway for the “end of the world” party. (More on that in the “Oslo” post.)

Copenhagen was much colder than Spain and much colder than Oregon with the chilly wind. It’s also much more expensive in the Scandinavian countries than the rest of Europe. I wasn’t quite prepared for that. I did enjoy my egg, bacon and beet smoothie breakfast but I didn’t enjoy spending $15 for it. Eek! But if you do go to Copenhagen, I do highly recommend the Next Door Cafe. The breakfast was great. The owner was from LA and he was very helpful. It was a nice escape from the cold.

One recommendation from our new friend, Skylar, was to take a boat trip around Copenhagen so that you can see the views from the canals. It’s beautiful to see all the colorful houses and boats reflected on the water. It’s also a great way to learn about the history of the city with the guided tour. We hopped off in Christiania to see the ever popular “green light district”. Of course I can’t show you any photos because those aren’t allowed. It was an interesting walk through.

We saw the mermaid! She is smaller than I was expecting. I guess when I have seen her as the picture of “Copenhagen” she is always sitting alone so you never really get to see her scale. She’s about life size to your smaller than average American girl. Fun to see but not as impressive as seeing those more than life size paintings in an art museum (like the Louvre).

Our Couch Surfing host was pretty awesome. She made us bread and cookies. She even let us come to her home in the middle of the night when we arrived. I must say, that it’s a cool way to connect with the location you are staying at. I love learning the lay of the land from a local. I also love getting their food recommendations or where the the cool spots are that aren’t in the tourist books.

Cheers to CouchSurfing!