The Soloist

  That daredevil inside us all. The neighbor that eavesdrops on your conversations, giggling like a maniac at what seems to be deafening silence. But they are not alone. They are in a busy world, surrounded by smells, tastes, and sounds that can keep company like no other…

The New Yorker

New York! New York! This is not a destination; an end all to a journey. Instead, it is the beginning of one. People who come here adopt a relationship with life that is rarely found elsewhere. Living here is being a survivalist. This place is not a…

Manifestations: When Daydreams Turn Real

I had heard people talk about manifesting everything from husbands to free manicures. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it. So, unintentionally, I had been manifesting this for half the summer. There was this unexplainable desire to be on the Oregon coast….

The Great Pacific Northwest: Exploring My Backyard

Although I enjoy traveling to places far away with unique cultures to explore, some of the coolest adventures I have been on lately were right in my backyard. My home of West Seattle, Washington is in a prime location. We have Mount Rainer on our…

How We (Almost) Got Robbed in Costa Rica

While traveling there are some things I have come to realize. Inherent goodness is heavily present in the world, even if we notice the evil too. And you can trust strangers more than our parents taught us. Well, that is, until you can’t… This was the case…

5 Easy Steps to Surviving Bocas del Toro

Step One. Check yourself into Selinas Hostel. You’re welcome! You now have an adult playground, free breakfast, swimming 24/7 and a plethora of possible new friends. This place rocks. Between the smoothie bar, the real bar, the pool table, endless areas to lounge, read or smoke your…

Indulgence in the Jungle, Costa Rican Spa Experience

Indulgence Spa on the Caribbean was the paradise I had been waiting for. Run by Auxi- a sweet woman originally from Nicaragua, she moved here 26 years ago and calls herself “almost Tica” at this point. Ticos are the indigenous people of Costa Rica. Her Spa is straight out…

Pura Vida in Costa Rica!

The journey to our home in Costa Rica was a windy and humid one. We had chosen a popular way of travel here: buses. Very cost-efficient and relatively easy, the country is not big in size, but the lack of roads throughout its territory can…

Get Lost, Find Friends on Taboga Island, Part II

After attempting a shortcut, possibly long forgotten on the island of Taboga, I decided there had to be another way to ascend to the Crosses. I back tracked, and chose to hike the normal way, or perhaps, the backward way. Along this route I ran into…

Getting Lost on the Pearls: Taboga Island, Part I

It was Thursday morning and I woke up even before the crack of dawn. Instantly my mind was racing. This was not at all assisted by a huge sweat all over my body. I kicked the covers off. Well before 5:50 am, when my first alarm…

Exploring Balboa, Panama’s Newest Community

Today I got to explore a new neighborhood in Panama City. Not only was this neighborhood new to me, but it is new to most Panamanians! That is because it is Balbao, part of the Canal Zone, which, until 1999, belonged to the United States,…

The Greatest Myth About Travel

Weekend trip to Catalina Island. You don't have to go far to explore somewhere new!

Weekend trip to Catalina Island. You don’t have to go far to explore somewhere new!

I keep hearing this.. travel is expensive. But it usually seems that its the people who have yet to travel, making this statement. From my experiences, everything is a choice. You can make travel as expensive or cheap as you want, its all your decision.

For example, a year ago my girlfriend and I decided we wanted to take a long weekend cruise (4 days, 3 nights) to the Bahamas for her birthday. Since we were living in California at the time, we needed to fly to Florida and depart form there. We were able to find extremely cheap redeye tickets to Miami, a room with a window on the ship, and with all the expenditures, I spent $700 in total, on flight, lodging on the cruise ship (food is always included on cruises), spending money for souvenirs and alcohol. Maybe some might say this was expensive, but it didn’t seem so outrageous to me. Flight, food, cruise and swimming in foreign waters!

Flash forward a few months later, I wanted to spoil my boyfriend for his birthday and take him on a cruise. I decided to really splurge, and got us a suite with a balcony, same deal, 4 days, 3 nights, but to Mexico this time, so no need to buy a flight. The final cost – more than double what I paid the first time. Lesson? Everything is a choice, you decide what you can and cannot spend, and you make it happen within those realms of possibility. Meaning if you want to go the cheap route all you have to do is some research. Anything is truly possible! Only you can tell yourself no. Most clichés are right; where there is a will there is always a way.

So what does this mean for you? That you too can make it happen for much less than you think.. here are some of my suggestions for the key parts of almost any vacation.

  1. Cheap lodging… aka, hostels, airbnb.com or couchsurfing.com.

Though I have never used couchsurfing (CS) myself, my boyfriend has been a host in the past, meaning he has allowed strangers in his home FOR FREE. There is a large community out there of strangers wanting to meet strangers from around the world and show them their city plus a great time. It’s a community with the mindset of help, love, and goodwill. So if you want to go the free (maybe you can help around the house with chores) route, this is a great option to look into, and using their website is completely free, just make an account! Some of Karim’s past guests would cook him dinner to pay back for the free lodging, or even made him jam!

If you have never used couch surfing, or want some basic tips and hints to make the best out of your experience, here is a great article I found by another travel blogger, ‘Miss Tourist’ Yulia. 

I like using AirBnB, especially in comparison to hotels or hostels in Europe, sometimes it can be just as cheap but much cleaner, more spacious and just overall, a nicer experience (obviously a biased statement, but hey, this is my blog 😉 ).

A place I stayed in Rome, had breakfast included (which was available all day), private bathroom, personal mini fridge stocked with juice and yogurt, and could be just $23 a night. I think it was well worth it, because some hostels will be $15 a night, charge per person, so if you travel with your significant other it might not be cheaper for you to stay in hostels and you don’t have as much privacy or a private bathroom.

Some hostels do offer community nights, such as free dinners and socials, which is a great way to meet people from other parts of the world, share stories and maybe make lifelong friends! Its all about the kind of adventure you are looking for and how much privacy you want, and are willing to pay for. Do your research, ask your friends!

  1. Flights– most expensive part of your travels and an important aspect, if you want to go to Europe and you’re in America, most likely flight is the best option, and there are tricks to beating the system, everything from using mileage points to get free travel, to booking through unheard of airline companies that have a hub (homebase) from either the city you are leaving, or entering. By booking through these new to you airlines, you can save hundreds of dollars on airfare. Other things to note: you can open a new credit card (if you qualify, which can give you thousands of points to use for future trips). Heres an interesting article of a world traveler doing just that.

I love using Kayak because I can set a price alert, to let me know of daily or weekly price changes for my flight. One time I was flying to NYC, had booked my trip and the very next day my flight alert showed that it was $75 cheaper! Because it was still within 24hours of booking, I was able to cancel my original booking, rebook it for the cheaper price and save some moneys. Love this!

Also, be flexible with dates and just take your time to search, this will help you. For my trip to Italy, I booked my flight arriving in Rome but flying out of Bologna, which saved me hundreds of dollars.

On Kayak.com you can also use the Explore feature, part of the square buttons on the top right part of the screen. This shows you flight costs from your city to destinations all over the world, great tool when looking to fly into one place and flying out of another. For example, I recently found tickets for this fall flying into Amsterdam, and also flying out for less than $700, which was cheaper than what I had booked the previous year to Italy. Its all about shopping around, and not getting discouraged. Be patient, if you keep on it, you will find a great deal, I guarantee this, you just have to put in the man power and not allow yourself to get discouraged easily. Good things take time, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Note: If you want to learn more about ways to make your flight as cheap as possible, this site explains it well.

  1. Food: this one is a big deal for me. I like to eat and I like to eat good. That means living off Cup of Noodles is not the way I plan to eat on my vacations or even at home. But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat cheap and still healthy. Eating fruits and vegetables that you buy in a supermarket or better yet at the farmers market will be some of your cheapest and healthiest meals, and by purchasing foods from the grocery store, you will save enough to be able to splurge on the fancy meals once in a while too. It’s all about being prepared. Bring some of your favorite bars or nuts on your trip. Don’t be hangry and splurge on something not worth it. Wait it out, be patient and well prepared, you will save money and spend it when it really matters.
  2. Fun: the last part of your trip- what you will do, and the things you will buy. Many of the things I enjoy are totally free. Like walking around old, historic neighborhoods just looking at the buildings and taking it all in. If you travel and still have a student ID card, bring it with you! Especially in Europe, there are often student prices, much cheaper than the adult rate. After my last trip I learned my lesson. I also recently read an article about the multitude of businesses that offer student discounts in the US but do little to advertise. Most stores offer it, just ask and be ready to present your ID.

Here is an article I found that lists over 100 companies offering student discounts, some will ask for you to verify through your school email, so unless you are a current student it wont work, but most just want to see the ID.

Lastly, just do it! The thing I keep hearing from people is how much they want to travel but how they can’t afford it or are unable to take the time off. But reality is, many times they haven’t even tried! If you work for a company that respects you, they will understand your desire to see the world and learn something from it, and if you ask, and provide enough notice in advance, they will not mind letting you go for a week, or even three (mine did!). Plus, many of my friends go out every weekend, drop lots on drinks and other party favors or spend obscene amounts of money on concerts and festivals. Forgoing one crazy weekend at Paradiso could allow you to travel to a foreign country for a week, leaving you with some of the most incredible memories and an inspiration to keep traveling and feeding that wanderlust bug inside of you! The very least, you will learn something amazing about yourself that you had no idea.

So in conclusion, what are you waiting for?! Life is way too short. If you have a dream, start researching it now. Look at kayak, Couchsurfing or just a weekend getaway outside of your home town. The more you put yourself out there and go outside of your comfort zone, the more you will learn and grow, and continue to get the courage to go on that next adventure, wherever it may be.

I will leave you with this TED Talk about Tomislav Perko, and how he was able to afford traveling around Europe, for cheap, in a fun and safe way. Take the time to watch this if you are looking for some ideas and inspiration!

 

 

Do you have any suggestions, ideas or something I left out? Please comment below and share, I love hearing from my readers. 🙂

If you have any questions about my trip or want tips for setting up your future journey, feel free to email!

MashaBrown@aol.com 

Random chance meeting

I have always been a supporter of chance; meetings, experiences, friendships. While walking to my “office” aka the Unido Café, I saw a demonstration happening in the local square of Plaza de la Independencia. Community members were gathered, chanting, huddled against the fence where government…

Finding my groove, abroad

It always happens this way for me. It takes me some time to adjust. New life, new food, a different time zone, way of living. It takes me time. When I arrived in Rome, I slowly eased into solo travel. For the first day I…

A blog about blogging.

When I first started blogging I thought I needed to really sit down and create something. So I started making lists of topics that I wanted to write about. Unfortunately, inexperience, laziness and lack of actually starting the writing process left me with long lists…

New discoveries in Casco Viejo

There are just some things a picture can’t capture. A feeling. A smell. Laughter. Movement. Dance. A child learning to skateboard. Today I walked around our neighborhood just before sunset. Plaza Francia was constructed as a memorial to the French effort and those who died…

Problem clothes around the world..

When we were traveling in Bali, there were many rules for types of shirts allowed in establishments. Our first lunch out, we arrived at Motel Mexicola in Seminyak, a delicious Mexican restaurant, with yummy tacos and guacamole. Karim was wearing his Bintang t-shirt, which is…

“Bridge of the world, heart of the universe.”

Welcome to Panama! “Bridge of the world, heart of the universe.” This is a well-known saying here. With the erection of the Panama Canal over 100 years ago, it truly is the bridge that connects worlds apart, with quicker access, saving over 8,000 miles of…

The beauty of Bali

Before its too late, I must write about Seminyak and Ubud, polar opposite paradises in the magic of Indonesia. We had flown into Bali from Phuket, Thailand. One difference we noticed right away was that everyone wore helmets on scooters, versus the 50-75% of locals that…

Songkran: Celebrating the Gift of Water

Songkran is the New Year celebration focused around rejoicing for the coming storms in the rainy season. As in many cultures, water is a sacred resource, especially in this extremely hot location, and it is welcomed every year. Local people have made a game out of…

Memorial Day Weekend Adventure on Gili Trawangan

The Gilis! Islands of pure nature, party and relaxation. The Gili Islands are three very small islands off the northwestern coast of the island of Lombok, which is east of Bali. There is no law enforcement on these islands, no police, no cars, no dogs….

Lost in Bathroom Translation

So, in many places in the world, there isn’t toilet paper in the stall. Often you have to pay for it. Or, its placed outside the stall probably to discourage overuse. We were out and I went to use the ladies room, which had an…

The Ping Pong Show in Thailand, not what you might think….

All over Thailand, and especially in the touristy party areas you will always be approached by some guy saying ‘Ping Pong!’ Perhaps they come up to you with a laminated piece of paper with a list of random items, ping pong, Coca-Cola… I had no…

The Art of (island) Honking: Phuket vs. Bali

If you have every lived in Los Angeles, you know about the crazy drivers. And their obsessive need to use their horns. Back when I was living in the land of traffic and smog, I finally decided to go get my California Drivers License. Because,…

Big Buddha

You see it all around you in Phuket, especially if you are on the south side of the island. Big, white, Buddha, viewable from most points, since it is so high up. Even at night, it is lit up so you can see it from…

The Thai Massage (no happy ending) ;)

How did I wait almost two whole weeks in Thailand before getting my first Thai massage? Crazy! Because it was so relaxing and wonderful, and all for the price of about $13. Yes, that was for an hour, of full body, head to toe! They…

Blessings from Thailand!

Last Sunday Karim and I were blessed by a Buddhist monk at the Wat Chalong Temple. We arrived to a building next to a statue of a Buddha and some animals around him, reminded me of a Thai version of Noah’s Ark scene… The first…

You can buy almost anything at the Farmer’s Market…

Some of the best food I have had thus far, has got to be at the Farmer’s Markets or Night Markets. They are a little different. Farmer’s Markets sell produce, fresh fish, cooked meals and snacks, fresh fruit smoothies and some dry goods. Night Markets…

Scooter, or Bust!

Welcome to Thailand! Land of scooters, mango and the best (and some of the spiciest) foods you will get to try! Everyone rides a scooter here. Unless they have a car, in which case its a small pick up truck or perhaps a really nice car,…