The following is something I wrote as a sidebar to an article that will appear in the Summer 2016 issue of Girlz 4 Christ Magazine, titled “Summer Shopping”. Since the article itself will have even more tips for shopping and packing for your travels, I suggest getting a free subscription by clicking here!
I’ve impressed many TSA agents with the way I pack. Most of the time, I manage to bring everything I need in just my carry-on luggage, including when I spent three months backpacking Mediterranean Europe last summer! I’d like to pass on a few of my pro tips with you.
-If you’re flying, look up the exact carry-on limits for your airline and country. While all have size restrictions, there may or may not also be a weight limit.
-Because you can only carry on liquids in 3.1 oz. containers that fit in a one-quart bag, try to find solid alternatives for your liquid toiletries. There are soap bars, deodorant bars, lotion bars, and even shampoo bars! If you end up needing to bring a lot of liquid product, pack it in your checked luggage.
-Keep your clothing compact and wrinkle-free by rolling each item up.
-Stash your undergarments in baggies. This will help keep your suitcase organized and could save you some embarrassment if a TSA agent has to search your belongings.
-Wear your bulkiest clothing on your flight days to save more suitcase space.
-Always remember to stay hydrated, especially while traveling! You’re allowed to bring an empty water bottle through TSA security, and then after the checkpoint there will be plenty of drinking fountains to fill up at.
-Most importantly, never pack more than you can carry!
I’m going to guess that most people reading this don’t get to travel like it’s a full-time job, likely because they have a full-time job. However, many travel bloggers you can find on the internet do get to travel full-time, or at least most-of-the-time.
I am not one of those bloggers.
Although I was basically jobless for the three months I backpacked Europe (I made a little from freelance writing, but probably under $100), I have spent the rest of my adulthood scheduling travel around work. If I didn’t work, I couldn’t travel.
Now I’m thinking that most of you readers can relate to me better.
Most of the best travel blogs out there are written by people who travel like it’s their job, because it IS their job. When they go over how they manage things, it’s a little hard for the rest of us to relate.
I’d like to try something on this blog over the next few months that I’ve never seen successfully completed on other “indie” travel blogs. Instead of waiting until I am successful to tell you about my success, we’re going to start with explaining what I’m doing right here, right now.
Web Marketing for Booking Site
I got my newest job just a week ago! I now work for Hostelz.com as a web marketer. I’ve written hostel reviews and location descriptions for this site for years now, so it’s nice to finally work for them for more substantial pay. The biggest advantage of this job is that while the company is based in Texas, I’ve never been to Texas and won’t have to go there for any work reasons. I can work from anywhere that I can connect to the internet. Another advantage is that part of this job involves visiting travel blogs that I may have not noticed before, so I’m getting some new travel information. Of course, there are downsides, but they’re pretty typical of location-independent work. One thing I’m not sure is an advantage or disadvantage is that I only get paid for completing something. The downside is that, unlike most jobs, I don’t get paid to take breaks. The upside is I have more control over how much I make.
This is still definitely more of a hobby, but I try to monetize when I can. For over a year now, I’ve included affiliate links to Hostelz.com, and recently when I’m trying to earn extra money with Swagbucks, although these haven’t been too successful yet. (But I do appreciate when you go through my links to book- it earns me a bit of money with no extra cost to you!)
You may have also noticed that I recently posted my first sponsored post. FatJoe contacted me a few months ago asking if this blog would be willing to host sponsored posts. My initial reaction was worrying that I would end up trapped posting subpar content advertising things I didn’t care about. But when I found out that I had control over what I could accept and that they would only submit things to me when they knew they were relevant for this site, I became more willing. Having only received one post from them over the past few months proves that they know their clients well, but resulted in only a few dollars coming my way.
It’s been somewhat profitable to guest post for other travel blogs. I recently was published for my third time on Travel Fashion Girl. I try not to write for free on blogs unless I can tell it will greatly help with networking. I think TravelingMom has potential for this. I’ve also joined a few travel writing networks such as The Aspiring Travel Writer, which has helped a lot with motivation.
While travel blogging hasn’t done much in terms of finances, it has always been nice to have sponsors!
Who said the digital nomadic life had to be entirely travel-based? While I do write a lot online about travel, much of my writing is about different topics. Some of the recent work I sold will be used in Devozine and Young Salvationist.
I am also the editor of Girlz 4 Christ Magazine, a free magazine for teens. I’ve been working on it for five years as a labor of love, but I’ve been making connections for advertisers and review products. More recently, it seems like it will become more successful financially! As a bonus, I’m able to rework some of my content from this magazine for others. (Anyone want to buy an interview with Duck Dynasty stars John Luke and Mary Kate Robertson?)
Still Working Locally
All of the above is nice, but I’m not ready to leave local work yet. I did, however, leave the job that took up most of my time a week ago. I’m still doing childcare and working at the Magdalene Home.
Right now, I’m not willing to give up local work because of its many intangible benefits! It keeps me better connected and involved in the community. My hours are flexible enough that I can still travel. And of course, it’s nice to have a semi-regular source of income.
And What About Traveling?
When I moved back to Oregon and started planning my European trip, I thought travel work would go right in hand with actual travel. Not so! Although I haven’t read any other travel bloggers admitting it, I think the secret to location-independent work is to make sure it works at one location before throwing travel into the mix.
So I haven’t done much travel lately, except for local day trips. I do want to make sure that my above location-independent jobs (especially Hostelz.com) are a viable source of income and keep my interest over the long term. Since my disposable income isn’t much right now (mostly because I bought a car), I’m having extra fun researching ways to travel for even less, or maybe free! But just in the past 24 hours, I’ve already started planning two different trips that I can take thanks to this kind of life!
As I continue transitioning to a more travel-oriented life, what details would you like to learn?
I can’t wait to share what adventures I’ve been up to lately! But my computer is in the repair shop, so until I get it back and can share the photos I took, here are a few things that can take up your reading time.
I actually wrote three articles for the April/May issue of Pristeen Magazine. While it’s a fashion-based magazine, I got to write more about adventure-based things. My first article on page 10 is “Who in the World is Fanny Crosby” a historical figure I look up to. But the really exciting stuff starts on page 56. I wrote about my experience in Italy for the “Around the World” column. Then I interviewed Osayi, a 17-year-old from Rome. Although I haven’t personally met Osayi, it’s possible that we were in the same church service once! I got connected to her by e-mailing a pastor at an English-speaking church I attended in Rome. You can read all about Osayi, Rome, and all of Italy by reading Pristeen for free here!
Travel the World, Then Change the World!
I don’t always write about travel. But I do believe that travel is one way to help better understand the world, and therefore know how to change it. Some of these principles are applied in each and every issue of Girlz 4 Christ Magazine, which you can subscribe to for FREE! As Girlz 4 Christ’s editor, I love submissions from how people are impacting their communities. In the past issue, I got to write an interview with actress Cozi Zuehlsdorff, a documentary review and interview with an adopting family, suggestions for those times you have to stay put but want to take a “bookation”, and a collaboration of five previous cover girls to celebrate the magazine’s fifth birthday. I’m working on the next issue which will feature a famous Christian on the cover, and even include some adventurous articles inside!
Is long distance bus travel right for you? Only if you enjoy traveling, like to save money, or want to leave a lighter environmental footprint!
In other words, the answer to that question should be YES!
But I understand that some people might need some convincing. I know that I needed some encouragement at first! But just one month after my first Greyhound trip, I embarked on a bus journey across the United States! A year later, I was traipsing all over France and Spain by long distance bus.
I recently got my first post on Traveling Mom, a travel resource website for women who want to travel with (or without!) kids. It goes into more detail on why long distance buses should be considered for your next adventure.
Before even watching the movie “Letters to Juliet”, I was excited to go to Verona as part of my Mediterranean Trek. So I planned out my visit to this city mainly by borrowing the movie from a friend. The only mistake I made was that I booked a mere two nights in Verona, leaving me with just one full day to experience all that this quaint city has to offer.
My first night in Verona was spent arriving by a delayed train, then struggling in the dusk to find where my BnB was before finally giving in and taking a cab, so I didn’t see much in the midst of that stress. I started the next day bright and early with a walk to Juliet’s courtyard. This is what you see in “Letters to Juliet“, and it’s the perfect place to write a letter to Juliet! Because I got there early enough, there were only a few other people there. I found a quiet place by the grafitti wall of love to write my letter. In the movie, you can see women sticking their letters into the cracks of a wall. You can still do that, however, to make sure that a secretary of Juliet receives your letter, there are better practices in place now. The best thing to do is stick your letter in the red mailbox. Alternatively, if you go inside the house, you’ll find computer kiosks where you can e-mail her!
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go inside the house at the time, so I headed over to the area where you can find Juliet’s tomb. It turns out that you can get a discount by getting a combination ticket to Casa de Giulietta and the museum with her tomb, so I did that. The tomb was the best feature of the museum it’s housed in, but there are other art and artifacts to enjoy as well.
I eventually went back to the house, Casa de Giulietta. Inside were a lot of artifacts from some of the Romeo and Juliet movies, such as costumes and a prop bed.
But the best part of the Casa was getting to stand on Juliet’s balcony, and pondering “Wherefore art thou?”
While foot traffic inside the Casa wasn’t so bad, the courtyard was getting jam-packed with tour groups and other visitors. Here’s a tip: If you want a truly magical and meaningful experience with Juliet, go in the morning before the day trippers roll in!
I went to the courtyard for a third time in the evening, and it was even more crowded then! But this is when I enjoyed putting my own graffiti on the wall entering the courtyard. I’m not a vandal, it’s actually encouraged!
In another spot of the courtyard is the only place in Europe where it’s actually encouraged to place a love lock, as it will eventually become a part of an art piece. (But seriously, don’t put a love lock anywhere else! I saw locks on every fence and bridge in every city I went to, and it just looked inconsiderate and trashy.)
There are a lot of other things to do in Verona, such as go to the Arena, walk by the river, or explore the castles. I did some of these things, but since none of them are directly related to Juliet, I’m going to fast forward to today.
I had heard it would take a long time to get my letter back from Juliet. I was hoping it would arrive to my house around the time that I came back from the Mediterranean, but such was not the case. I kept it in the back of my mind, and thought about it sometimes when I went to get the mail. But today, I was totally not expecting it!
I opened the mailbox and grabbed the letters out. One had an Italian postmark, and the return address said it was from “Club di Giulietta”! I squealed in excitement. I scared my dog by my squealing. I hope the neighbors didn’t hear me squealing. I raced back to the house so I could carefully open the envelope.
I don’t remember exactly what I wrote to Juliet, but it was a decent-sized letter that could be summed up as “where is he?” I was honestly just expecting the response to be a canned sentence on an index card. I was surprised at how much thought was put into the letter I received! Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the letter.
“Finding love isn’t easy. In fact, it should be something they teach in school along with how to manage your finance and finding a job that you like.”
“Some people fall in love quickly- others warm to it slowly. But there is one common thing about it- that love doesn’t happen if you don’t take action.”
“Take the plunge- and live it, not dream it.”
By the way, while I would definitely encourage a trip to Verona if you can, you don’t need to go there in order to get a letter from Juliet. Just send your letter to:
Club di Giulietta
Corso Sant’Anastasia, 29
37121 Verona, Italy
In an age where it’s rare to receive a beautifully handwritten letter, it’s even more special to receive one from a fictional character!
In late 2008, at the beginning of my writing career, I wrote a quiz called “What’s Your Service Style?” It was one of my first published articles, and it has since made it intothree magazines (Susie, Caris, and G4C). Since G4C is the only remaining of those magazines, it’s about time that the quiz was immortalized on the internet. I turned it into an interactive online personality quiz. You can take the “What’s Your Service Style” quiz here.
There are three possible results, and being the quiz creator, I’m a bit of all three of them. Several of the quiz questions ask about big travel, but the results only suggest local activities. (Mostly because I know travel is especially difficult for the teens that this was originally aimed at.) So here are a few suggestions from my travel and service!
Like Helping Children?
-In Peru, I helped teach English through games and activities at a school.
-Many countries still have orphanages, which you can visit to do things such as work on construction projects or teach lessons.
Want to Keep the Outdoors Green?
-Choose sustainable travel, such as long distance buses, or even resolve to only walk or bike within a city!
-I’ve worked and volunteered at camps across the country (and still sometimes do).
Enjoy Helping People?
-One of my most recent volunteer experiences was Diverbo, where had conversations with Spanish natives to improve their English.
-Another thing I’ve done in the past was go to The Mission in Mexico, which is kind of like an orphanage, but for severely handicapped people of all ages.
Traveling has allowed me to widen opportunities as a writer. Most of my published work has been devotionals or advice for running camps. But recently, more of my work has become travel-related. Here are a couple to share:
The Essential Travel Packing List for Moving Overseas
I write a lot for Girlz 4 Christ Magazine. I kind of have to, being the editor! I wrote several articles for the Winter 15/16 issue, including an interview with the Silver Ring Thing National Touring Team, a review of my latest favorite devotionals, a handbook for babysitting, and the secret that will have everyone forgetting about their diets as they indulge in your Christmas treats, plus a few others. For the final article in this issue, I decided to take a step back from my traditional writing and make my first-ever photo essay! I really like how it turned out. You can read all of the articles I just mentioned, plus columns from other incredible writers, by getting a free subscription to Girlz 4 Christ Magazine. Click here to visit the website and sign up!
Recently, I had a piece published on the Travel Fashion Girl website. It’s about several of the methods I use to avoid feeling the wrath of sweaty travel. Most of these ideas were learned during my travels last summer. But I didnt write the article until the middle of winter.
Sweating under the Mediterranean sun makes it way more real.
Paris was going through an unusual heat wave most of my time there. The Spanish sun was of course even hotter – dry and hot in both Madrid and La Alberca, and sticky humid in Barcelona. Southern France was even hotter than the north. I thought since it’s now September, the heat would get a little better. But after traveling through three Italian cities, that is not so. And the luxury of AC is hit or miss here!
These three tips included in the linked article are being used by me on a daily basis, but on some days I could use a few more secrets!
As I’ve been traveling about Europe, I’ve learned so many things! Since I’ve stayed in four different hostels so far, this type of accommodation is one of the things I’ve been educated on! I stay in North American hostels when I can, but since hostels are much more common in Europe, especially in big tourist cities, they compete by having a particular “edge”. For some, their edge is a rock-bottom rate. For others, it’s being in a great location. Still others boast a social environment, high standards of cleanliness, or comfort. While the hostels often master several of these traits, I don’t think it’s possible to master them all. There have to be trade offs. Having a party atmosphere sacrifices offering a quiet place to relax. Being up-to-date means losing the building’s historical value. When traveling in Europe, it’s important to know what aspects you’re looking for in a hostel and what offers don’t really matter. For me, I find it necessary to be a good price, walking distance to most attractions, WiFi connected, and female-only dorm options. Room security, regular cleaning, and breakfast are somewhat important, but I can make due if they’re not up to snuff. Social atmosphere and handicap accessibility are not taken into consideration at all when I select a
Of course, your priorities are probably different than mine. If you are a man in a wheelchair, you probably don’t care about female-only dorms, but handicap accessibility is a must! Because we all differ in what matters most, my goal in reviewing European hostels is to pinpoint what each hostel is best at, while also bringing to light the things that aren’t exactly their “edge”. My first review about BVJ Champs-Elysees Monceau in Paris has been published. You’ll see that they rock when it comes to breakfast and location, but you’ll also notice some sacrifices they had to make. Click here to read my review of my Parisian hostel on Hostelz.
For many of my past trips, I have taken along a travel journal. But will I take one on this upcoming trip? Journals are heavy, and three months is a long time to keep consistent in writing. But my new travel journal will not leave my side as I trek across Europe! If you are planning a trip, I have some advice as to why you should include a journal.
1. My journals are the most meaningful mementos of any travel. They remind me of many emotions and experiences that I may have otherwise forgotten, whereas souvenirs often only remind me about my experience at the shop. Plus, since you bring your travel journal at the beginning of a trip, it’s the only souvenir that won’t add pack weight as you go!
2. If you aren’t into writing, don’t assume journaling isn’t for you. Some journals come with unlined pages, perfect for those who prefer to doodle. You could also have others write your journal for you. Just ask those you meet on your trip if they would leave a note in your book so that you can remember them. My journal has a pocket in the back cover that I use to collect notes, tea and candy wrappers, ticket stubs, and other small mementos. Some travelers bring a glue stick along with them and use these sorts of items to create an on-the-go scrapbook in lieu of a journal.
3. Don’t feel pressured to write every day. On transport days, it’s hard to come up with an entire page of how interesting it is to sit on a bus. I’ve often combined two travel days into one journal entry (often a busy day where I didn’t have time to write followed by a boring day of just getting to the next place). I still include the slow days in my journal because they’re still part of my journey and usually something notable happens, but you can skip days like these entirely if you choose.
4. Decide if your journal pages will be shared, or if they are for your eyes only. I never really thought about this until last summer when I was speaking with a Japanese traveler who wanted to practice his English. When he asked to look at the journal on my lap, I hesitated, but figured that he wouldn’t be able to understand most of it, and I was never going to see him again anyway. Since then, I have shared a few entries on this site, but I think many entries only display their full meaning to the one who wrote it.
5. Remember that there is no pressure to fill up every page of your travel journal. My most recently used journal is filled with trips from the past several years (2009-2014), and it still has some pages to go. I actually like the blank pages at the end. They’re inspiration for future trips. Or you can leave those last pages eternally blank and start a new journal every trip.OR, you can turn your travel journal into a daily journal and write about your adventures at home. It is your journal, so do with it whatever you want.
6. This may only be for people like me who can’t stand improper spelling, but when you look back on your entries, resist the urge to correct any errors. that journal entry was written in its time just the way it is, and trying to change that is like trying to change history. Leave it be! That being said, when you are writing in your journal, make an effort to use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Your future self will thank you for it!
6. Use your journaling time to relax from your journey. I often incorporate journaling into my on-the-road bedtime routine. I’ve also journaled at a park or other place where I can write while lingering by a view. Having a journal is also a good way to look less creepy when people-watching. If someone looks your way, simply get really involved in your writing!
7. I try to bring along a medium-sized journal because it’s big enough to hold everything I want to write, but still light enough to carry around. I sometimes even carry it in my day pack when I go walking for the day. That way, it’s ready to go whenever or wherever I’m inspired to write.
8. You can use your journaling time to also practice your faith. You could write a prayer journal if you desire. My last two journals have had scripture pre-printed on each page. Sometimes, when I get out my journal, I’ll also get out my Bible as well. Journaling tends to mentally and spiritually place me in a position where I am very open to prayer and meditation. Find out what works for you.
9. Back when I was in high school, for the few trips I journaled for, I just used a spiral notebook. I guess it served its purpose, and I still have those stored, but they’re definitely lacking something. I would say the same thing about computerized journals as well. Beautifully laid out pages make the writing experience more enjoyable. A ribbon bookmark helps you keep your place. And a hard cover makes a journal durable for any trek it comes across. I got all these features when my grandma gave me an Ellie Claire travel journal. I have used it over the past several years, but when I realized I was running out of pages for my upcoming trip, I went straight to Ellie Claire for another one! My new journal has an updated look, but still includes all my must-have features!
I still need a tip number ten! Do you keep a travel journal? What advice can you share?
Thanks Ellie Claire for sponsoring my new travel journal! All opinions expressed are my own, and I was loving Ellie Claire long before they partnered with this website!