15 tips for traveling alone

I recently returned from a four-month trip around Europe. I backpacked to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Norway and The Netherlands, sometimes with my best friend, sometimes with new friends, and sometimes all alone. 

Travelling alone was one of the best experiences of my life. You’ll surprise yourself with your keen intuition, your ability to cope with a new language, your friend-making skills, your geographical bearings and overall just how much you enjoy doing whatever you want, whenever you want - from eating whenever, going wherever and doing whatever you feel like doing. Sometimes I had gelato for breakfast, once I spent six hours in a museum, a few times I slept til midday, I went to a music festival solo and I swam in the ocean morning, noon and dusk. 

But travelling alone can also be problematic and lonely if you’re not properly prepared. Here’s some easy tips that really enriched my experience travelling alone. 

1. Laptop smart
Not only is it exceedingly hard to navigate foreign transport sites from a phone, my laptop proved really valuable to me when I needed precious downtime, which was about once a week. I loaded up a portable hard drive with movies and boxsets so I could retreat into my own little world with my headphones on to watch a movie in bed when I needed a bit of ‘me’ time. 

2. Device smart
- I subscribed to Spotify Premium for $10 a month and built myself some playlists by mood - chill, happy, groovy, pensive. Then I downloaded them, so they were available offline.
- I also downloaded Tripit, an app that links with your email and builds you an automatic itinerary based on your email confirmations.
- I also downloaded, an app with offline maps and GPS location so I was never lost. I dropped a (permanent) pin on the location of my accommodation in each city so I always had my bearings. 
- Also make sure your emails are accessible on your phone - I found the Gmail app to be the best option for me, because many of my emails were available offline - valuable when I needed an address or confirmation number, which was a lot!

3. Spend smart
I went with Citibank Australia, who offer a Citibank Plus everyday account with fee-free withdrawals and fee-free transactions anywhere in the world. Shop around your banks and see what deal you can find - don’t just go with your own bank, who might smash you with withdrawal and transaction fees. Every dollar counts when you’re overseas.

4. Insure smart 
This was a non-negotiable. I actually submitted two claims after this trip - one for a lost phone and another for a change of trip. Make sure you know what you’re entitled to before you commit to a policy - valuables up to $1,000 is essential if you’re taking that laptop or smartphone!

5. Pack smart
A few quick tips:
- Don’t take anything that needs ironing. You’ll never wear it, trust me. 
- Bring your runners so you can walk miles during the day. It really made all the difference for me - on days I wore them I could walk up to 30,000 steps without any pain whatsoever. 
- Bring your flip flops for showering. Tinea is rampant in hostel world!
- Bring exercise gear. I always moved from place to place in my exercise gear - it’s easy to sleep in on long haul bus-rides, and you don’t want to wear your 15kg pack with bad shoes - it hurts your ankles!
- Pack, then don’t take half the things you packed. Every little thing is a lot heavier on your back in the blistering heat, trust me. And they have toiletries in other countries too, you know!

6. Disembark smart
- Always carry some cash with you for the country you’re going to - for me, it was mostly euros. It was essential for my commute from the airport, and when I forgot to arm myself with currency, I was left disoriented, tired and wandering around trying to find an ATM while not getting robbed.
- It’s also worth Googling bus or train information before you board your plane, so you know the fastest and cheapest way to your accommodation before you land. Taxis are tempting - but will run your budget dry quickly. 

7. Book smart 
- Book directly through the website, not the compare-sites - it’s cheaper! This includes airlines, bus companies and train websites, and the hostel websites when it comes to booking your accommodation.
- Also, always book your bits and bobs in a private browsing section. Airline websites have algorithms that send the ticket prices up if they log your IP looking at a price a couple times to create a sense of urgency in you.
- But don’t feel like you need to map your whole plan out before you even leave home - I purposefully left gaps in my plan and life filled them in. I stayed with europeans I’d met overseas, travelled with new friends and went to countries that I had no plans on going to, like Norway (one of my favourite countries in the end!) 

8. Backup smart
After every country I backed up my phone to my laptop and my laptop to my hard drive. If you trust the Cloud, backup to there too. It is devastating to lose travel photos - they’re about the most important thing you own when you travel. 

9. Stay smart
- is the go-to site for hostels. If I was nervous about my choice, I’d usually book one night in and extend my stay if it felt right. I always read plenty of reviews for each place, particularly taking notice of the location rating. Cleanliness in the bathroom, uncomfortable beds or a tiny kitchen were things I could deal with. A 30 minute commute to the city was something that wore me down pretty quickly.
- Speaking of the kitchen - that ‘free’ shelf in the fridge is your best friend - use it!

10. Be alone smart
- Find a local pub and go and sit at the bar with a good book. Strike up a conversation with the bartender - they are probably bored out of their mind! Bartenders have a wealth of cultural knowledge about their city that you’d never find on Trip Advisor - ask for their hot tips on eating, drinking, shopping and the sights. I asked each bartender to draw all over a fold-up map in each city so I had a visual reference - it helped me pair things together that were close by so I could plan my days better.
- Also, do the walking tour on your first day. They are usually free (the tour guides live on tips) and they are the most useful introduction to a city - not to mention hugely interesting.

11. Commute smart
If you’re wondering if you should walk or get a metro, walk. If you’re wondering whether you should get the metro or a bus, bus. The metro is fast, but you see nothing. 

12. Dress smart
- If you’re spending the day exploring, wear one less thing than you think you need to. It’s awful being hot and sweaty, but easy to speed up if you’re feeling a little nippy. Plus, your thighs will thank you when they can crush steel between your rippling muscles!
- Runners are pretty much always the best option - you’ll double your productivity with them on. 

13. Mini-pack smart
Your daypack should contain:
- headphones
- a book
- a city map (to ask the locals to circle their favourite places on!)
- a knife and fork (plastic, for impromptu lunches in the park or by the water)
- a water bottle. Water is your best friend between all that exercise you didn’t realize you were doing (win!), the salty restaurant meals you’re eating (yum) and the drinking (inevitable). Drink it in litres - otherwise you’ll be perpetually dehydrated and wondering why you feel so tired. 

14. Wash, dry and iron smart
It’s inevitable you’ll have to wash atleast once a week. Face it, pretty boy. Mama aint here to help you now. 
- Every night, wash the underwear you wore that day in the shower. It takes five seconds, stops them from stinking up the place (we all know undies get the most dirty) and fresh undies are one of life’s little pleasures!
- You can iron out major creases by wetting a towel and wiping the clothing while it’s on you (it’ll dry), or bringing the item on a coat hanger into the shower area (the steam makes the creases drop out) 
- Splurge occasionally and get laundry done. Most hostels do it for less than $10, and having fresh clean dry clothing one of those amazing little things that lifts your spirits when you’re out of your comfort zone. 

15. Socialise smart
Talk to people! Everyone is the best version of themselves when they are travelling. Strike up conversations with people you would never usually speak to, especially those travelling alone as well. Ask them their story, compare itineraries, go on adventures together and who knows? You might just make a friend for life. 

What's In My Bag: Travel Thursday Edition

Travel Thursday!

Yep, I’m starting another series, but it’s not actually all that new, since Throwback Trip Thursdays and Travel Thursdays are basically the same–they are about travel and tours. The only difference is that Throwback Trip Thursday posts come out regularly every other Thursday until I run out of previous trips to post about, while Travel Thursdays come out any time I want to. You could say I could have just made Travel Tuesdays, but then I want to post all travel-related posts on thursdays, and also because Tuesday is too close to Monday, when I post my weekly roundup blogs, so yeah. And I’m kind of a control freak that way hehe. And yep, I’m posting TWO travel posts this Thursday! Why? Because it’s my birthday tomorrow! Okay, no relation whatsoever, but I just really want to do this now while I’m pumped hihi. The previous one was about my trip to Sagada last Summer, the second of three caving expeditions that I’m planning to post. You can read about the first caving trip here.

So anyway, as you can tell by the title of this entry, I’m doing a little What’s In My Bag thing. A lot of bloggers have done this, and I wasn’t really sure why anyone would want to let their readers see their messy everyday handbags, but as I scrolled through a lot of those WIMBs, I found myself looking up their beauty products! So I guess it’s kind of an advertisement for those brands, whatever they are, or maybe a little advice-giving for readers, depending on how the blogger wrote it. Or maybe there are really just some very stalker-ish readers. Ohmy. HAHA.

But what I wanted to do with my WIMB, since this is a travel blog, is to offer readers (if I have any lol) advice on how to pack your daily daypacks for foreign travels. Now, this was done completely out of impulse. I received my Passport and US Visa last Friday, and I’ve been super excited for my US trip in September 2014. I’ve been looking for the cheapest flights ever since, and even took out some of my travel essentials, making sure they were complete, and if there were some missing items, I would look for/purchase them before the trip. Some items are quite expensive, so I had to check this early so that I can already include them in my wishlist, or my to-buy-with-Christmas-money list. So there you have it, while laying them out, I suddenly had the idea to do this What’s In My Bag Travel Edition. Hihi.

I ordered them according to importance, and so here are my everyday carry-on travel essentials:

1. Passport. When in a foreign country, never ever, ever, go out without your passport, because you’ll never know when authorities might ask for identification. My tip is to put your passport in a little baggie, or at least a passport jacket, to protect it from the elements. I learned the lesson the hard way, when on a car trip in the US, I put an improperly screwed Gatorade bottle inside my bag, where my passport was, and that’s why I had to reapply for a US Visa even though it still had 9 years validity on it.

2. Wallet. Of course, you’ll need money! Depending on where I’m going for the day, I bring just enough cash that I might need. On shopping days, I’ll bring my cash limit equivalent to Php 5,000.

3. iPhone. My iPhone is an essential part of my life. In fact, it’s the one thing I never leave without, even when I’m just going to the living room from my bedroom. I also have a lot of travel apps downloaded into it, to help me on my day out.

4. US phone. Let’s face it; my iPhone is useless as a regular communication tool when in a foreign country. I don’t subscribe to roaming services when traveling because of the bill shock that I’ve experienced before. Instead, my uncle Dan gave me his old Samsung phone that I can now use everytime I go to the US, and I can enjoy unlimited calls and texts to their US phones as well.

5.-5a. JuiceBoxx portable charger and iPhone adapter. I’ll need to make sure I never run out of juice. A good thing about this is I can use it to charge any device, including my iPhone.

6. Samsung NX1000 mirrorless camera and detachable flash. In my previous travels, I lugged around my old DSLR, but it’s not very kind on my shoulders and it’s too bulky that I had to sacrifice leaving some of my travel essentials, which kind of gave me mini-crises on some of the days out. Now, I’ve replaced it with a small mirrorless camera. It’s more compact, but it packs performance comparable to that of a DSLR.

7. Aviators. Another thing I almost never leave home without. I always have this in my bag, even when I’m not traveling, because you’ll never know when the sun might be too bright. Sometimes I just really feel like a rockstar.

8. I Was Here: a travel journal for the curious-minded. My mom brought this home for me from her US trip way back in 2011, and I’ve been recording my travel experiences in this quirky travel journal ever since! It was authored by my uncle-by-law’s sister. It’s not exactly essential, but when you want to treasure your experiences forever, it helps to have a journal wherein you can write in right away, because sometimes our brains can’t hold that many amazing memories at a time.

9. Regular Day Planner. The travel journal serves as just that–a journal, but I need a separate planner to jot other important reminders such as flights, train rides, etc., and some to-do lists as well.

10. Pocket Fashion Sketchpad. Another not-really-essential essential, but being a fashion student, I always notice other peoples’ outfits, and I’m too shy to ask to photograph them. What I do is sketch their outfits instead.

11. Pens! Here I have my Starbucks pen special for my Starbucks planner, a trusty tech pen for finalizing sketches, and of course a neon pink pen.

12. Kleenex. Very, very important. Usually I would have wet ones, too.

13. Emergency pouch. It usually contains a small bottle of alcohol, at least one tablet of anti-histamine, and yes, hand cream. My hands tend to crack and bleed due to humidity, so I always have to have hand cream with me. I would also include a travel toothbrush and mini tube of toothpaste, and some bandages as well. I would also usually put my Kleenex and Wet Ones in the same pouch.

14. Gatsby Powdered Oil-blotting Paper. Perfect quick substitute to retouching make-up, especially for taking those touristy photos.

15. Make-up bag.  Contains the following: Garnier Under-eye BB cream and concealer, Clinique mini eye palette in a mirrored case, Smashbox O-Glow natural gel blush, Maybelline eyebrow pencil, Covergirl organic mascara, Smashbox purple eyeliner, e.l.f. matte lipstick in tea rose.

16. Tweezers. You’ll never know how useful tweezers can be.

17.-17a. iPod Shuffle and Sennheiser headphones. Perfect for long train rides or long walks.

18. Cardholder. This one I usually put in my pocket so that in the unfortunate occasion that my bag or wallet gets stolen, I will still have an alternate ID, secondary credit cards and ATM with me.

Here’s how it looks packed into my trusty pink Coach handbag:

As you can see, it’s pretty packed, it won’t even accommodate my camera, which I guess is okay, because I like to have my camera ready and on-hand all the time. But I really wish I had a bigger bag, preferably a large dark brown or black leather bag. I found backpacks to be extremely convenient in terms of ease of handling, but things tend to move around a lot inside a backpack, so I still stick to handbags.

After doing this, I realized that I needed a few more things to help me pack my essentials better. The number one item is a travel wallet wherein I can keep my passport, money and some documents such as boarding passes and train tickets.

So there you have it! I hope you were inspired by this post :D

P.S. I’m probably already on my bus trip to my home province by the time this post goes live. If you read this, please to greet me a happy birthday tomorrow (Dec. 13)! Haha.


etsyfindoftheday | 8.8.15

leather works by jjleathersmith

from backpacks to wallets and other accessories, jjleathersmith’s pieces are just. gorgeous. i love the colors of the hide used, and the combination of leathers in some of the final works. here we’ve got three radical options:

  • the sawyer small roll-top backpack
  • leather passport/journal wallet
  • daypack or weekend bag with removable cargo straps
What to do before the Interrail trip

Also goes with other traveling

1. How are you going to this trip: alone or in a group. In a group you may be safer and have more fun, but you might also get into fights during the trip, even if you go with your best friends or family.
2. Time. How much you have time to travel. Two weeks or a month? Figure that out.
3. The budget, how much you have money to spend and remember to have some emergency money somewhere. Do not put all the money in the same place!
4. Are you going go-with-the-flow style or with a carefully made-up plan
- We have something in between. We know where we are going, but don’t know what we’ll end up doing there. Though we have looked what to do in all of the places, but we haven’t actually decided them.
5. Gather information
- About anything you’ll need
Phone numbers to: bank, embassies, insurance company, emercengy numbers where you’re headed, (your countrys international number),
Adresses: embassies, hotels/ hostels/ other accommodations, places of interest
Customs: culture, what not/to do, what you might need in somewhere (for example: long skirts/shirts in some churches)
- a list where you would like to go (but remember anything can happen and you might not get to see that, so don’t expect to get there 100%)
6. Payments, Insurances etc. important stuff
Interrail / Eurail pass
Visas if needed

Vaccinations/ medication for travel if needed

Flights if needed
Hostels/ Hotels / other accommodations if booked earlier
Travel insurance
Some places where you need to book your visit earlier through the internet (for example: Disneyland Paris is cheaper if booked online)
7. Shopping for essentials
- a good backpack, enough space for you, comfy for your back
- good shoes, trainers or similar, shoes that are soft and designed for long walks
- locks for backs and other locking situations
- a simple camera (if not owned yet) and memory cards
- adapters, chargers
- emercengy kit (plasters, disinfectant, medicine etc.), sewing kit
- guide books, maps, dictionaries (might not need and might weigh a lot, so think if you really need)
- a towel designed for traveling (goes to a small space and dries faster than normal ones)
- compression sacks (sacks that make your clothes compressed into a smaller size, so that you’ll have more room in your backpack)
- change money if needed
- a diary to write everything in
- washing powder for your clothes
8. What you’ll also need
- toiletries/ sanitaries, in small containers (toothbrush and -paste, sun cream, body butter, lip-cream, shampoo, soap etc.)
- medicine
- passport and other important documents (like prescriptions for some medicines etc.)
- a daypack
- penknife, flashlight might come in handy
- sunglasses, scarf for sunny weathers
- sleeping bag

- an old phone (because new smartphones attract thieves)
- chargers for any electric equipment
- some student-cards are handy even in abroad giving you discount
- cards to play with or something small to keep you awake in trains
- pens, scisors, tape, paper, safety pins
- handkerchiefs (also toilet paper if you want)
- plastic bags
- a plastic mug. You could cook something in a hostel in it and drink some juice from it.
- if you feel safe and want, a tablet (or Ipod touch…). In it you can put maps, books etc. You can also communicate with family with it, write a blog or something else. You can get into internet when Wi-fi is around. Down side is the same as for a smartphone, thieves like them so think hard before taking one with you.
9. Do not take
- lots of makeup, really no one sees you. Little makeup is okay, but really, do you need it? It also takes time.
- books, they’re heavy
- computer, a smartphone etc. You’re experiencing stuff, you will not need a smartphone during your stay, really.
- for girls, you don’t need all of your clothes and shoes. Only the comfy and practical ones. No high heels, maybe don’t take dresses as well, I don’t know.
- no hairstraightners, curlers or anything like them
- fullfillable waterbottle. When you’re abroad it’s safer if you only drink bottled drinks.
- do not take the whole insides of your wallet, only the essentials and leave others home. Also leave all the unneeded keys as well.
10. Clothing
- shirts: t-shirts, tank top, sweather, hoodie, jacket depending on time of the year and destination
- bottom: shorts, skirt, sweat pants, jeggings, leggings etc. No jeans (in warm places at least), they’ll be uncomfortable. Pockets are good, hidden pockets even better
- shoes: good ones that you can walk the whole trip with. You can take two or couple more if you want, but think how much you’re packing in your backpack.
- underwear, swimwear, socks, scarf
- flip-flops are usefull if you come across a hostel that has dirty showers
Everything in reasonable quantities! You won’t need everything. The more you pack the more your backpack will weigh.
11. Other
- watch and read other travel stories on the internet for more information, tips and inspiration: blogs, Youtube, sites
- ask family, friens, acquintances of their travels. Maybe they have something cool to inspire you on your trip
- make your bank aware that you’re going abroad, that they won’t think your card is stolen and close it
- it would be good if you’d take good walks before your trip that your legs will become used to walking and that your health would be good when you’re out there
- remember that in interrail/eurail passes not all the trains are covered with it, like night trains and private railroads
- if you’re going coach surfing, you might take something small with you to give the host, for example candy from your country or a small keychain
- meeting old international friends is a cool idea, and maybe they can help you in their home countries somehow. Remember to communicate with them in a good time before the trip.

Feel free to add things if I forgot :)