Housesitting: Get Free Accommodation While You Travel!

housesitting sites

I had never been so happy to put away dishes. My remains of my breakfast waited patiently to be washed down the drain as I emptied the dishwasher. I thought about the last time I had touched a dishwasher. Two weeks ago, I was praying that I wasn’t going to open the door to a squat toilet. Now I had a bathtub.

My itinerary for the day included opening an Australian bank account, getting an ice cream sandwich, and wandering around the Gallery of Modern Art. If the itinerary was pushed back or completely washed away by the rain outside, I wasn’t going to get upset. The train would be running tomorrow, and banks, museums, and bars would be open for the next five weeks. Plus, I hadn’t had a job yet; the longer I stayed in the dining room listening to King Krule and drinking coffee, the less money I would be spending.  I wanted to knit, but Baymax was sleeping on my yarn – I knew if I was sleeping, I wouldn’t want to be disturbed over a (potential) scarf. I hadn’t been up for more than a few hours, but I was ready for a nap too.

Continue reading “Housesitting: Get Free Accommodation While You Travel!”

Trec: Get Local Advice In a Facebook Message!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.

Hey friends! If you have ever talked to me one-on-one about places I’ve been, you know I love giving travel advice. Why else would I have a travel blog, right? Once I find a cute coffee shop or great live music venue, I want to share it with everyone. (If anyone needs me to plan their trip to Austin, Texas, I will make sure you are well fed and your ears are filled with great music.)

Continue reading “Trec: Get Local Advice In a Facebook Message!”

KindMeal Is a Must-Have App for Vegetarians in Malaysia

KindMeal is a must-have app for vegetarians in Malaysia

Southeast Asia is a foodie’s paradise, but I have to admit, I was a little nervous to start eating street food, or any type of food, as a vegetarian. I have been a vegetarian for close to four years now, and love my meat-free lifestyle. I have to admit that when I meet other vegetarians, or hear that a friend has cut meat out of their life, I do a little happy dance!

Vegetarian travelers, never fear. I have had no problems sticking to meat-free meals while in Southeast Asia. I’m happy to say that Kuala Lumpur (where I will be staying for the next few weeks) has been the easiest place to eat vegetarian in Southeast Asia. Why? I have the help of a fantastic app called KindMeal.

Continue reading “KindMeal Is a Must-Have App for Vegetarians in Malaysia”

How Much To Budget For A Trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia

How Much to Budget for a Trip to

Let’s make a budget! Sexy! Exciting! Totally going to go as planned!

Budgeting isn’t fun, but it’s essential for beat, broke backpackers like me. Hindsight is 20/20 and about $20 more than I thought I was going to have to pay to visit Angkor Wat. I loved Siem Reap, Cambodians are super sweet, but there were a couple hidden expenses that I would like to share with anyone making a budget. So let’s begin!

Continue reading “How Much To Budget For A Trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia”

Weird Ways to Make Money As a Writer

I’ve got an exciting update: Andrew and I have planned our route! We’re doing a circle for about 5 1/2 weeks, hitting Bangkok, Koh Phagnan, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh, Dalat, Chiang Mai, and Pai. Phew!

Having this part of the planning completed has revealed the reality of other parts of the trip for me. Namely, oh my god I have to go fly to Australia and get a job and not run out of money but maybe stay in Southeast Asia for a bit first and get a job I need to get a job it has been 2 weeks since my last full-time job oh my god. 

Continue reading “Weird Ways to Make Money As a Writer”

Tiptoeing Back into Traveling: Post New Orleans Ramblings

In the past few months, while being jostled around by family reunions and summer vacations, I’ve been greedily collecting ideas, plans, maps, and dreams. Rather than a fire burning or a star bursting, I’ve been feeling like a box inside of me was shrinking, and I was stuffing more into it:

things I wanted to discuss in a coffee shop

projects I wanted to start now

phrases and ramblings and pictures.

These ideas, not being unleashed, were beginning to feel stale.

I’ve learned the only solution this is to stuff a bag full of clothes and notebooks, and head to somewhere fresh.

I spent a blink of an eye in New Orleans. I was able to wander through the cemeteries and fall in love (again) with a city that demands your attention to experience both an otherworldly presence and very real history. From the moment I walked into the Museum District, the soft pain and spooky intrigue of New Orleans that I had fell in love with while reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles last summer jumped in front of me like one of the many blaring saxophone solos I jumped for on Frenchman Street.

The words in Chronicles that defined New Orleans for me faded away and I replaced them with discussions, stories, and permanent words scribbled into a notebook over a French market crepe or quiet moment at Greenwood cemetery.

(Backpacking stories, hostel whisperings, local and tourist recommendations alike.)

These stories are not familiar, and the words become rearranged in every city you visit.

Hostel residents tend to tell the same story, but with a new twist every time. Where-you-headed-next and where-have-you-beens were exchanged, and as usual, I felt the simultaneous groan and a smile that comes from adding a new destination to my mental bucket list (this time, Costa Rica won out as the top dream.)

Quick run-ins and small chats brought your world in close with a tight squeeze and shrunk your story to a quick flip of a few pages.

The bartender at the shack whose name you hear whispered through the grapevine will tell you your future, finally humoring you until you’ve exhausted the thoughts that have been tumbling in your head about where to move and the pain you’ve felt looking at the artists giving it a go in the corners of galleries around the city.

The tarot reader in Jackson Square will tell you what she sees in your face and what you’re aching for in your bones. You’re hit with a smack in the face once you pop out of the bubble of introversion to discuss her cards, realizing your future is yours to write anyway, you don’t even remember her name.

 . . .

I write these words as I sit on a Megabus seat bumping through Texas. I’m reflecting on my trip, my gratitude, and I feel my energy being restored. Anyone who asks me if I’m an introvert while in a crowd of people will see the bashful answer on my face before I say, “Oh yeah.” I have to be alone to fill up. I opted out of my reserved seat on the Megabus today (a loss of a whole $1) to find a spot where I wouldn’t be surrounded by people. As I flew through the jobs on my to-do list (giving me the illusion I was flying through Louisiana,) I felt restored back to full.

My assignments for the day are done. My time in New Orleans has drawn to a gentle close, like finishing a good book with a long exhale, putting it back on your bookshelf with great care and knowing that in the future, you’ll revisit it once more with fresh eyes and a great yearning for a different interpretation of the story. It’s time to head back to “real life” now, with a clear mind and a refreshed determination to finally build my “what’s next.”

Where Do I Stay? The Pros and Cons of AirBNB, Couchsurfing, and Hostels

Hello friends! I hope your December is lovely so far! I have a month of work coming up BUT I’ll be heading back to my home of Philadelphia at the end of the month to celebrate my favorite holiday! For New Year’s Eve, my friends and I (10 in total!!) are renting an Airbnb! It’ll be our first time renting an Airbnb, so we’re super excited. For the holiday travelers, I decided to make a pro/con list of Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and hostels…the most popular ways to find lodging on a budget during your travels!

What?

Airbnb: Airbnb is new to the scene. If someone wants to rent out a room, a house, or anything in between (I’ve seen treehouses for rent on Airbnb!), they can! I like to call it a paid Couchsurfing experience, and a little more glamourous. Check it out on Airbnb.com or through the Airbnb app!

Couchsurfing: Need a cheap place to crash? Couchsurfing’s got you covered. Tons of travelers around the world offer up their space for free! I won’t go into too much details, but if you want to learn more, check out my blog post!

Hostels: The hip hotel experience. Reserve a bunk bed, or a few, and move from hostel to hostel around the world. This is the most established and most fun way to find cheap lodging. Websites like hostels.com will give you a worldwide database of places to stay, but a Google search of hostels around  your location will also do the trick!

Cost:

Airbnb: Usually, an Airbnb will cost less than a hotel, but more than a hostel. The most cost-efficient time to use Airbnb is on a group trip with friends. For our New Year’s Eve Airbnb, our group of 10 only ended up having to pay around $35 a night. Keep in mind, this was for a big holiday in a great location. If you decide to choose an Airbnb for the first time, grab $20 off! Use the code MEGANO29 when you rent and you’re golden! Happy travels!

Couchsurfing: Free! While there is a $20 verification fee that lasts for a year, actually staying with your hosts doesn’t cost a dime. I still like to buy a small gift, a drink, or make a meal for my hosts, but it still comes out to a lot less money than any formal lodging.

Hostels: Even a nice hostel in the center of the city can still be pretty cheap. I’ve paid $8-$30 a night for a wide variety of hostels in Europe. It may be even cheaper in different parts of the world! Looking to save as much as possible? Grab larger rooms; 8-20 people.

Location:

Airbnb: Locations will vary within a city. As expected, Airbnbs in the center of a city will be more expensive than one on the outskirts, but you get what you pay for. It’s up to you when it comes to grabbing a place to stay in a certain neighborhood, near public transportation, or for a good price.

Couchsurfing: Unless your host lives in the city center (which, in my experience, is rare), you’re going to have to hop on a metro or two to put your stuff down. Sometimes your host will pick you up, but most of the time, you’re on your own. Grab a map!

Hostels: There are tons of options depending on what city you’re looking in. Booking through a website like hostels.com will let you look in different neighborhoods and will let you know how close a hostel is to a city center. Like an Airbnb, you’ll usually pay more for a hostel close to the city center, but you’ll also usually get your money’s worth for doing so.

Privacy:

Airbnb: Airbnb will provide you with the most privacy of any lodging option (unless you book a hotel room). In some cases, you may not even see the owner of the Airbnb!

Couchsurfing: Sometimes Couchsurfing hosts offer you a private room; sometimes it’s a couch. Either way, checking out their profile will let you know what you’re in for.

Hostels: Many hostels have private rooms as an option, and if you’re traveling in a group, you can usually find a room that will fit your group’s size. However, if you’re by yourself and in an 8-person room, you’re going to wake up and go to sleep in the same room with a few strangers. On top of that…communal bathrooms. Pack your flip-flops!

Meeting People:

Airbnb: This all depends on the owner of the Airbnb. Sometimes, you’ll spend a night with a private room and hang out with your hosts during your stay. Sometimes, you’ll never see them face-to-face. You’ll usually know what to expect before you arrive!

Couchsurfing: Couchsurfing is a great way to meet people without having to awkwardly break the ice. (“Where are you from?” is a strange question anywhere else other than a hostel.)

Hostels: Not only is it easy to meet people in hostels, it’s easy to meet a huge group of people very quickly. Whether you’re just walking into your room and introducing yourself or joining a game of beer pong down at the bar, hostels provide tons of ways to make friends and have a good time.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post! Let me know in the comments where you’ll be staying this holiday season!

Beat, Broke, Crafting! Bottle Cap Coasters

It’s no secret that I love a good beer. One of my favorite pieces of travel advice is, “Try the local beer.” I tried quite a few while in Europe, and because I’m a hoarder, I kept a few of the bottle caps. Bottle cap coasters are another easy craft for making cheap souvenirs and putting them to good use. These are super easy to make, so let’s get started!

Step 1: Collect Your Bottle Caps!

You all know how to do this. Drink up (if you’re of age. Soda caps work just as well!) Nine bottle caps makes a nice coaster, so collect bottle caps from your friends if you need to!

IMG_3744
Clearly these aren’t from my trip to Europe…

Step 2: Collect Your Materials!

IMG_3754

For bottle cap coasters, you’ll need:

  • Corkboard
  • Knife or Scissors
  • Mod Podge/Glue
  • Tissues/Napkins/Cotton Balls
  • Q-tip or Small Paint Brush

Step 3: Cut Your Coasters

Measure out a square of corkboard. To cover a coaster in nine bottle caps, you’ll need at least a 3 3/4″ x 3 3/4″ square, but you can have fun with it! You can cut it with scissors, but a knife works just as well (better, in my opinion).

Step 4: Apply the Bottle Caps!

IMG_3747

This is the trickiest part, and why you’ll need tissues. To most effectively glue the bottle caps to the coaster, you’ll need to add glue to the inside of the bottle cap (a Q-tip or a small paint brush are great tools for spreading glue to the inside edges). Then, stuff the inside of the bottle cap with a napkin or a cotton ball. The more the better, as long as nothing is sticking out after the bottle cap is applied. Spread glue on the corkboard where the cap will go, and voila!

IMG_3748

Step 5: Let Your Coaster Dry

This will take a little bit. When first glued, the bottle caps may puff up or slide around. Placing a weight on top of your coasters will keep it together while they’re drying.

IMG_3753

And you’re done! Homemade coasters for even more beer, or soda. Or coffee.

Hope you liked this post, give my blog a follow if you did! As always, comments and feedback are welcome! Thanks again for reading!

A Traveler’s Thanksgiving

Not all of the people I have met along my journeys know or celebrate Thanksgiving. Without getting into the twisted history as to why Americans celebrate this holiday, or an explanation of the Black Friday sales that loom over our extended family’s heads while dessert is being served, I’ll say that Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude. Anyone who has traveled in the past year has more than enough to be thankful for. Here’s a few of the things on my list:

Support – From my family. This time last year my father and grandmother were gifting me with a trip to visit my aunt and uncle in San Francisco, a city that has always fueled my love for travel. At the time I was really confused about my next steps. I had many talks with my aunt and uncle about the endless possibilities out in the world. My first big decision when it came to post-grad plans was to buy a one-way ticket to London. When I told my parents, I was surprised they didn’t freak out (ok, maybe internally, but they always supported my trip.) I’m happy to have a family that encourages travel, moving, and growing. Currently, my brother lives in Colorado and my sister lives in Chicago. I have family all over the country, including in Austin, Texas. My aunt and uncle here have been more than helpful in my transition to a new city. I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with them today! I feel like I lucked out this holiday season.

Safety – I made it from Philadelphia to London, to 22 cities, to Madrid, and back to New York, all in one piece. (Even after having my belongings stolen.) When the attacks in Paris were happening, all I could do was rack my brain and try and think if any of my friends had posted that they’d be traveling to Paris on their backpacking trips. Anyone I wasn’t sure of, I checked in with. I’m happy to say all of my friends are safe. The world can be terrifying if you start thinking too much. Today, however, for a short moment, I’ll focus on my safety and the safety of my friends.

Facebook – Cheesy. Lame. Technology will be the death of us all, BUT, I got to wake up this morning with messages from friends in two different countries. I’m planning trips all over the world with a friend that I met on Facebook a few months ago. When my phone was stolen, I was able to contact my parents and let them know I was still ok. I’m thankful for the benefits of technology. I’m thankful I can keep in touch with friends from all over the world, (and I can live through those who are still on their travels). The people I met on my trip were a key part in making my travels so special; I’m glad I can still continue those relationships from thousands of miles away.

Actual books – Jack Kerouac ignited the flames in my traveling soul when I was 16. Five hour bus rides throughout Europe were a lot easier when I had Bob Dylan, Irvine Welsh, and Chuck Palahniuk by my side. Bookstores gave me an excuse to strike up a conversation with whoever stood next to me, rifling through the gently-used-fiction sections. Books give me an adventure while I’m sitting on my couch, saving money for my next trip. Call me a nerd, but I’m thankful for books, stories, and words.

Bunk Beds and Couches – My Couchsurfing hosts and hostels were also a key part in feeling comfortable in new countries. Opening up your home to strangers, for free, is sometimes thought as mad. But it allows people to travel easily. Just having a place to sleep at night, even if it was on an overnight bus or in a smelly hostel with snoring Australians, is a blessing that not a lot of people have. 

Patience – The ability to travel at all is a blessing. In 2015, I was able to visit San Francisco, New York, Boston, and 22 cities in Europe, and move to Austin, Texas. I graduated college and opened a new chapter in my life. I still stutter and give different answers when I’m asked what I want to do with my life, and at this moment I couldn’t tell you my plans after my Americorps position. But one of the most important lessons I learned this year is that every day the world opens up more and more possibilities. I have tons of trips to take and stories to write. I’m not going to travel today but when I’m meant to board a plane to the other side of the world, I’ll be ready.
And I’m thankful for all of you who think my adventures are interesting and who read my blog! I hope you all have a lovely holiday season, no matter what you celebrate!