Moving Abroad: a how-to, where-to-begin guide

A friend of mine recently asked me what I thought about before deciding to move from San Francisco to Mozambique, and what he (or anyone) should consider when wanting to do something similar (moving from America to, well, anywhere). And I thought that may be a useful post for others, including followers of this blog, so here it is:

A no-frills how-to guide on moving abroad, based on my own personal experiences as a freelancer in her 20s, and the experiences of the expats I talked to in order to get more input for this post.

My last evening in California before moving to Africa

My last evening in California before moving to Africa

I. First, my biggest piece of advice is not to overthink this. Deep breaths style.

As odd as it may sound, moving abroad without a fixed contract is not immediately concrete or permanent; even though the beginnings of researching a move abroad can be extremely overwhelming and scary. What I mean is, don’t apply for a residency or an expensive work permit or anything just yet.  Go visit a place for awhile first and see how you get along with the local community of expats. Spend enough time there that you don’t see it in a romanticized, holiday, touristic light, but instead how you would deal with being there working, commuting, paying for rent, making friends, and building a life that’s sustainable for you. Of course most of this is a big unknown that you won’t truly get a feel for until you’re living there, after you’ve started working and commuting and socializing and the honeymoon feelings have worn off. But I think a big mistake people make is thinking that visiting a place is going to be the same experience as living there. While you will definitely have beautiful times ahead with exploring your new home, having adventures with new friends, and indulging in new experiences (new restaurants, new cuisines, new languages, new activities!), you will also be dealing with costs of living, commuting, a whole new work ethic that can be massively different from your own, inefficiencies, new cultural norms, maybe some corruption, confusing taxes, etc. For example, don’t think that just because you love safari that moving to an African country is going to be elephants and golden sunsets 24/7, all the time. It’s naive to think so.

When I moved to a small town in Mozambique I really had no idea what to expect, and was unsure of if I’d love it or hate it. I had spent about a month total in this town before as a tourist — starting to wet my toes in the idea of what it would be like to live here — but spending an indefinite amount of time here (and especially working here) is a completely different experience. After I came here with a one-way ticket I spent about four months on a tourist visa, testing the waters and getting to know what it would take for me — a freelance photojournalist who depends entirely on airports to make a living and values things such as easy access to a nearby doctors office — before deciding to make the jump to get a residency/work visa. But all the while, I was constantly weighing how happy I was here, how I could make a living here, how I could support myself, how I liked the culture and the people I spend every day with, and if spending the money to get a residency would be worth it for this time in my life. This meant spending a lot of time talking with local expats and even local lawyers about my options and how I would exit if I ever did/do decide to leave Mozambique someday. But the point is, I spent months here before making the decision to stay, so don’t let the implied permanency of moving abroad scare you from taking a chance and dipping your toes in the expatriate waters. As long as you aren’t on a work contract that keeps you somewhere for many years (more on that later), and you’re willing to spend the money and time in getting to know a potential new home, you can, indeed, leave any time. (As could I). 

II. Another thing to consider is distance.

If frequently going home to wherever you’re from is important to you, consider how much it costs to fly from your new home to your old  home. For example, let’s say you’re from Chicago, and you’re between living in Beijing, China or Copacabana, Bolivia. Beijing to Chicago is a long-haul flight, but it is infinitely cheaper, and oftentimes certainly quicker (less buses, connections, and puddle-jumper flights), than Copacabana to Chicago. So it’s important to think about that and if that matters to you. It takes a long time for me to get from Tofo, Mozambique to Connecticut and New York, where my family currently is. It’s about two days (or more) of bus travel and air travel and long layovers and airport hotels. But is it worth it for me? I think so. (Although I do sometimes miss living 15 minutes from San Francisco International Airport, but we can’t have it all).

III. The most important, and most obvious, thing to consider is money and work.

What’s the cost of living like where you want to move? What’s rent typically like, and what kind of housing does that get you? How about public transportation, if that applies to you? Does the salary you typically make (or will make) allow you a decent, comfortable living?

And, of course, work. Working remotely or freelancing is something a lot of expats pursue because it means not necessarily having to have obtain a working permit in your new country (this depends, though, on the country, so do your research), and it also gives you more freedom to move around and choose your new location based more on your personal preferences instead of necessity. Sounds idyllic, right! But that idealism then means that remote working jobs are remarkably competitive, and usually require a high level of training in a certain speciality (think: coding, web design, graphic design, SEO, remote engineering, copyediting, translating, etc). If you have the time, taking online courses (or even getting a degree) to specialize yourself in one of these coveted skills will make you more marketable for remote employers. Look at remote job listings and see what they require. This takes time, of course, but these things can’t be rushed. And if you’re going to make the jump to move abroad and have the freedom to work from your laptop, patience and determination is definitely key in making sure you can support yourself.

This, however, is too much financial risk for some people, so there is always the option to pursue work in your specialty/field before setting out. Do some research into what’s available in the cities or locations you’d like to live, or alternatively, see what kind of global job listings there are for your career. This also has a major pro, in that you may get a sponsored work permit/visa which may make your life easier later. Also, of course, you have a guaranteed income. The con, however, is that you’re committing to a place you may not be sure you enjoy, and it’s usually for a long duration of time via contract, which makes leaving difficult if you find you want to go home or elsewhere. Though the plethora of options for working abroad may be daunting, it is exciting; you could open your own business, build a hip cabin and rent it out, sell pancakes out of a shack in a beach town in Thailand, sell handmade guitars or knit sustainable cotton hammocks or write a book or two. (Okay, maybe those don’t sound appealing, but you get what I mean). Just as long as you have the discipline to do the research and the savings to coast on while you get on your feet, you will, most likely, be okay. As with most things, just be smart and prepared and have an exit plan if things don’t work out how you want.

V. With that all being said, when it comes to choosing a place (if you don’t already have somewhere specific in mind)… that’s really the exciting part.

Start by making a list of countries you’d want to settle in, even for a short duration of time (you can live abroad for a year or less, remember, nothing has to be permanent). Reddit is a great resource for learning about countries and asking locals specific questions (there’s a SubReddit for just about every country in the world, so get on it and start researching and chatting with the people!). As well, there are tons of expat and digital nomad SubReddits and forums to read and ask questions on. “I Want Out” is another good one for people just looking for advice on the process of leaving.

Think about some countries and then write up some questions that are important to you, and try to connect with locals and expats alike to get their input and perspective. Or, you can always just throw a dart at a map and go, which is fine for someone comfortable and able (monetarily) to do that. But I do think there’s something to be said about putting some decent thought into this, solely so you don’t end up spending your savings bouncing around places you don’t like and end up bypassing the place where you really belong.

But, finally: be flexible and open to new ideas. I always thought I’d live in Tanzania when I'd someday move to Africa, and then suddenly it was going to be England, and then South Africa. But here I am in Mozambique, happy and fulfilled, but open to the idea that a year from now I could be in Botswana or Fiji or maybe tapping maple trees in hilly Vermont. Life is surprising. Experiment, and roll with it.

On horseback in Mozambique

On horseback in Mozambique

30 Most Practical Tips for Traveling

After 65 countries, I've been asked to put together a list of my most practical tips for any kind of travel; whether year-long round-the-worlds, or your first 10-day trip abroad. Things learned from my own mistakes, you hopefully you can skip that mistake yourself.

  1. Before you leave the country, call your bank to tell them the dates you will be traveling, and the countries you will be traveling to, including layovers. That way your card isn’t immediately canceled once you try to withdraw money or buy a muffin in the Dubai airport.

  2. Take out plenty of cash once you get where you’re going. Stash it all over you. In your daypack. In your wallet. In a hiking boot. In a hat. Make sure you don’t misplace it, but this way you will always have cash in case something is stolen or lost.

  3. Don’t share cab rides with strangers from airports. We’ve all seen Taken.

  4. Similarly, don't take any unmarked taxis, and negotiate a price before you get in the cab (you should have researched how much a cab is to the city center - or wherever you're going - before you arrive, to avoid being ripped off).

  5. When you first book your trip, book a hostel in the location you’re flying into for the first two nights. This will give you time to get your bearings, to read over your guidebook for the 90th time, to talk to other travelers and the people who work there and see what tips/insights they have, to adjust to the food and time zone, etc. You’ll feel better if you can sleep in and know you have a definite place to lay down for the next couple of days.

  6. Look up Visa requirements. Do you need one? Can you get it at the airport once you arrive?

  7. Also, if you're the kind of person to buy one-way plane tickets, see if you need a plane ticket leaving the country to even be able to enter. This is the case for many Southeast Asian countries, so do your research and be sure you meet all requirements before you get to the check-in counter!

  8. Find a market near your hostel to buy granola bars, a box of cereal, a bag of pasta, fruit, some vegetables if your hostel has a communal fridge. Get used to cooking your own meals. You’ll save money that way, and it could add up to a great meal elsewhere.

  9. You’ll get sick. You just will. Most likely it will be a case of the “traveler’s runs”, but know where the closest travelers medical clinic is, anyway. Travelers Insurance is always a good idea, or be prepared to pay out of pocket. And be calm. We’ve all been there. I’m notorious for ending up in hospitals abroad. It just happens.

  10. Know where it is & isn't safe to drink the tap water. And if it isn't safe, then don't even brush your teeth with it, unless you’ve been on the road for 3+ years and your body has adapted. Don’t eat the ice. Don’t trust ice cream that isn’t packaged. And if you can't say for certain that the meat you're eating has come from a clean facility, then avoid eating meat, too.

  11. Make copies of your passport. Make copies of your immunizations records. Make copies of your flight itineraries. Make copies of your med prescriptions and eyeglass prescriptions.

  12. If you CouchSurf or use AirBnB, be sure to read all reviews of that person on their profile. Have a backup plan in case you need to bail. (which is extremely rare, but, safety first). And, if you CouchSurf, be ready to socialize, a lot. You never know what you'll get, but I've found that your host will most likely want to show you their city as they see it. Have fun with it, and run with it.

  13. Don’t be the sloppy, loud, rude backpacker. I hate to say it, because it’s rather obvious to say, but people with bad hostel etiquette or have no desire to adjust to the local customs are just inconvenient and rude. Pick up after yourself. Try not to explode your backpack when you unpack. And please, don’t come stumbling loudly into a dorm at 5 AM puking up tequila shots. No one is then going to want to invite you onto that 6 AM sunrise hike.

  14. Bring: water purification (I prefer Aquamira, but Steri-Pens work as well). A headlamp. Spare batteries. A small phrasebook. A swiss army knife. First aid kit. Light-weight sleep sheet (otherwise known as a sleeping bag liner). Ziplocs and plastic bags. Spare headphones in case yours break. Cheap rubber flip-flops for communal hostel showers. Read into the culture of where you’re headed. Pack accordingly. Cultural respect comes first (how long should your skirts/dresses/shorts be? Should you even be in shorts at all? Should you cover your shoulders or chest or both?). And don’t forget to read up on the weather. Yes, you are going to the Sahara Desert, but it drops to freezing at night. Lightweight thermal underwear is always good, just in case.

  15. When you can, keep up to date on the news. Pull up when you find yourself in an internet cafe. Read the current Travel Advisories. Stay updated. Things happen in the most unexpected places.

  16. Be patient. The train or boat you’ll have wanted to take that Monday morning will only run once a week on every Friday. Things will be delayed. 80% of the world runs in slow motion compared to “our” world, which is run by agendas and crunch times. Bring a book with you, bring a deck of cards, get a game going with the locals while you wait for the 6 hour delayed bus. Laugh. Write. Embrace it.

  17. You’ll probably lose your luggage. At least once. Pack spare underwear and essential toiletries (this includes medications you need) in your carry-on. Then find a shopping center wherever you’re headed and get some cheap clothes to change into while you wait for your actual bags to come. It’ll be okay. It happens to all of us.

  18. Taking taxis isn’t cheating. When you’re lost, frustrated, or nervous, don’t feel like you aren’t “roughing it” just because you want a direct drive to take you where you need to be.

  19. Engorge on the free hostel breakfast. I know, I know. It’s some sort of white bread, packaged butter and jam that looks like Jell-O, a tub of olives (“who thought this was a good idea?”), and maybe some Frosted Flakes and lukewarm milk if you’re lucky. But engorge yourself. If it’s all-you-can-eat, sneak a chunk of bread and an apple into your pack. Boom, there’s your free lunch, too.

  20. Speaking of food, be adventurous, but don’t be risky. Swallow live mealworms in the Amazon? Sure! Drink the blood from a sacrificed goat in Tanzania? Like tea! Some sort of goopy, cheesy, corn-soup-esque, fermented stew with hunks of indiscernible bone and meat that your host mother in Tibet just handed to you? Thank you! It’s often incredibly rude to deny a meal when offered to you, so, enjoy it and plaster that smile. In this case, the “runs” will probably happen, but, c’est la vie. What a story! And no one was offended in the process.

  21. When somebody asks where you’re staying, be vague. When a complete stranger asks to drive you from the bar to your hostel, you have every right to say no. The chances are they’re just genuinely curious or friendly, but be smart. Use your common sense. Use your gut. This goes for men and women.

  22. But don’t close yourself off. There’s a difference between being wary and being unreachable. It’s okay to talk to strangers. Listen to their stories. It comes back around to this: follow. your. instinct. If someone is giving you a bad vibe, trust that it’s not coming from thin air, and try to always let someone (who you trust) know where you're going and who you're with.

  23. Don’t buy the mass produced souvenirs. Please. It was made in a factory somewhere, and is distributed globally. That's why you'll see the exact same "African masks" and "Asian Buddhas" in 40,000 markets across the planet. Buy from someone who is actually making what they’re selling, so you know the money goes directly into their pocket, and what you’re taking back with you is genuine, real, and you know its maker’s first name.

  24. Don’t walk with your headphones in.

  25. Sit in the hostel common room. Even if you’re just reading or working on your computer. People-watch, listen to conversations, be present. People will talk to you. Likewise, talk to people. You could find an incredible adventure, or at least someone to spend the day looking at a temple with or having a drink or dinner with. They will always teach you something you didn’t know before. Now is the time to challenge yourself to be as open and as outgoing as possible. Remember: no one knows you here. That’s a pretty incredible gift and opportunity.

  26. Carry tokens of your home with you, especially if you’re doing a home-stay. Whether that’s a San Francisco postcard, or a small stack of photos of your life at home. It will come in handy at some point, and is a kind, fun gesture, and a way to bridge the gap between yourself and someone else.

  27. Save cash. You can do laundry in the sink.

  28. Be flexible. If people in your hostel invite you out to explore, or to a sports event, or out for drinks, or on a kayak trip, or even to a new city in the opposite direction of where you thought you were headed, go. It may just change your life. Or it may not, but in that case, you’ll still end up with new stories, new connections, and a new path. I promise you won’t regret finding out.

  29. (This is mostly for Europe travel): most countries offer some kind of discount with their train-rail passes. Take the time to talk to people who work at a train station. Do your research instead of springing for the first option. You’ll save money in the long run.

  30. Don’t be tied to the internet. Sometimes it’s necessary to have a laptop (for work’s sake or backing up photos), but try not to spend hours every day chatting on Facebook and scrolling Instagram. Now is a good time to ween yourself away. Find yourself online every now and then, send some photos to mom and dad, write a blog post, upload photos, and don’t feel guilty for it when you do. But I promise, it will all be there when you get back.

  31. Abandon all preconceptions. Traveling light means leaving any excess baggage - both literally and mentally - behind.

  32. Finally, know you can come home, whenever you want. If you are truly unhappy, burnt out, or just want to leave, you can. You are under no obligation to stick it out just because everyone else is expecting you and telling you to be having the time of your life. Change your plane ticket; go somewhere else. Or change your plane ticket, and just come home. But remember that each place holds its own magic and there are lessons found in every challenge, every difficulty, and every struggle on the road. Travel is not always beautiful, kind, and forgiving, as so much of us are lead to believe. It’s not what we always dream it will be. But it is what we make it. Take away goodness from the hardship, and remember to love and respect a place for what it is instead of resenting it for any preconceived notions or problems you have with it, and use the lessons you learn abroad (what makes me happy? what truly matters?) to better yourself in that moment, and eventually, somewhere else.

How to Make Money While Traveling (and therefore travel indefinitely)

At a seaside bar in Mykonos, there's the typical conversation. Travelers are two beers deep and are swapping stories about how long they've been in Greece, which leads to how long they've been in Europe, and then how long they've been on the road, period. It used to surprise me how there was always one person, without fail, who'd been traveling for well over two years, with no real intention or need to stop and return to "real life." It just didn't seem possible that someone could travel for that long — essentially indefinitely — and find ways to make enough money to keep going, and keep seeing the world. And here's the thing: these people rarely had extraordinary, dreamy, high-paying travel jobs. They weren't professional travel photographers or travel bloggers, paid to galavant the globe and show people at home what it's like to see the mountains of Tibet or the temples of Bangkok. They were just average people with typical skill-sets who wanted to travel, and who found ways to make it sustainable. 

The surprising thing about this way of life, though, is that it isn't a necessarily difficult or rare phenomenon. The more I traveled myself, the more I met people who — just like so many others — decided to spend however-many-years exploring the planet, and shared with me their own ways of keeping themselves afloat. As I started traveling on more long-term trips, I began utilizing these methods and finding my own ways of earning money to see the world (namely through photography and writing). But it was amazing to see just how quickly money added up when picking up odd jobs or putting in the extra effort to earn my keep on the road. So now, the idea of traveling for 1+ years doesn't seem like a pipe dream, but instead something that's absolutely attainable for those of us out there who want to see the world for years at a time but are scared of the daunting $$$ factor. (I mean, who wouldn't be?)

So that's where this list comes in. I've compiled all the ways any average person can make money and sustainably travel for extended periods of time. You don't have to build a lucrative travel blog or be the next big Instagram travel documentarian. You just have to get ready to be creative, put in some elbow grease, and the world is yours.

Me in Namibia

Me in Namibia

Work at a Hostel

More often than not, hostels are absolutely willing to hire travelers to help out in exchange for free board, food, and pay. It's worth asking around at the hostels that are in an area you wouldn't mind hanging out in for awhile, and see who has the best offer. In some cases, hostels have been know to milk it and won't pay staff that's just traveling through, but even if it's not paid, it's a good opportunity to lay low for awhile, save money, and focus on other ways to earn cash.

Find Seasonal Work

Earn your keep by picking fruits, vegetables, or flowers at farms that need a hand. You can do research locally once you arrive, or see what's available from the comfort of your laptop on or

Tutor or Teach English

Put up ads and fliers in coffee shops, markets, hostels, and online, and offer what you can: tutoring in your native language, or on a subject you're well versed in (such as in the maths or sciences, or in an art such as photography or singing). You can also look into finding a job as an English teacher (check out

Become an Au Pair

The situations and benefits vary greatly depending on the kind of commitment you want, but typically you'll receive room, board, and a weekly paycheck; not to mention it's a great way to get to know a culture. Look at listings on

Work on an Organic Farm

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - otherwise known as WWOOF - is an excellent way to save money while helping out locals and spending your days in the sun and the soil. WWOOFing doesn't pay, but it does offer free board and meals and supports a positive, global cause, which is not only a great life experience but also the perfect opportunity to save money while on the road.

Sell Your Art and Craftsmanship Skills

Whether you're a photographer, a painter, a writer, or a musician, utilize your skills to gain revenue. Sell your artwork in markets, in hostels (with permission), or open an online shop (such as Etsy or Society6). If you want to freelance, see what jobs are available in your area on Craigslist, and frequently peruse community boards to see what's in demand. If you're more interested in selling photography, submit photos to distributors such as ImageBrief or iStock, and get in touch with the tourism bureau of where you're traveling. If they're interested in your photos, it's a great way to make money. 

Teach... again

Different than what I said before about tutoring: this is more for those of you who want to be even more mobile, or would rather try something more low-key than revising calculus. If you think you're good enough at yoga or tai-chi or meditation, host classes as you go, charging a certain amount and hanging fliers in hostels and community boards. If your skills lie more in the department of sports - such as diving, surfing, or climbing - see what job opportunities are available at adventure companies in your location. It may be more difficult to find work without first applying for a work visa in your respective country, but it's worth considering.

Freelance Through Elance

Elance is where companies - from big corporations to small businesses - post listings looking for freelance work, and from the thousands of job listings that are constantly being cycled through Elance, there's undoubtedly something that matches your skill set. Whether your background is in web design, writing, programming, illustration, marketing, consulting, legal work, or engineering, you will find something that can be done remotely while you're on the road. Check out

Become an Instructor

Through the website Game of Shred, a new startup for holiday-goers and athletes, you can sell your skills by becoming a freelance sports instructor wherever you are in the world. Are you particularly talented at surfing, or rock climbing, skiing, or hiking? Why not make a profit! Find out more at,

Traveler Safety | Master-Post

"But, isn't that dangerous?"

How many times has a backpacker heard this; whether it's from family, or friends, or strangely concerned strangers. When people hear of certain places -- such as "Africa" or "Colombia" or just a reference to "the Middle East" -- peoples' red flags go up. Especially in this day-and-age where social media and news alerts are almost constantly reminding us that the world is big and bad and scary. This constant connectivity to tragedy and danger can make it hard to keep in perspective the pretty minuscule likelihood of finding ourselves in real imminent danger. And the honest truth is that I have felt safer on the streets of Kathmandu or Arusha or Quito than I have in some areas of New York or San Francisco. The fact of the matter is this: danger is everywhere, kidnappings are everywhere, car crashes are everywhere, weird viruses and infections pop up everywhere, and if you are going to live your life based off the idea that something bad may happen in the general vicinity of a place you want to travel to, then you’re better off staying behind your closed door.

However, what's beautiful is that where there's one bad person, there are plenty of good people. Keep in mind all of the glorious, kind, peaceful, selfless acts that happen every moment of every day around the world; acts that are never reported on, and never pop up as news alerts on our phones. I know how when it seems like the world is going to hell in a hand basket, it can be hard to rationalize  travel. The idea of making yourself even more vulnerable by going out in the world (especially on your own) can seem scary to many. Actually, it does seem scary to many, but the fact that you're reading this already shows that you are brave. Your dreams of exploring the world are just on the other side of that nagging fear in the back of your mind. 

This doesn’t mean that I’m condoning an impromptu solo trip to Libya, or that I’m implying that navigating Cairo is as safe and simple as navigating Seattle. It’s about doing your absolute best to present yourself as a strong, confident traveler. It’s about strengthening your common sense, street smarts, and self defense so that you can adjust and react to different situations, places, and people appropriately. It's about believing in the kindness and beauty and depth of so many people in this world, and that the good outweighs the evil. And as for staying safe, it’s about confidence, bravery, and humility, and knowing when each of those must come into play. 

So that's what this post is for.

A typical road scene in Tanzania when our bus slid off the road

A typical road scene in Tanzania when our bus slid off the road

General Safety
(Airports, Terminals, Buses, Trains, Hitch Hiking, Taxis)

1.   Perhaps the most important piece of advice every traveler should bide by is this: make copies of your documents. Copies of your credit/debit cards, passport, visa, required vaccines, and medical prescriptions you need. Keep them in separate places, such as in your daypack, your luggage pack, your boot, your socks. With these copies hidden everywhere, keep the actual tangible documents with you at all times, especially when in transit. Some travelers prefer to wear money belts, which are subtle fabric belts you can wear under your pants or shirt that have pockets for documents such as a passport, credit cards, and money. These usually keep documents well hidden, and they keep them especially safe if your backpack is ever stolen. 

2.   Before arriving at your destination city, you should have considered how you will get from the airport to where you’re planning on spending that first night (whether it be hostel, hotel, guesthouse, campsite, so on). Unless you’re totally winging it, be sure to do research beforehand on how to get to your destination. Most hostels will offer directions (either on their website, or through directly communicating with them via email or phone) from major bus terminals, airports, ferry ports, etc, to the hostel. If you feel confident, follow these directions, as it will save you money and will also give you a taste for the area you’re in and how to navigate it (plus it will usually be cheaper than taking a taxi). However, some instances call for taxis as some cities and towns will not have solid public transit — such as arriving at Kathmandu at midnight after an exhausting 19 hours of travel. If you take a taxi, it is extremely important that you only take cabs that are driven by licensed drivers, are registered, and are metered. You may feel overwhelmed at busy transit areas because everyone will be encouraging you (sometimes by physically pulling you) to take their taxi. Only go with a driver who is reputable, and have the address, phone number, and name of your destination written down to give the driver so they know exactly where to go.

3.  If you decide to take public transit as opposed to taxis, it’s important to recognize that you will be more susceptible to petty theft, especially on buses or trains that are overcrowded. Keep your daypack on the front of your chest and in your line of sight at all times, don't let your luggage stray, and try to avoid flashing around pricey objects. For example, on a long bus haul where you want to read a book, it’s recommended to have a physical paperback copy you can pull out as opposed to a flashy iPad or eReader. On another note, pay attention to how much you should be paying for public transport- some people will try to rip tourists off. And if you can help it, avoid public transport at night, especially in countries with notoriously terrible roads and road accidents. Traveling during the day is almost always the better decision.

4.  As for hitchhiking, the rule of thumb is: don’t. Although in places such as Iceland (with some of the lowest crime rates in the world) you may get along just fine by traveling with your thumb upturned, it’s generally not a safe or wise decision, regardless of if you’re a man or woman, solo or with a group. If you absolutely must hitch a ride, do so with extreme care and caution. It’s okay to turn down an offer if the driver gives you a bad feeling, keep your valuables extremely well hidden, take off any jewelry, don’t give away too much personal information (if any), and keep a small can of mace hidden on you, yet within reach. If something starts to get funky — such as you find yourself suddenly on backroads or the drive is taking longer than you were anticipating — don’t be afraid to bail. Your safety becomes before all else, so when it doubt, get out.


Accommodation Safety
(Hostels, CoushSurfing, Home Invites, Camping, Hospitals)

1.   The word “hostel” and term “couch surfing” can sometimes paint a not-so-pretty picture in somebody’s mind — that is, until they actually experience a hostel or couch surfing themselves. Despite the negative reputation hostels may have contrived in the 70’s, today they are generally the safest place a traveler can stay. However, diligence is still key to safety in a hostel. While some hostels will offer lockers where you can keep your valuables safe, it’s generally a good idea to keep your most important belongings (such as expensive tablets and your passport) on you at all times; especially if you’re staying in a shared dorm.

2.   The same applies for CouchSurfing ( Sometimes considered trendier than hostels and offering a more "authentic" experience, many travelers now opt for CouchSurfing because of the connection that can be made with the host, the cultural closeness that most tourists and travelers are hidden from, as well as the benefit of having a free place to sleep. While the benefits are high, the level of your vulnerability raises as well. It’s absolutely key to listen to your gut, and to leave a situation the moment it begins to feel iffy. You should only stay with hosts who have a plethora of positive reviews, as well as photographs of both them and their residence. Every CouchSurfing host is vetted and reviewed, and while most people have extremely positive experiences with their hosts and CouchSurfing endeavors, you are absolutely expected to only stay where you are comfortable. And you do not have to have a reason for your discomfort; if you arrive and something feels funky, your safety and intuition are reasons enough to bail if you think that you’re in a potentially uncomfortable or even dangerous situation. 

3.   If you decide to go camping on your trip, be sure that the campsite(s) you stay at are reputable and legitimate. If you show up and it's deserted or lacking serious infrastructure, it's best to keep moving on. Pick a spot that isn't completely void of light, and be sure to keep all your valuables (boots, backpack, hiking poles) in your tent with you at night. If you plan to do remote camping in areas where there are no designated campsites, try to pick a spot that's not obviously in the open (go for the forest instead of the meadow clearing), and be sure that you know all the animal safety protocols; such as how to hang food if you're in bear territory, or what to do if you hear lions or elephants nearby.

4.   If you find yourself in a homestay position, fantastic! It's a pretty incredible opportunity to get to know a family over a (typically) extended period of time. Most homestay situations arise in two ways: 1. through an organization (such as a volunteer company) that puts its travelers with local families because of the affordability and authentic experience, or 2. a random invite to stay at a local's home. While in the first situation the families are usually vetted or at least interviewed, in the second situation, it's entirely up to the traveler to decide how the situation feels. There is an extraordinary amount of cultures around the world that revolve around wonderful, genuine hospitality that can be startling for the Westerner; so don't immediately raise your red flags if someone invites you to their home for a meal or a place to spend the night. Most of the time, they purely want to give and make you comfortable, which is one of the joys of travel. But -- like any other situation I mentioned earlier -- you must be aware of what's going on. What feeling are you getting? What does your gut tell you? Are they being aggressive about you coming to their house? Do their intentions seem even slightly malicious? If you want to avoid the situation, claim that you're about to meet someone and can't be late, and leave. It's as simple as that. Sample applies for pre-arranged homestays; even if a company you're traveling with assigns you to a family, if you're uncomfortable, you can request a different arrangement. Remember. Your safety and comfort is the priority. 

5.   Hospitals. If you need a doctor, go to the tourist hospital or the urgent care clinic. Look for basic sanitary signs: are the doctors/nurses wearing gloves? Are the needles coming out of packaged bags? Is it organized? Do the nurses and doctors have shoes on? (Yes, I've been in a hospital where my nurse wasn't wearing shoes). In developing nations, the tourist hospital should be your first priority destination when you need to be treated for something. If you really have no idea where to go, get in touch with your Embassy and ask them.


Traveling as a Solo Woman

I cannot find enough words in the English language to convey just how hugely wonderful, important, and exciting it is to be a solo woman traveling the globe, and I encourage all of my fellow ladies to independently take on the world at least once in their lives. En yet, it’s obvious that the importance of safety can be even more significant in this case, and I know the thought of being alone in the world as a woman can be daunting. Trust me, I know. However, most of the time, solo women simply have to exercise the same caution they would if they were a man or traveling with someone else, such as:

  • Be vague about where you’re staying, your name, or how long you’re going to be in town when talking to strangers or people you don’t know well

  • Do not take unmarked/unregistered taxis

  • Do not leave any drinks unattended

  • Only drink with people you can trust

  • If you’re on a road trip and a “police” car pulls you over, always wait until you can pull over somewhere well-lit, such as a market or gas station or busy intersection with street lights and other people.

  • Keep valuables (money, camera, wallet, passport) well hidden on you, and know which situations you should avoid taking your camera to (such as out to a bar)

  • Be vague about how much expensive equipment you have with you. This applies for photographers for people traveling with laptops, iPads, etc.

  • Avoid areas of cities or countries that may be tense, such as where riots, fights, high ethnic tensions, or protests may be happening. This is super precautionary, but it's good to be aware. This can easily be read up on the US Travel Advisory website.

  • Generally avoid dark streets, unlit parks, and back alleyways.

  • Always let someone know what your plans are; whether it’s someone at home or staff at a hostel (such as: if you’re going for a hike or trek and what time you’re expecting to be back, what hostel you’re staying at, what the address is of the CouchSurfing location you may be using and the name of your host)

However, for a woman in particular, these tips should also be considered:

  • Walk with confidence, as cliche as it sounds. Keep your head up, shoulders back, and take confident strides. Take up space when you move, instead of appearing sheepish, shy, or vulnerable.

  • Before you head out, consider where you’re going beforehand so you don’t end up fumbling with a map or guidebook. Not only does this distract you from what’s going on around you, but it makes you appear distracted, which is what thieves or attackers generally look for in victims.

  • Don’t walk around with headphones in.

  • Feel free to lie about traveling solo. “Oh, my tour group is around the corner!” “My boyfriend is getting us breakfast.” “I’m here working, and I’m meeting my boss any minute now.”

  • Keep eye contact with people who may be acting aggressive towards you. If you feel like you’re being followed or taunted in a busy marketplace, for instance, turn around, stand up tall (refer to the first bullet-point about confidence), stare them straight in the eye, and tell them directly and clearly to stop following you or harassing you. This also tells the other person that you are not easy to take advantage of, and that you clearly see who they are (AKA, you’d be able to identify them later if need be).

  • Before setting out, learn basic self-defense. Even one or two classes is a smart idea. You will probably never in your life ever have to utilize these skills, but the boost of confidence and knowledge can make all the difference.

  • Although it’s unfortunate, we do live in a world where men are often respected more than women, and so mentioning that a woman is married will usually deter a flirtatious man more so than simply saying that she’s not interested. A common trick to get obnoxious or unwelcome flirtatious men to leave you alone is by mentioning that you are traveling with a husband. Usually this will be followed up with the man asking where your husband is, in which you can reply something along the lines of, “He’s at the market getting food but will be back in a moment,” or “He’s parking our car,” or “He’s in the bathroom, I’m waiting for him here.” In certain situations, I’ve even ended up walking around with a ring on my left hand, and noticed a surprising drop in the number of men who approached me to inquire about my love life.

  • Although it may sound temping, do not carry a knife on you unless you know how to use it. (Not to mention there are a bunch of gray areas in the legality of that, depending on where in the world you are). But I do recommend keeping mace on you or in your car if you're road tripping.

  • If you feel like you’re being followed, jump into any well-lit restaurant, cafe, market, police station, disco, gas station; anywhere that has people that can help defend you or at least allow you to hang out until the follower is gone.

  • Know the country's police phone number by heart.

  • Don’t be afraid to be loud. If someone is encroaching on your personal space and won’t back off, by all means be loud! Demand boldly and boisterously that they leave you alone. Draw attention to yourself. Get others on the street to notice what’s going on if the situation is escalating. And of course, in the worst case scenario:

  • Scream. If you feel that you are seriously being threatened, draw as much attention to yourself as possible.

This isn’t meant to scare. The likelihood of a situation rising to anything more aggressive than mere inquiries about your husband (“Where is he? You’re so beautiful!”) or tugging on your arm in a tourist market to pull you into their shop so you can buy their crafts, is likely to not happen to you. However, being prepared for an array of situations and taking certain precautions helps boost your chances of safety, so they’re good to take note of.

If I missed any crucial points, feel free to leave them in the comments, we can continue to keep each other safe out there in the world.

Budgeting for a Trip & How to Save

Allow me to shout something from the rooftops for a moment:

Traveling does not have to be expensive.
Traveling does not have to be expensive.
Traveling does not have to be expensive.

All the glamorous photos of luxury safaris in Zimbabwe or hotel rooms overlooking the Siene are trying to sell you the idea that in order to travel, you need to have a pretty hefty wallet. We all know this, and more often than not, it's the #1 reason why people come to the conclusion that they "can't travel," or at least won't be able to for years (and a solid savings account) to come. While, yes, some places in the world will be more expensive to travel than others - there's just no way around that - I promise you that there are ways to bend and break the rules so that you can affordably travel and still be able to have all the amazing experiences you want.

How to Come Up With a Budget


After you have purchased your guidebook (or have spent a fair amount of time researching your destination on the internet), you should come up with a solid list of things you want to do, and then take your time gathering a vague idea of how much each activity is going to cost. If you want to go backpacking in the Andes of Peru, with some flitting through the pages of your guidebook or quick googling, you should be able to see how expensive permits are to backpack there. If you want to go bungee-jumping and abseiling and rock climbing in New Zealand, find a couple tour operators or guides to gather general quotes on how much those activities cost.

This does not mean that you have to know everything you want to do before you get to your destination. For long-term trips or people who like to wing it, it just isn't realistic. But it's a good idea to have a vague idea of how much "fun stuff" generally costs so you don't find yourself over-saving or without enough. If you find on a budget tour operator's website that most activities in Laos are between $40 and $100, bring an extra $300 for activities that may spring up while you're over there on a 2-3 week trip.

Trekking in South America is a highlight for most backpackers, but most national parks require a certain entrance/park fee that should be considered in a budget

Trekking in South America is a highlight for most backpackers, but most national parks require a certain entrance/park fee that should be considered in a budget


If you're traveling in Africa or Asia or some parts of South America, public transport generally won't cost you more than $50 on long-haul bus or train rides, but if you're planning on taking trains consistently through Europe or buses through New Zealand, those will most likely be a high expense. Use websites such as to get estimates on how much it costs to take trains to and from your destinations, and do Google searches regarding buses to get an idea of how much you should save for the typical distances you plan to go. And if you are renting a car, get a quote online, and ask your rental company what they recommend you budget for gas (depending on the length of your trip).

Insider Tip: Several countries in Europe, such as Switzerland, offer discounted train passes for students, or people under certain ages, or people traveling on their trains consistently. Check out your guidebook to see if any information is available on discounts.

Long bus rides, especially public ones, can be arduous but offer spectacular views

Long bus rides, especially public ones, can be arduous but offer spectacular views


Some hostels and/or campsites are $2 are night.
Others are $40, at their cheapest.
Sometimes CouchSurfing may be the best and most budget-friendly option. Often times, the prices of hostels and campsites depend exclusively on where in the world they are, and what time of year you're planning on being there (such as, getting a dorm bed in a hostel in Rio is usually about $12 a night, but during Carnival, prices for the same bed can skyrocket up to $100 or higher; be aware of what's going on when planning your budget and if you should expect dramatic changes in prices). To estimate how much you should save for accommodation, use any number of hostel/campsite searching websites to get an idea of how much hostels typically cost where and when you're going. That way, you can generate an average number, and use that number for however-many-nights you're going to be traveling. That will give you a generous allotted budget for accommodation expenses.

For your estimations:

Budget accommodation outside Tzaneen, South Africa

Budget accommodation outside Tzaneen, South Africa


You can eat out at restaurants for all three meals a day and have it cost you a total of $9 if you're traveling in India. You can struggle to find a breakfast sandwich for under $15 if you're traveling in Switzerland. Unfortunately, food expenses are very similar to accommodation expenses in that they depend almost entirely on where in the world you are. That's why I say, ditch the breakfast sandwich. Eating on the road, no matter where you are, can be affordable as long as you know how to eat budget-friendly. While you may easily get away with a $10-a-day food budget in India, you're going to have to get more creative in most other places in the worth; especially pricier nations in Europe (I'm looking at you, Scandinavia and Switzerland), or the US and Australia.

Do not fret.

Most hostels offer kitchenettes that usually contain a stove, fridge, and maybe even an oven at the bare minimum. An extremely affordable way to eat cheaply on the road is by buying your own food and cooking your own meals. You can stretch a $3 bag of pasta and $4 bag of marinara sauce over the course of 3 dinners, and you can transform a $2 loaf of bread and a $5 jar of peanut butter and jelly into a week's worth of lunches. A box of granola bars, a $1 container of instant coffee, and a bag of bananas are a week's breakfast and snacks. Visit your destination's supermarkets or farmers markets, pick up whatever is delicious and cheap, and prepare your own meals. In most towns, no matter where in the world, you will be able to find some kind of general foods store that will sell anything from fruit to vegetables to bulk bags of rice, pasta, beans, and bread. While it may be cumbersome to carry a big bag of rice in your backpack as you move from location to location, buy smaller quantities of these staples, or leave behind whatever you can't carry with you (some other hungry backpacker will be eternally grateful to find leftover bags of fruit or beans in the hostel kitchen's cupboard). No matter what, buying and preparing your own meals will cut down on food costs significantly, and will leave you with the ability to proudly say that you're living off of a total of $10-$20 a day in Paris. This way, too, you'll have more money budgeted for the occasional special meal, where you can really enjoy the local cuisine and indulge yourself in a nice meal or night out trying the local bar scene without feeling like you're bleeding out of your wallet.

Dinner in Romania: canned beans, lentils, pasta, and marinara sauce = $2.50 per serving

Dinner in Romania: canned beans, lentils, pasta, and marinara sauce = $2.50 per serving

Breakfast in Croatia: bread, banana, peanut butter = $.70 cents per serving

Breakfast in Croatia: bread, banana, peanut butter = $.70 cents per serving

Extras (visas, gear)

Many countries will require foreign travelers to buy visas in order to enter, and while some visas cost $30, others can go up to $100 or more. Be sure you add in visa expenses into your budget, or even the purchase of a passport if you haven't applied for one yet).

Additionally, consider everything you may have to buy for the trip:

Do you need a backpack?
Boots and/or shoes?
Do you have all the clothes and toiletries necessary?
What about camping supplies if you're going camping?

Consider these as well so the price of preparation doesn't catch you off guard.

Once you have all of these numbers, add them up, and there is your budget. Congrats! Throw in your plane tickets, and maybe an extra hundreds dollars or so for additional expenses (it's better to be over-prepared than under, I am a firm believer in this), and pat yourself on the back.

Not so scary, right? 

But How Do I Save?

The number one thing I recommend for people when trying to save for a trip is just to cut the junk out. The "junk" being everything not absolutely necessary.

  • Perhaps this means forgoing your daily $2 cup of coffee. (That $2 is a night in a hostel in Kathmandu).

  • Or not going out to eat once (or several) times a week. (That $20 meal is a bus ride from Uganda to Nairobi).

  • If you really want to see stark changes, sell your tv and just use Netflix - or even get rid of Netflix. That costs money, too. (or do what I do and just use a family member's plan... sorry not sorry)

  • Get rid of all the clothing you don't wear, unnecessary household trinkets, unopened gifts in the back of your closet, and sell them all at a garage sale or on eBay.

  • Ride your bike or take public transportation instead of wasting gas in your car on local errands.

  • Forego the expensive foodstuffs you may like to splurge on at the grocery store, such as fancy new products or $7 kale chips. Stick to cheap produce and staple items. You'll be surprised at how much you save by only buying and eating what's absolutely necessary.

  • On top of selling the clothes you don't wear, avoid buying anything new and unnecessary. Saving for traveling is about considering how that money could be used elsewhere. (I mean, I know that sweater is only $30, but $30 is almost four days in Tanzania; think on a global, end-goal scale).

  • Open a savings account specifically for travel savings so you don't tamper/drain it.

  • Prepare at home your own weekly lunches so you're not tempted to buy sandwiches while at work or school. Same goes for coffee: invest in a thermos and brew your own stuff.

  • When you do go out to the bars or a restaurant, really save drinks for special occasions. And when you do, stick to just one or two of whatever is cheap. When you feel yourself wanting to go for that third $12 cocktail, say no and instead deposit that $12 into your travel fund. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

  • Lastly, get a part-time job. Even working a few hours here and there as a waiter or dog-walker or babysitter adds up. Of course this just is not feasible for many people as they may already be working full-time or too much, but if you find yourself lazing around on weekends or having wide-open days during the week, get busy. You'll be surprised at how quickly your travel goals approach.

With all these in mind, I'm not saying it's not important to be comfortable and enjoy the interim between trips. If all you do is sit in your house eating peanut butter sandwiches because you're afraid of spending money and it's impacting you negatively, then that's simply not worth it. But by eliminating trivialities and focusing on the end goal (that $100 pair of jeans is the equivalent of a week of backpacking up volcanos in Guatemala), then you should find yourself feeling excited and empowered by the money that's pouring back into your pockets; money that will leave you with incredible experiences soon enough.

Now. I'll see you on those volcanoes.

Guide to Packing

When packing, there are three main considerations: 

    1. What luggage am I bringing? 
    2. What are my absolute must-haves (for any trip)? 
    3. What do I need to bring that's unique to this trip? 

Let's start with #1. 

What Luggage am I Bringing? 

Finding the right luggage for traveling is crucial. You want something that's roomy enough for trips where you may be carrying extra bulk, but you also don't want something that will be too heavy and cumbersome for occasions where you're carrying it for significant portions of time. Most travelers find that they need two kinds of luggage: a large backpack for carrying your clothing and gear, and one small daypack for essentials that you want on you at all times. When picking out your luggage backpack, I recommend shooting for anything between 60 to 80 liters in size. While it's easy to compress a backpack if you don't use up all 80 liters, it's much harder to stretch it and force everything to fit into a small pack that simply doesn't have enough space.

When you're picking out your backpack, shop around, and try things on. Don't buy something blindly online without having tested it out first. Head to your local outdoors store (such as REI or Eastern Mountain Sports) and work with a specialist who will find the backpack that's most formfitting, comfortable, and viable for you. 

As for the daypack, you want enough room so that it can fit anything you would need on a flight, in transit, or in any situation where you're out an about. A good test for a proper daypack is that is has compartments for pens, wallet, papers and documents (such as your passport), and room for a book or two, a rain jacket, sunglasses, a small toiletries/first aid kit, and a pocket for a water bottle or two. If you think you'll be carrying a laptop with you on your travels, look for a daypack with an internal laptop pocket. If you're carrying a DSLR camera, look for camera backpacks that can safely hold your camera gear, while still having ample room for necessary documents, transit necessities, and day items. Typically, daypacks run between 20 and 40 liters, and can also be tested and purchased at your outdoors retail store. 

On a road trip through Eastern Europe, I decided to bring a duffle instead of a backpack because it would be easier for living out of a car

On a road trip through Eastern Europe, I decided to bring a duffle instead of a backpack because it would be easier for living out of a car

What Are My Absolute Must-Have's? 

No matter where you go or what you're doing, 99% of the time, you will have to pack the same constant necessities. These include: 

    •    Toiletries (including: toothbrush, eye mask/ear plugs for sleeping, hair ties if necessary, just one small bottle each of toothpaste, shampoo, and soap -- remember, you can purchase these things abroad if you run out) 
    •    A converter if you're traveling abroad and power outlets are different from your own. It's worth investing in a universal converter so you don't have ten different ones for ten different countries. These can usually be purchased online. 
    •    Medications & copies of prescriptions. Along with medications, be sure to bring a broad spectrum antibiotic (which can be given to you from your travel doctor), as well as staples such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Dramamine (if you get motionsick) 
    •    Guidebook and a small phrasebook.  
    •    Headlamp with spare batteries. 
    •    Nalgene water bottle.
    •    Sunglasses and glasses (with your prescription, in case you lose your glasses) 
    •    Pack towel 
    •    Rain jacket 
    •    Rain cover for your backpack 
    •    Rubber sandals for communal hostel showers
    •    Sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner. The liner can be washed, which will make you feel cleaner throughout your trip, and it can also be used in places where it's too hot to sleep in your sleeping bag, or you don't want to sleep in the provided sheets. 
    •    Laundry bag 
    •    Basic First Aid Kit 

Optional (but recommended): 

    •    Headphones (and a spare pair, in case yours are broken or lost) 
    •    eReader and Book 
    •    Notebook & pens 
    •    Plastic bags for items that may be wet or muddy
    •    Deck of cards 
    •    Sunhat 
    •    Bandana 

Insider Tip: Using your shampoo or body wash is a great substitute for washing clothes, so ditch bringing laundry detergent. Pack along a clothes line and pins for drying, too. 

What Do I Need to Bring That's Unique to This Trip? 

When deciding what clothing, shoes, and gear you should bring on your trip, consider your trip's location, climate, activities, and culture. The best way to get an idea for what kinds of clothes to bring is by looking through a Lonely Planet guidebook on the region you're traveling to. In every Lonely Planet, there is always a section devoted to telling you about what clothing is culturally acceptable or unacceptable, as well as also giving you a month-by-month look at what climate is generally like in certain regions at certain times of year. For example: you may be traveling to the Sahara Desert in August, but you'll also want to bring a warm sweater and hat because it can drop to freezing temperatures in the desert at night. In another case, you may be traveling to northern Norway in January, which requires a serious amount of extreme cold-weather appropriate clothing. If you're going trekking in Nepal, you'll want a mix of both cold-weather clothing and even warm weather clothing, such as hiking shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, as it can get surprisingly hot and humid in the Himalayan trekking regions. 

Once you've picked up your guidebook or have turned to Google and you have an idea of what kinds of weather you'll be facing, you'll want to find clothing that's as versatile (and, again, culturally appropriate) as possible. Especially for long-term trips where you may be traveling to multiple countries and will have to pack for a variety of climates, you're going to really want to snoop around your outdoors retail store to find clothing that's as lightweight, durable, and compactible as possible. 

Here are some tips for packing light and versatile: 

    •    Bulky fleece jackets should be replaced with synthetic down coats that were designed to compress to save the most space as possible. 
    •    Clunky sweatshirts should be replaced with lightweight (but just as warm) alternatives, such as SmartWool and/or Patagonia pullovers and zip-ups that are well-fitting and designed to easily be packed away. 
    •    Jeans are not only cumbersome and inefficient with their size, but are difficult to wash and dry efficiently when on the road. Swap them out for comfortable lightweight pants that are easy to travel in, hike in, and explore in. 
    •    Dresses and skirts are excellent for formal occassions, for hot locations, or for when you just feel like dressing up. Just be sure that you're well aware of the cultural expectations regarding dresses and skirts. Do they need to at least cover your knees? Do they need to cover your ankles? Can they be spagetti-strap style, or will you need to cover your shoulders, or your chest, or both? The same rules apply when deciding on bringing shorts and tank-tops. Cultural awareness needs to be acknowledged when packing.
    •    Only bring a handful of underwear and socks. Remember, you can (and should!) do laundry on the go, whether you pay for it to be done, or whether you do it in a hostel sink. You shouldn't bring a month's worth of these things, as they can take up a significant amount of room, and are easy to clean and quickly dry. So just pack a bare minimum (I usually bring a week's worth). 
    •    Find the right shoes. Usually a pair of supportive hiking boots are efficient for most traveling, hiking, and walking you'll be doing, and rubber sandals are good for swimming and showering. Some people opt for bringing along a third pair of every-day shoes, such as Toms or Converse, that are subtler than hiking boots and are nice for casual days where you aren't carrying a heavy backpack. 
    •    Don't go shirt crazy. It's easy to find yourself wanting to pack a shirt for every occasion, but you'll find just how little you actually need. Instead of bringing your whole wardrobe, pick out three or four shirts and stick to that. Something for cooler weather, something for warmer weather, and anything that can be layered.  
   •    Finally: use compression sacks! Everyone has their own method of organizing their backpacks, but using compression sacks to organize clothing allows more space in the backpack for extra gear, such as bulky hiking boots or a sleeping bag or tent equipment. 

Insider Tip: When women are traveling to more conservative regions, it's always a good idea to bring along a shaul or scarf if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to be considerably covered up (such as visiting a mosque). 

The Vegan Backpacker Masterpost

Probably the most common question I get next to "how do you afford to travel?" is:

"How do you stay vegan when you travel?"

The answer is, simply. 

The ironic thing is that if I weren't looking to pinch pennies for every trip I take, it may actually be a bit harder to be vegan abroad; after all, it's hard enough already going out to eat in the U.S., let alone Eritrea or Uruguay. Saving money as a backpacker usually involves cooking and preparing my own food instead of eating out at restaurant after restaurant. This allows me to save money while also being very much in control of what I'm eating.

What About Missing out on Cultural Experiences?

I've heard from close friends that they find it amusing that now I almost exclusively eat my own cooked/prepared food when I'm traveling, because before I went vegan I was the person who always eagerly stepped up to try the local delicacies: scorpion and snake on a stick, fried spiders, live grubs, sheep brain, straight goat blood (still warm from the jugular), deep fried guinea pig, llama tartar, putrified shark and puffin... to be honest, the list could go on for awhile. I also thoroughly enjoyed the more westernized cuisines, such as buttery croissants and oozing eclairs in Paris, or seafood platters the size of a small car along the Mediterranean, or cheese fondues with a full-fat cappuccino in the Swiss Alps. Initially when I went vegan back in 2013, I was concerned that suddenly I'd feel deprived without trying all these different kinds of food around the globe, but all it took was a solid perspective shift for me. The devastating environmental impact of eating animal products, not to mention the inexcusable cruelty, does not magically disappear while on vacation. While I do think that one of the best ways to experience a culture is through their cuisines, I hold myself to the mindset that ethics don't bend for a momentary meal; and plus, you'd be surprised how many cuisines around the world are mostly plant-based, or can be made plant-based.

That being said, some of my favorite vegan meals have been abroad: couscous in a heavy vegetable stew, called tagine, in Morocco; falafel gyros stuffed with tahini sauce and paprika fries in Turkey and Greece; heaps of grilled vegetables drizzled with olive oil, garlic, toasted bread, and sea salt in practically every seaside country along the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts; plates piled high with gallo pinto (rice and beans stewed together with fresh herbs and spices), sweet plantains, and fresh salads in Costa Rica; avocado smoothies and yuca fries dipped in mouth-wateringly flavorful sauces in West Africa; dark chocolate roasted with hazelnuts in Switzerland; vegan wienerschnitzel in Austria and dairy-free gelato in Rome; all the curries and matars and naans and samosas and chutneys in India and Nepal; fresh, steaming vegetable dumplings in bustling Shanghai markets. 

It's a whole other part of the world -- and part of traveling -- to get to know.

What About Offending People Who Offer You Food?

An extremely valid concern for vegan or vegetarian travelers is what to do in the situation when a local offers you some sort of food that isn't vegan. This is where a gray area arrises.

Let's use an example of when I ended up at a family's home in rural northern Nepal, in a village somewhere along the border to Tibet. I had recently transitioned to vegan, and wasn't sure what to do when I heard some rummaging in the kitchen, and the mother of the house suddenly appeared in front of me with a big, heaping bowl of something. Something with hunks of bone, cheese, and what I'm sure was roped intestine floating in a thick brown stew. Not to mention a cup of Tibetan butter tea filled to the brim. (Butter tea is made from three ingredients: tea leaves, salt, and butter from a yak).

Now, my extent of the Tibetan language is hello and goodbye, so any attempt I made to communicate that animal products would upset my stomach wasn't exactly translating. In a perfect world, I'd know how to communicate that meat and dairy makes me sick (because at that point I really was concerned that my body would react poorly to having a sudden huge intake of what I'd ridded from my diet three months prior), but that didn't seem to be in the cards. 

And she was kneeling there, smiling and eager, and so I accepted it, and I drank it all, slurped it all, make plenty of delicious! moaning sounds and belly-rubs, and was grateful.

And that's it.

There will be plenty of occasions while traveling where I can politely decline a meal because I can't eat what's being offered to me and there is no offense taken (usually when there's ample communication and they understand that you truly may get sick), but there are also occasions (particularly during home-stays) where someone has truly and earnestly cooked something for me, and to decline it would be disrespectful beyond anything you or I could imagine. Sometimes you'll be in a position where you have to accept food that's offered, and I encourage you to be gracious, courteous, and to never forget the privilege it is for someone to provide nourishment for you; even if it's not the nourishment you're used to getting.

(Also, yes, for those of you wondering: I did get sick from the butter tea and intestine stew. But now it's a story to tell, and no one was offended in the process).

Favorite Vegan Traveler Meals and Tips
  • When it comes to breakfast, most hostels will offer some kind of complimentary fare that will consist mostly of non-vegan foods, but there are always a few gems. Scope out the breads, peanut butter, jams and marmalades, fruit, vegetables, and margarine. You may even get lucky and find Heinz baked beans (vegan) or oatmeal (ask if it was made with milk or water) at hostels that offer a more full English breakfast. However, even at the most bare-bones breakfasts, you are guaranteed to find bread and jam at the very least. (And honestly, you're better off eating that than instant-eggs and canned sausages, anyway). 
  • If your hostel does not offer breakfast, some favorite backpacker breakfasts of mine are: banana and peanut butter on bread/toast, fruit salads, instant oatmeal bought at a grocery store with a handful of nuts or dried fruits, apples and pears, cereal with almond or soy milk, or leftovers from what I made the night before (note: cold pasta, stir fries, and pizza tastes awesome the next morning straight out of the fridge)
  • Before leaving on your trip, consider stocking up on a dozen or so hearty and nutritious granola bars that can fill in for a meal or snack when no vegan options are available, such as Cliff bars, Pro Meal bars, or Luna Bars. That way, you can at least guarantee you'll never be hungry.
  • For lunch, a bag of bread, jam, and peanut butter offers a whole week’s worth of lunches for barely a dollar each. And when PB&J sandwiches get tiring, other quick and awesomely cheap lunch ideas are: bean salad (buy canned beans and veggies – such as kidney beans, chickpeas, green beans, corn, peas, canneli beans, mushrooms, and whatever else you find, drain the liquid from the cans, and mix whichever veggies & beans you want together with a splash or two of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, or tomato sauce), veggie sandwiches (slice some sweet peppers, cucumber, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce, and throw them on two mustard-slathered pieces of bread, and voila- also the perk of this is that mustard can go for a few days with refrigeration and stay edible, as opposed to hummus or condiments from animal products which need refrigeration)
  • For dinner, some more ideas are: pasta with tomato sauce, and to bulk it up, throw in a can or two of veggies or beans (I personally like peas, mushrooms, and chickpeas in my backpacker pastas); rice with lentils/beans/veg; stir fry; stews and soups (grab some veggie broth, veggies, beans, grains such as barley, and cheap spices to make a hearty few meals); curries; veggie ramen; veggie hot-dogs, which are surprisingly common to find and quick to prepare; if there’s an oven or you’re cooking over an open flame, take advantage and make roasted veggies by mixing them with olive oil and salt, or wrap up veggies, corn, and potatoes in tin foil to roast over a fire.
  • If you’re going to be staying somewhere with a freezer, use that opportunity to buy frozen veggies to add to your dinner for a variation from canned veggies (more nutritional content in frozen veg)
  • If you’re in a region where avocados are everywhere, take advantage and make guacamole, or smashed avocado sandwiches/toast with salt and pepper. If you want to get fancy, throw in chopped onions, tomato, and lettuce. 
  • In bigger Western cities, it’s common now to find plant milks at big supermarkets (such as rice or soy milk); look out for that if you have a hankering for cereal and you have a place to refrigerate the milk.
  • Learn how to say vegetarian/vegan, milk, cheese, butter, egg, and no in the local language, or at the very least, write them down and keep them on you! If you’re eating out and are unsure if something contains animal products, you’ll be able to ask. 
  • If you have a fridge and you find hummus at the local market, stock up on that and make some hummus veggie sandwiches. 
  • Snacks that can endure long travel days without spoiling or bruising: apples, pears and bananas as long as they're a bit underripe, carrots/peppers/cucumbers, pretzels (check for whey in the ingredients), dark chocolate (usually 75% cacao or more is vegan but check anyway), granola bars, nuts and dried fruits, potato chips, pickles (I may be weird about that but I love pickles and they last forever)

AND is an excellent resource for finding vegan and vegetarian restaurants (or at least restaurants that offer veg options) in most cities around the world.

Happy carrot munching and globe trotting!