women who travel

Luquillo, Puerto Rico: 5 things to do

Tucked between mountains and the sea is the tranquil town of Luquillo, Puerto Rico. The community maybe small but it's packed with plenty to do. Take the morning and drive up to El Yunque National Forest; here you will find over 145 different species of fern, colorful flowers, and tiny creatures scurrying along the trails. The rainforest is the only one of it's kind in the National Parks System; with over 29,000 acres it is home to endangered bird species such as the Puerto Rican Parrot, which is on the top 10 most endangered bird specie list. Not only are the creatures of the rainforest simply amazing but so is the scenery; majestic waterfalls can be viewed while driving, and the ocean can be seen from over looks. 

When you are finished exploring the rainforest head to the beach for rest and relaxation. Here you can learn to surf or just enjoy the sun and sea. There are several beaches in Luquillo each has a different personality. La Pared is a place to test out your surfing skills with private lessons or rent a board if you are a seasoned surfer. The Balneario offers a quite place with peaceful waters, no surfing here, just a restful place to take it all in. 

All of this activity really works up an appetite. Head to the kioskos for some food, drink, and entertainment. There is always something going on here. A strip of restaurants and bars that offer food and taste for every budget. You can enjoy items from ceveche to NY style pizza; the music will get you going for a night out on the town. 

Like all communities there are opportunities to get involved, Luquillo is no different. In march join the Turtle Patrol to help monitor the endangered Leatherback turtles as they come to shore for nesting. The time of year for this activity is march. A place that always needs a helping hand, especially since the hurricane's of 2017 is the rainforest. The national forest service is looking for helpful hands to clear trails. 

Luquillo is a community for everyone. Once you are here you will feel at home. So come, stay, play, and visit. We can't wait to have you here. 

 

 

Do you or someone you know suffer from RCS?

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“Reverse culture shock is the emotional and psychological distress suffered by some people when they return home after a number of years overseas. This can result in unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of the home country, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar.” -google.com 

Reverse Culture Shock is real, powerful, and can control ones emotional state for quit some time after being abroad. If you know someone suffering from RCS keep reading my story. This may help you deal with the symptoms that come back with your friend who travels.  

I had never in my life heard of reverse culture shock we will call it RCS. When I returned from Africa a few years ago, I just thought I was irritable because I missed Tanzania. Upon returning to the U.S 4 weeks ago (feels like a lifetime ago) I have been suffering from RSC; it’s worse than I ever imagined. Let me get off my chest what has been driving me nuts while being back in these United States. 

Public transportation or the lack of it is killing me. When I moved, I sold everything from clothes to my car; why would I need that stuff, right? Flying into a large U.S city from a country with exceptional public transport helps you acclimate but not fully. While waiting for the train from BWI to D.C I sat in a cold not so sterile room with 20 chairs; people looked bored and angry. Also the 1970’s called, it wants it train station back. There was a cartoon on the TV warning parents of the dangers of kidnappers and kids falling on the tracks…seriously. The next “show” was about bomb dogs and how they became so. I have been in a lot of train stations over the past year and have never seen such craziness as those two infomercials. I had been in the U.S for 10 minutes and fear was everywhere. Yes, be aware, be vigilant, don’t do stupid shit, and you will most likely be ok. But do we need to be reminded of it over and over and over again, I guess so since they make cartoons about it. 

Once down on the platform, the train arrived 10 minutes early and left 5 minutes early. This is the complete opposite of the precise schedules in Germany of which you can set your watch to. Once back in a town with little to no public transportation I realized how lucky people are that can afford the cars, car insurance, gas, property taxes. What does the other half do? Reverse culture shock doesn’t stop there, far from it, let’s move onto dinning out. 

I was a waitress for several years in my early 20’s, I feel like I did a good job and didn’t annoy me customers, made decent money. Well, going out to eat now annoys the every lovin’ shit out of me. Servers do not leave you alone. The other day I met up with a friend for lunch. I arrived first. I was seated and the server came over. I ordered a water and said I was waiting on a friend. As I was waiting he came over 2 more times to see if I “needed anything”. I told him I am still waiting for my friend. She arrived, we hugged, and as she was taking off her coat to sit down the waiter came over to get our order. I looked at him like he had lost his damn mind. Politely asking him for a few minutes to get settled; my friend and I began to chat, I mean we had not seen one another in a year. Oh we were the only people in the restaurant so they were not busy. Within 5 minutes he came over 3 times to see if we were ready. I, again, politely, asked him his name, he told me, I said I would let him know when we were ready. Whew…this worked. When we were ready we order; our food arrives and during the meal he comes over about 7 times to see if we needed anything. For goodness sakes, it’s lunch, we are pouring our own water…wtf do we need? This was not the first or last time this has happened while being back. Give me a restaurant  in the U.S where I am left in peace to enjoy my meal and catch up with friends, that’s all I ask. I dream of the days when I would go out to a restaurant and be completely ignored by the staff. 

I could go on and on about the effects of RCS but I won’t. But let me tell you about not being able to buy alcohol in one place on certain days. It was Christmas Eve 2017, it fell on a Sunday and I wanted to run out to get a bottle of wine for dinner. As I am thinking about leaving for the store, I tell my step dad I will just run out and get a few bottles. He looked at me and said, “ No you won’t”. I am slightly confused and reply with, “why not?”, it’s Sunday he says. I become enraged. If you don’t know, in some parts of the southern United States you are not allowed to buy alcohol on Sunday due to certain laws that have been on the books for hundreds of years; you know to make sure us heathens go to church on Sunday instead of drink. 

Not only can you not buy alcohol in some states on Sunday alcohol is sold in separate types of stores unlike everywhere else in the entire world from Bangkok to England, believe me I have seen it. So if you want a bottle of wine or beer you can get that at a market but if you want liquor, well now you have to go to a liquor store to get that; the only reason I can think of the separation is to inconvenience humans to the point they don’t want to go to two separate shops to buy alcohol. I am sure there is a better reason but I don’t know it. 

The symptoms of RCS can be mild to server depending on the length of your time away. Symptoms include mood swings, low tolerance for things that could be better but aren’t, and irritability. If you know someone who suffers from this tread lightly for a few weeks. After a few weeks the symptoms will subside but will never  fully go away. There is no cure but if you want to keep the person in your life comfortable buy them anything travel related, help them plan a trip, or just give them your airline miles. 

Twelve practical travel gifts that won't break the bank!

You know at least one person in your life that is full of wanderlust and they maybe the hardest people to buy for. They travel lite, hate material things, and are always on the go. Here are some gift ideas that won't break the bank and your traveler friend will love them and most likely need them. 

You know at least one person in your life that is full of wanderlust and they maybe the hardest people to buy for. They travel lite, hate material things, and are always on the go. Here are some gift ideas that won't break the bank and your traveler friend will love them and most likely need them. 

  1. External battery charger : for some reason my phone battery doesn’t last as long as when I am home. It could be because of all the picture taking or GPS usage. An external charger can save you from stranded without a phone.
  2. Day pack/backpack: This seems like a no brainer but having a backpack that will hold your computer, water bottle, and other electronics is necessary. Carrying a purse can be back breaking and honestly, annoying. 
  3. Water bottle: Essential. While traveling, finding accessible water can be difficult. If you already have a water bottle, fill it up where you are staying, and try to keep it filled throughout the day. Drinking from any fountain in Rome is amazing, they have the best water. Dehydration can happen quickly if you are not careful. 
  4. Camping towel: Sometimes you may find yourself under a waterfall, fully clothed, in the middle of a jungle. Or in a hostel where they don’t provide towels. A small camping town is great to have on hand, just in case. 
  5. Slippers: This is just a good idea all around. Your traveler may be going to a place where shoes are not allowed inside or they could be headed to Iceland in December. Either way a good pair of house slippers is nice to have to lounge around in. Make sure they are bendable. 
  6. Homemade health kit: THIS! Ok wanna make something for your traveler? This is the best. What you will need: plastic bag or a see through zip pouch, band-aids, antiseptic, pain reliever, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, tweezers, nail clippers, hand sanitizer, condoms, antihistamine, pepto-bismol tablets.
  7. Socks: I don’t mean a pack of 12 socks from discount store. I mean a good pair of wool socks that will protect feet from the elements, blisters, and water. These socks will cost at least $15 not $10 for 12 pair. 
  8. Hat: The type of hat depends on the type of hat your traveler likes. They will need something to protect their face and head from the sun. I, myself, love a ball cap and wear one from my local brewery where ever I go. 
  9. Scarf: A lightweight scarf is great for those chilly nights or hot days. In many holy places scarves are needed to cover up a travelers shoulders, especially when it’s a hot summer day and they are dressed in a tank top. 
  10. Packing cubes/plastic storage bags: Packing cubes are the when organizing personal items like make-up, healthcare products, pens, and under garments. Plastic storage bags where the air can be released to make the space smaller for your clothes is a storage life saver. 
  11. Notebook and pen: A small notebook for keepsakes, ideas, or trip planning is great. Having a pen on hand helps when flying into another country and filling out those custom forms. 
  12. Sunglasses: These don’t need to be expensive because your traveler will most likely leave them on a train, plane, or in a taxi. Having a pair is necessary, especially in Thailand and Cambodia. 

The evolution of the hostel and why you should start staying in them!

What do you think about when someone says they are staying in a hostel? Do scary images come to mind about a sorted building in a dark, foggy city where no one speak English which is filled with 20 something backpackers making their way around Europe. Well, when I tell people I am staying in a hostel I can see it on their faces, confusion, which is most likely followed up by questions like, “ Why do you stay in a place like that?” or “Aren’t you to old to be doing that?”. This past year I have been petsitting around the world, but there have been times when I needed a place to say for a few days or wanted to see other parts of a country but didn’t want to break the bank. 

There has been an evolution to the hostel experience; still budget accommodation, hostels offer up common spaces for strangers from around the world to gather, talk, and rest. Now with the internet and cable tv you can find free Wifi and in some cases computers are available for public use. It’s like your living room but shared with people from all walks of life. While staying in an independent hostel in Cornwall, England, the age range was 18-81 years. The guest were literally from all over the world, a virtual revolving door of culture. We chatted around a fire pit at night and I had the ultimate pleasure of introduced the grand old American tradition of making s’mores. Hostels aren’t just for 20 somethings anymore! 

I am currently in a hostel in Washington, D.C; yesterday, upon my morning arrival I was greeted with a complimentary breakfast of pancakes, cereal, toast, tea, orange juice, and coffee. The kitchen is fully stocked with all utensils needed for cooking, two refrigerators, 3 dish washers and two sinks. You can go to the store up the street, bring back your groceries, and keep them safe in the kitchen, which will save you loads on food cost while traveling. While this hostel has a kitchen others may have a restaurant and bar for their guest. Depending on what you want to get out of your stay, there are so many options. 

Traditionally, hostels have multiple rooms with a lot of bunk beds filling the space. This still holds true but now you have more options for your stay. There are mixed bunk rooms with male and female guest, but you can also get rooms that are just for females or males, there are also private rooms with ensuite bathrooms that compare to hotel rooms but at half the cost. Also some hostels even have family rooms, so cut the cost of family travel in half by staying in a hostel. 

My absolute favorite thing about hostels is the location. Hostels in big cities are most likely located near the city center, public transport, and close to the tourist attraction. Instead of spending $150 or more for a hotel room or $50 on an Airbnb you can spend as little as $10 a night; this was the case for me when I had an early flight out of Shannon, Ireland. My hostel was near the airport, $10,  shared with two lovely girls traveling through Ireland together, and the bathroom was in the room. 

Hostels have evolved from dodgy budget accommodation to places that have a life all their own, they can enhance a persons travel experience by providing fellowship and a safe, comfortable place to lay your head and rest before discovering a new city. 

 

 

Sustaining long-term travel

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From day one, the actual date was November 26, 2016, the common question has been, “How will you afford to do this ( “this” meaning travel). There are multiple blogs and articles out there that explain and explore this topic so I will not rehash. What I would like to discuss is sustaining your long term travel plans and the highs and lows that come with living away from your home country for an extended period of time.

The beginning…I left South Carolina to pursue my dream to travel. With this came with giving up a business I had been building for several years. Because I worked all of the time, I was able to save up enough money to begin to pursue this crazy dream of mine. Because I didn’t have any plans of returning to the states; items needed to be bought and sold.

Two Items that needed to be bought: new laptop, noise canceling headphones with bluetooth ( which have been life savers). Of course I did buy other “stuff” but looking back, it was pointless. The only consistent personal items that have survived traveling are  the computer, headphones, and my phone.

Everything else in my life was insignificant. I am fortunate enough to have free storage space for things I felt like I could not give up: antique furniture, a sofa that I love, a few childhood memories, and a box winter clothing that I may or may not need while traveling. All else was either sold or given away. The 50 in flat screen tv…given to a friend; kitchen supplies…..sold; desktop computer….sold; sewing machine…sold; clothing, mattresses, towels, dishes, vases, pictures all donated. Car, sold!

Letting go of these items was very hard! If someone tells you that letting go of everything you own is easy, they are liars. But being free of all things makes life a lot easier, promise. Here begins my journey. One backpack, and one duffle bag.

With money in the bank and semi support from my family and full support from my friends, I am off. I bring up support because this is important to long term travel. If you don’t have support than your adventure will be a million times harder. With the advent of computers, social media, Skype, FaceTime, texting, and all of the other way to communicate via a device, it is so easy to talk to your loved ones. I honestly have not spoken to my family more than since I left. Knowing that others are happy, excited, and thrilled for your next life step helps you cope on the bad days.

Unfortunately, sometimes, the same people who are your number one fans will leave you in the dust. With traveling comes a separation of friendship. This is something you will have to deal with, emotionally. It’s hard when people stop communicating. You begin to think of what you may have done wrong or what you may have said for them to stop talking to you. The friendship may pick up in the future but right now, it’s on pause. That is how I am looking at it, a paused friendship, with hopes that it will return one day. While traveling it’s ok to be emotional about things, or people. Let it out because if you don’t your time away will be ruined. Focus on the present and maybe the past will return.

Just like friendships, money doesn’t last forever. I am not a rich person. I just worked my ass off to get here and have found ways to keep up this type of lifestyle. After 4 months of a steady paycheck in Thailand, I wanted to be able to do and see more, without being held to a classroom or contract. If you don’t know, I am teaching English as a foreign language. The month before my contract ended in Thailand I applied to several position around the world. I accepted one in China. But quickly realized China was not where I wanted to be. I found an alternative way of making money, teaching online. Am I going to get rich off of this, nope. But does it help me to travel and see other places, yep.

Once hired, I decided to take a week off and travel to Cambodia. From there, it was a 3 weeks in Rome, next 4 weeks in Croatia, and currently I am in Germany for two months. While in Germany I am pet sitting for a friend. Which is certainly the way to go, rent free! Because of this I have signed up on a petsitting website so I can sustain this way of life.

Thinking outside the box is a major player in continuous travel. If you don’t have a trust fund or millions in the bank; which most of us don’t, it is a very important. So let’s review: save money, have a job before you leave, work while traveling, letting go of people and things.

Now, it’s gut check time…do you go on Instagram and see the whimsical photos of that one person and think, how the f*&^ are they doing this? All of these places around the world, they must be spending a fortune. Well they may be spending a fortune but I know I don’t have that kind of money to spend. While in Germany, I have done very little in the way of travel. By looking at my Instagram it would appear that I am spending money left and right. This is not true. Budgeting is my #1 priority. Other than that, I have been working almost everyday, shopping at the local market, watching Netflix at night, and going to Fests on the weekend. It’s just like living back home.

My time in Germany is to rebuild the bank account and spend as little money as I can. Today, I will be going to a bathhouse which cost 5 euro for an hour. Later on this afternoon, I will take the train 5 euro into Frankfurt to explore what the city has to offer. For the month of July, I plan on going on day trips that will not cost more than 50 euro.

Just like everything else in life being able to sustain long term travel is hard and needs to be worked on every single day. Create wonderful memories but not tons of debt and follow your own path.