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Recipe for Traveling Friendship

Ingredients
A booking at a hostel with a common kitchen
A few free hours in the evening
As much energy as you can muster
The actual food ingredients… will vary in every situation

I’ve been hostel hopping for two months now. Sometimes, it has been surprisingly lonely. I’ve booked six or eight bed dorms, and I was the only one there for days. But that just makes the times when there is good socialization even better. At my last hostel, they hosted a semi weekly pasta night. That was a fun and filling way to get to know a few other people. It even inspired a few of us to hang out together on the following evenings at a nearby gelateria. My current hostel only offers breakfast, but while I was pondering what to get for dinner the other evening, I thought, why not make a big bowl of pasta for whoever happens to be in the hostel?

Step 1 Buy some local ingredients at a nearby grocery store.

Making a big meal really doesn’t have to cost too much. I did it for under €5! I decided on pasta because it’s cheap and easy to make. I just picked out the kind of noodle that cost the least. Out of the sauce selection, there were two kinds that cost less than the others. I figured basil would go over better than spicy. For some creaminess, I grabbed a small package of Philadelphia cream cheese. (It’s not just an American thing!) I was about to add parmesan, but then found a similar kind of mixed cheese that was even less expensive.

You may also notice a pudding cup in this picture. I had no intention to mix it with the other ingredients, but it did turn out to be vital. See #3.

I should add that I really enjoy grocery shopping in foreign countries. It’s interesting to learn about the culture when you realize you can’t find refrigerated cookie dough, or that nutella is cheaper than peanut butter. Even back at home, I try to make it a challenge to get the best food at the lowest price through sales and swaps. It’s the easiest way to live like a local!

Step 2 Boil water.

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Naturally, before you even buy ingredients, check to make sure your hostel has the appropriate kitchen facilities to cook your dish. Last week, I almost bought a take-home pizza, until I remembered that that hostel had a stove top, but no oven. But I did find some mini frozen pizza that cooked in the toaster! Some hostel kitchens only have a fridge and microwave, and a few have no kitchen at all. In any situation, it’s possible to still make a meal, but it may take some creativity.

I was using a gas burner, and was only provided with a cigarette lighter to ignite it. This turned into a nearly dangerous game of lighting the stove without burning my fingers or inhaling too much gas. (Solution: set one end of a twisted-up paper towel on fire, and use that to ignite the burner.)

3. Think about when to s

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e.

Ideally, it should be ready to serve between the time day trippers arrive back from their adventures and the time night owls go out to party. Basically, whenever the most people will be at the hostel. Also consider people’s nationalities, as that will affect the time they get hungry for dinner. I was getting hungry at 5, which was way too early for everyone else. Since the water was taking a really long time to boil anyway, I put off my hunger with Italian-style pudding.

4. Coo

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mea

l.

I put the pasta in once the water finally boiled. It only took five minutes to cook, and I spent most of that time looking for a strainer. The hostel was sadly strainerless, so I made due by carefully pouring out as much water as I could without dumping any noodles. Hostel cooking does require a degree of resourcefulness, so get used to using kitchen tools for an unintended purpose.

Once the pasta was ready, I set it back on the burner and added half a block of cream cheese. I looked for some sort of oil to help it mix, and found free butter in the fridge. (Nice note: Never borrow food with a name written on it; only use things that clearly belong to the hostel! I lost a lot of milk and bread in Barcelona because people didn’t follow this golden rule of hostel stays.) Then I dumped in almost the entire jar of sauce and mixed thoroughly. I sprinkled on a little cheese, but left the bag out so that guests could determine their own amount of cheese.

5. Tell people to come eat.

Since I was in a small hostel, and many people had not checked in.for.the day yet, I could only get one person to join me. But one new friend is all you need! Dinner turned into a whole evening of conversation, including a trip to my favorite ge

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lateria.

6. Do something with leftovers.

Since I planned for more people, I had extra pasta and cream chese. I decided to have another hostel dinner night the following evening. I just had to restock the sauce, and this time I used a jar of pesto. More people had dinner this time around, and it again ended with an evening of conversation and dessert at the gelateria. So I guess this means that making a free dinner is a proven successful way to make traveling friends!

I think back to other times hostel buddies shared their food and friendship. At places that don’t include breakfast, a cup of yogurt is so helpful. In Madrid, a roommate forced me to take a peach in my day pack, concerned about me eating healthy foods! Even at my first hostel experience in Nashville years ago, one roommate would grill dinner for everybody, just because she found some food on sale! Experiences like these encourage me to pay it forward, and perhaps I can inspire others to do the same!

Have you ever been shown kindness in your travels? How have you paid it forward during a trip?

Not Your Grandma’s Compression Socks

On the day I left the United States, my mom got a glimpse of the socks I was wearing before we headed to the airport. I had told her that I was going to wear compression socks, so she was surprised to see some cute black socks with a gray and teal designs. “When you said compression socks, I was thinking the white ones that grandma wears!” No, these were not grandma’s compression socks. I then opened up my suitcase and showed her all my compression socks that were very fashionable and un-granny-like, thanks to Goodhew and Sockwell.

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I don’t think I’ve ever worn compression socks until just a few days ago when I began this trip. I guess I had always assumed that these kind of socks were only to help with certain health problems, like diabetes and age-related conditions. When I heard that their health benefits could involve everyone, I immediately thought of how great it would be to wear compression socks to backpack across Europe.

Before my recent flight, the longest nonstop flight I had ever had was nine hours, from LAX to Lima. I distinctly remember that, partway though the flight, my foot started to feel really weird. It was worse than having my foot fall asleep. I guess sitting in a tiny coach seat for so long affected the circulation of my legs! Since my flight from Salt Lake to Europe was even longer, I was glad to have knee high compression socks with me. For the entire flight, I didnt have to deal with tingly feet, ankle swelling, or anything of the sort!

I did initially want compression socks simply for the flights, but they are good to wear when exploring an area as well. I have walked a lot every day of this trip so far. When I travel, I like to save money and get a better feel for the destination by walking everywhere I can instead of riding a bus, subway, or taxi cab. I don’t think I even want to know how much I’ve walked the past few days because that big of a number would probably only make me more tired! It is important to take care of my feet since they’ve carried me so far. These compression socks are a treat for my feet.

I got four pairs of compression socks from Goodhew and Sockwell. All of them are made out of wool. While that sounds like it could be a sweat-inducing material, wool is great at wicking moisture away, so they actually are keeping my feet dry and smelling fresh. And the compression aspect supports my feet, which means that miles of walking haven’t made my feet very sore, and I’ve avoided foot cramps so far! I brought two additional pairs of socks. But honestly, I like my Goodhew and Sockwell socks so much, I’ve been doing extra washing so that I can wear them every day!

My socks range in color, style and length. The knee high socks we’re great for wearing on the plane. Because they compress, you couldn’t even see the sock lines through my leggings. Definitely a fashion plus! My favorite for walking around town are below the ankle, although I have some slightly longer ones that also do well at serving this purpose. The only downside is that it can take longer to get the longer socks on. The compression can make pulling a sock up your leg a bit more difficult! But that’s a small price to pay for a day of happy feet!

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If you are interested in getting compression socks like mine, I can’t encourage you enough to head over to Goodhew’s site or Sockwell’s site and order some fantastic socks!

Oh, and one more thing: while these aren’t like grandma’s compression socks, people who happen to be grandmothers are still welcome to wear them!

Stockwell and Goodhew provided me with the pictured socks for the purpose of testing them out for review. No other compensation was made, and all opinions expressed are solely my own.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand I’m Off!

It seems surreal! I was so excited when I confirmed I was actually going to backpack across Mediterranean Europe. I did some things way in advance out anticipation, like get gear and pack. And of course, there were some things that waited until the last minute, which made these last few days confusing as I wasn’t sure if I was anxious for the right or wrong reasons! But now that I’ve set off, here are a few things you should know about my trip:

  • This will be my very first time in Europe. I have been to Peru and the three main nations that make up North America, but this will still be the furthest distance I’ve traveled!
  • For safety reasons, I will not be posting about where I am at any point in time. By the time you read about a specific location, I’ll be in another one.  But I will be posting throughout my trip as much as I can!
  • Even though I’m no longer in the United States, I can still accept sponsors! I probably won’t be able to deal with any gear sponsors since shipping will be tricky (although I’d be happy to review the product once I return in the fall). I am looking for accommodations, attractions, restaurants, and other non-physical resources. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, click here!
  • Although sponsors help a lot, at this point in time my trip is mostly self-sponsored. How will I make ends meet while on the road? I’ve spent the past year saving up for this by working several jobs and cutting back on indulgences. I’m traveling cheaply by staying in hostels, riding trains and buses between cities, traveling by foot within a city, going on picnics for at least one meal per day, not buying beverages, and volunteering. I will also do a bit of travel writing and reviews to earn money along the way. Do you have any suggestions for paid writing opportunities?
  • Since I’ve been denying myself some treats and experiences over the past year, I will still be living it up a little in Europe. I won’t skip a city I want to visit just because it’s expensive. I’m going to pay admission for my dream attractions like the Acropolis, the Vatican, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Eiffel Tower. I even bought a ticket for a day trip to Disneyland Paris!
  • There is no checked luggage on my trip. That means limiting liquids and packing everything into a carry-on. It actually wasn’t that hard to meet size limits, but I have been practicing walking around my neighborhood to get used to the weight!
  • I’m not sure how much detail I’ll be posting while I travel. After all, I want to spend as much time as possible out experiencing! (Plus, writing will take longer as I’m only bringing a phone and not a laptop.) But if you’re interested in visiting a place that I visit, or doing something that I did, stay tuned! When I return home, I will be writing more detailed  articles based on what readers want to hear about.
  • I’m excited for this adventure. But you already knew that, right?