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.

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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!

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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!

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Clearly these aren’t from my trip to Europe…

Step 2: Collect Your Materials!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

Beat, Broke, Crafting! Souvenir Candles

The spring before my trip, I became obsessed with making candles. I had so many glass jars and a disgusting Pinterest habit (still do. Follow me.) I figured if I collected the materials for candles abroad and made them at home, I would be able to save space in my backpack AND save money. Win-win!

Keep those ticket stubs, friends, I have a use for them! And the use smells great!

Step 1: Collect Your Souvenirs!

I knew I was going to make these candles ahead of time, which gave me an excuse to hoard during my trip. I saved everything: metro passes, museum brochures, ticket stubs, festival schedules, maps….

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And this was AFTER I had thrown a bunch of things out in Berlin…AND Rome. I was a walking fire hazard. Peep my US collection in the bottom right corner…I can’t stop.

For the most part, the thinner the better. I glue all of my souvenirs to my candles (more on that later), so paper souvenirs have always worked best for me!

Step 2: Collect Your Materials!

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Here’s what you need for a basic souvenir candle:

  • Glass Jar – of any kind. I’ve used mason jars, old pasta sauce jars, old shot glasses…anything.
  • Mod Podge
  • Candle Wicks
  • Wax – I use soy wax! It’s easily accessible in bulk at any craft store or online. A pound and a half is plenty for a quart-sized mason jar.
  • Pouring Pot – It’s a lifesaver, and a burn-preventer. I got mine for less than 10 bucks online? It’s a great way to keep your candlemaking separate from your other stovetop activities.
  • Brush (0ptional) – It’s my favorite way to apply the Mod Podge
  • Fragrance (optional) – I’m using vanilla. I just like the smell.

Step 3: Arrange and Apply Your Souvenirs!

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My Poland-themed candle! 

I arranged mine by country, with big maps or festival schedules serving as the background and smaller souvenirs in front. This is the most fun part! Get creative.

You can apply your souvenirs in one of two ways! The easiest way is to Mod Podge them to the outside of the candle. Simple! I usually add a layer of Mod Podge to the back of the souvenirs and then another on top, just to secure it to the candle.

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A Rome-Themed Candle with Souvenirs Glued on the Outside!

 

Recently, however, I’ve been experimenting with putting them on the inside of the candle! This method can be tricky, however, as the wax may make its way in between the souvenirs and hide them a bit. However, with the way my Poland candle turned out, I think it adds a bit of an artsy, nostalgic touch. (Check it out later in the post.)

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Poland-Themed Candle With Souvenirs Inside (Pre-Wax)

Step 4: Melt Your Wax, Add Fragrance (optional)

Put your pouring pot on your stovetop and add bulk wax. Turning the stove on low still melts the wax in no time. You don’t have to add too much fragrance, either…a few drops will do.

 

Step 5: Add Your Wick!

This is honestly the hardest part. Straighten the wick out, wrap the end around your brush (or a pencil, or a fork…) and steady…steady….there.

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Step 6: Pour and Let it Harden!

Easy. The candles with souvenirs on the outside are going to look exactly the same before and after pouring wax, but the candles with souvenirs on the inside might be tricky.

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Poland Candle…Completed! 

As your candle burns, the wax melts and reveals the final details of your souvenirs. It’s a slow and lovely reminder of the trip you took and the memories you made.

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Hope you enjoyed this blog post…if you make any souvenir candles, show me!! My instagram is @beatbrokebackpacking, I post pictures of my travels and my blog posts. If you have suggestions for more crafts, let me know in the comments! Thanks again for reading!

What’s Couchsurfing? (And 4 Reasons Why You Should)

Hey! I’m back from Europe but I haven’t posted in a long time since my phone was stolen in Berlin! (More on that later.) I still want to write about traveling because, let’s be honest, I’ve got the travel bug. I came back to Philadelphia on September 12, and two weeks later I moved to Austin! The weekend before moving, I took a road trip to Boston Calling Music Festival with four friends I met on Couchsurfing. I’ve always been asked a lot of questions about Couchsurfing, so I figured this would be a great topic to start up the blog again!

What is Couchsurfing?

Couchsurfing is a website, an app, and most importantly, a community found throughout the world. It’s a way for people to help each other, learn from each other, and have an enhanced traveling experience.

How does Couchsurfing work?

When I first joined Couchsurfing, I created a profile on the website with information about myself, my travels, whether or not I can host, etc. Before I ever surfed with anyone, a friend and I hosted a fellow student from Manchester last-minute and had an awesome time exchanging stories over pitchers at McGillin’s. I also met up with a lovely girl from Taiwan and brought her to VegFest in Philly. Soon enough, it was time for my backpacking trip.

When I knew I would be needing a place to stay in a new city I would either directly message hosts from that city or put up a public trip telling hosts that I would be around and I would need a place to stay. After getting in touch with hosts and arranging the length of my stay, I would show up at their place! I usually Couchsurfed for 2-3 days at a time, but the length of your stay is up to you and your host. While you’re there, some hosts want to show you around their city. Some prefer not to. Some want to get drinks with you and their friends, some want to have deep political conversations. Every experience is different, but every experience gives you a more authentic view of the city (in my opinion) than say, a hostel or a hotel.

A little snippet of my Couchsurfing profile! via couchsurfing.com
A little snippet of my Couchsurfing profile!
via couchsurfing.com

IS IT SAFE??

Would I do it if it wasn’t?

Being a young woman alone, I knew I would have to exercise more caution than most people on their travels. Although the Couchsurfing community (like the rest of the world) is for the most part full of lovely people with good intentions, I still used a few different methods to “screen” potential hosts.

  1. I checked out their “references”. Couchsurfing allows you to leave notes about each host/guest/traveler you come across. You can say your experience was positive, negative, or neutral, with details about your accommodations and time with your host. I made sure to read a few of the references and only stayed with people who only had positive references.

    Sam and I left references for each other after hanging out at a music festival, crashing at his place, and meeting up in Vienna. via couchsurfing.com
    Sam and I left references for each other after we hung out at a music festival, I crashed at his place, and we met up in Vienna.
    via couchsurfing.com
  2. I added them on Facebook (and did a little creeping). This isn’t necessary or required, but it was just another way to make sure I was in good hands during my trip.
  3. I checked to see if they were verified. Basically, if you pay 20 dollars to Couchsurfing you get a green check mark and you can have your phone number/address/existence verified. I think references are more telling/important than verification, but again, always nice to see that little check mark.

Four Reasons Why You Should Couchsurf on Your Next Adventure:

  1. You learn from locals. As I mentioned earlier, Couchsurfing gives you more than a touristy experience. As much as I enjoy staying in a hostel with Americans, Brits, and Australians and using hostel maps to guide my wanderings, I also enjoyed talking to people who know what’s going on in Vienna, or who are pros at navigating Danish public transportation. I learned more about European politics from my Couchsurfing hosts than anyone or anything else – and that includes my formal education.
  2. Ok, let’s just say it….it’s cheap. Besides the $20 verification fee (which in my opinion isn’t 100% necessary), Couchsurfing is free! You get free accommodations while you travel. You get tips on where cheap beer/food is and any free events going on in the city. I try and buy my hosts a drink, gift, or make them food while I’m staying with them, but besides that, Couchsurfing is a great way to save money while traveling.
  3. Meetups! Even if you have accommodation throughout your travels, Couchsurfing meetups are another way to talk to people from all over the world. If I remember correctly, I went to a Couchsurfing meetup every day that I was in Berlin. Language exchanges at bars, free yoga classes at parks, picnics, happy hours….you name it, you can find an event for it on Couchsurfing. They’re not so common in America, but in Europe there are tons!  Sometimes you can even find hosts at meetups.

    Friends in Edinburgh…we met at a Couchsurfing event in Dublin!
  4. You can also use it as a resource for pretty much anything. Couchsurfing has discussion boards for each city where you can find local advice, rides to and from the city, events and more. It also has larger groups where you can post just about anything. As I mentioned before, when I made my way up to Boston for Boston Calling, I didn’t want to drive alone (or pay for gas alone). I posted on the Philadelphia & New York discussion boards that I would be driving up to Boston and could offer a ride, and by the time I left for Boston my car was full! I also have an Australian pen pal thanks to the “Alternative Ways of Living & Consuming” group.

Couchsurfing is a blast…I really enjoyed using it throughout my backpacking trip. This is just a brief overview of how you can use it, so if you have questions, leave them in the comments! Also, if you have suggestions for what I should write about next, let me know!! Thanks for reading!

What is WWOOF? And 5 Reasons Why You Should

“You’re going to what?”

I envision my trip to include bouncing around from couch to couch to hostel to hostel, but when I need to breathe, I’m hoping I can WWOOF. I spent a few weeks last summer “WWOOFing” in Pennsylavia, New Mexico and Texas (which you’ll read more about in later posts) and I’m itching to make WWOOF a part of my Europe adventure. There are tons of countries to choose from, so before I ask advice on where to WWOOF, I’ll answer the question….

a hike in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of my first days at Sunflower River ended with watching the sunset here.

What is WWOOF?

WWOOF’s website sums it up pretty nicely: “WWOOF is an exchange – In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.”

You buy a subscription for a year in the country/countries you want to WWOOF in. You make a profile, and you are then able to access the country’s list of hosts. The hosts will tell you where they live, what kind of help they need, your accommodations, and any other preferences they have. You email the farms you would like to WWOOF at, and if/when they respond you can set up dates to farm, etc. Last year I had the pleasure of WWOOFing at Pennypack Farm and Education Center in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, Sunflower River and Purple Sage Ranch in New Mexico, and Cassiopeia Farm in Austin, Texas. I wouldn’t trade that summer for anything.

Why WWOOF?

1. The Work

Most WWOOF farms ask for 20-30 hours a week; in many cases, I worked from 6-12 every day before it got too hot and had the rest of the afternoon/evening to explore the surrounding area/city. Jobs vary, but mine included tending to gardens, preserving food (and learning how to make an amazing strawberry jam), building a chicken coop, a gate, and digging a swale. I got to use my hands, get down in the dirt, and learn new skills. Most communications jobs don’t need someone who can handle an excavator, but if they do, I got the job.

Pennypack Farm crew!

2. The People

The list of people I met through WWOOFing is too long to list: hosts, fellow WWOOFers, friends of the farm…but they all deserve a shoutout. WWOOFing is a team effort, and while I saw many similarities in how WWOOFers saw the world and their place in caring for it, I also learned a lot. My hosts were more than willing to tell you about cool places around town, introduce you to friends, and tell you their stories. Fellow WWOOFers and I went on hikes and went to concerts. I know I can reach out to many of these people in the future and I now have new friends in the Southwest.

3. The Expense

Free housing? Free food (some of which you grow yourself)? What more do I need to say?

the beginnings of a Three Sisters Garden in Austin, TX

4. The Earth

I slept in a tent in the middle of a lightning storm, spent weeks with soil under my fingernails, and hiked around the ruins from the Anasazi and Navajo tribes. WWOOFing is all about learning, and through WWOOF you learn a lot about caring for the Earth, and more important, how important taking on this responsibility is. I’ve never met anyone so excited about tomatoes, or anyone so compassionate for their chickens. Every day on the farm, every seedling sprouting into a vegetable, is a miracle. It was nice to be given that reminder.

Candy Kitchen, NM

5. The Choices

You can WWOOF in most countries, not only around Europe but also around the world. There are over 1800 in the United States alone. You can WWOOF at some farms for a few nights to a few months. You can bring your pets to some farms if you want, you can bring your kids to some farms if you want (my dad’s planning to WWOOF next fall…I might just have to come with). You can choose to farm a bus ride away from the city, or secluded in the country. So. Many. Options.

I have a subscription to WWOOF Ireland right now, and I’m debating WWOOFing in Greece, France, or Hungary. Give me your picks in the comments, and if you’re interested in WWOOF at all, feel free to ask me questions!