Posts Tagged With: Hostel

A walk to the London Eye!

Moving on to the sight seeing portion of our London visit. Since I’m not volunteering during this stretch, I decided to introduce the hostel life to Mike and Hayden. With over 800 accommodations offered, choosing one could of been exhausting, but this time it was easy to narrow it down… Why? I found out prior to this trip that one of the gymnasts I used to coach was going to be here at the same time! (For those who don’t know, I taught gymnastics for 10 years back in my “earlier days”).

Due to my love for surprising people, I got in contact with her mom and found out the hostel she was going to be in and booked it!

Here’s a picture of sweet Ashlyn back in our days of coach and gymnast. Now, she’s a beautiful young lady that has maintained her kind nature and sincere smile.

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Introducing Hostel Clink 78.

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From our hostel, the London Eye was just a few miles away which made for a perfect walk! Here’s what you’d see just wandering the streets of London.

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Unlike the majority of the world, here in England they drive on the opposite side of the road (or as they say, “the correct side”). These fun little suggestions painted on the crosswalks I’m sure have saved many of pedestrian injuries.

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After a refreshing jaunt towards the river, the London eyes finally exposed itself. Although it was tempting to ride, at 25Euro per person, we chose to make it a handstand shot instead!

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The walk back presented itself with a few eatery options and bars getting ready for the happy hour in which business suits and locals show up for an evening drink.

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I was lucky enough to make a pit stop at a local pub to reunite with another friend! Remember my buddy Scott from the Peruvian cooking experience?

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Now, we meet again over 6,000 miles away! Scott, thank you for the perfect evening before our departure to Holland and I look forward to the next country in which we connect again!

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Time to pack up and say farewell to England as we head east to Amsterdam. Lets go boys!

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Categories: Accommodations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Manso Boutique Guesthouse in Guayaquil

A brief look at my enjoyable stay at the Manso Boutique Guesthouse. You’d never guess by approaching the stairs that comfortable accommodations are just ahead.

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As soon as you reach the top, the main common area draws you in to observe the view off of the balcony.

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Now with the street behind you, this is the sight as you walk towards the front desk. (That’s one of my buddies on the phone. This guy always had a smile on his face!)

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They provide several tables and chairs for the guests to eat, work and gather around. I saw card playing, book reading and what I believe was a business meeting. There’s even a little private area where often I saw families or groups of friends feasting together.

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Creative decor with recycled goods matched the unique gift shop of clothing, organic treats and natural products.

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Need a bike for rent?

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Although the 4 person dorm was small, it was clean and provided a private bath. The second picture below is an additional bathroom for guests and employees.

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Finally the smile that greeted me hello and now is sending me off. Thank you so much Edu for your helpful advice… Canoa, here I come!

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Categories: Accommodations | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

30 hours in Guayaquil, Ecuador

Knowing that I’ll be flying out of the capital Quito, I chose to arrive in Guayaquil to spend some time exploring the largest city in Ecuador. Naturally, my choice of transportation for the day is my two feet with no map and a camera in hand.

I was totally satisfied staying out of the heart of the city in order to catch a glimpse of the smaller venders and local markets. Right away I spot a health food store, well more like a vitamin stall, but either way it’s nice to see an effort towards better nutrition anywhere.

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Next door to the “healthy” stall we have soda, candy, gum and cigarettes. You can actually purchase a single smoke or the whole pack, they even have a lighter for your convienence. I’m not a smoker, but this one stood out to me!

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This woman was focused and straight faced as I caught myself staring into her little work box. As soon as we made eye contact, I asked with my best attempt in Spanish “Is a photo ok?”. She responded with a huge smile!

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I choose to limit my wheat and corn intake for general health, so most bread is off my “must try” list. With that said, you can imagine my excitement when I saw a sign for “Pan de Yuca”. This tasty treat is about the size of an average dinner roll, has minimal ingredients, no preservatives and is primarily made from the root of cassava (a cholesterol lowering, inflammation reducing vegetable that’s rich in potassium). The best part was the fluffy texture and the hollow inside that will make a perfect pocket for my next sandwich!

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With the sound of it, I thought for sure that I was approaching a daytime dance club blasting local hip hop music. No, that’s just a store in which sells electronics. “Woh, look mom!” says the little boy. Mother replies, “Yes sweetie, she is wearing a swimsuit, you just can’t see it”.

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Next door to the risky music videos? A dancing cow promoting ice cream and a clown passing out balloons… Go figure.

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In between the small shops there were several chain restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. I was a little discouraged to see those places packed, however this is a large city which means convenience tops the priority list.

I spot out a grocery store so I swing in for the usual wander, (this can drive my travel partners crazy!) as I just love to browse and check out the goods that I’ve never seen before. As soon as I walk in, I almost tripped over the… Salon chair? Nice! Makes sense to me to get your hair colored while running other errands.

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My new find for the day is vegetarian ceviche in a to-go container including broad beans, corn nuts and plantain chips for the topping.

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I pass a cute little square with a neat fountain and a little girl sleeping in a box? I’ve definitely been that tired before!

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I reach the end of the street which brings me to the El Malecón boardwalk overlooking the Guayas River. The first three pictures were taken from the balcony of my hostel earlier in the day. To see the Manso Guesthouse in detail take my photo tour in the accommodations category.

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Tourists?

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These guys made my day. Not only were they talented and entertaining, they were extremely friendly and patient with my Spanish. (Hopefully they understood the paper I wrote on that directed them to my blog).

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My turn for a little gymnastics!

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As the sun started to lower, I found stairs leading to lookout points providing a perfect view for these pictures.

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Again with the distant sound if music, I follow my ears towards a few well lit buildings up the way. This time it’s an indoor mall with independent singers giving it their best.

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I stopped on the way back and put my camera on a “special effect” to try and capture the loud energy that circled my evening stroll. This was the winner!

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Tomorrow morning brings a 6 hour bus trip to the coast of Manabi, Buenos Noches!

Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Now I lay me down to sleep… In El Salvador

Besides the one memorable night at the tropical farm, here are the two hostels we stayed at during our El Salvadorian adventure. The first place is called Hostal Cumbres del Volcan ran by Malcom and Gladys with tremendous assistance from Sarah and Walter. This place feels more like a bed and breakfast as the open kitchen and common area feels just like home.

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The decorations are simple but vibrant and like any other good hostel, they have the usual collection of trading books and movies.

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The personal interaction and helpful attention given to us by the staff there absolutely made our stay what it was. A special thanks to everyone at Hostel Cumbres del Volcan!

This hostel sat in the corner of the village of Juaya (why-you-uh) the place with the waterfalls and food festival. Equipped with an open kitchen and large common area, it was hard to bump into other travelers. The rooms had similar options with dorms, privates and shared.

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Moms favorite place to sip her coffee was in the back garden area. Fountains, trees, fruit and flowers…. What’s not to love?

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I was entertained by scoping out all of the recycled items that contributed to this busy yard.

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Can you spot the shoe?

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With the comfortable accommodations and the welcoming staff, I would definitely stay at either one of these if my journey brought me through El Salvador again.

I’ll finish this post with the sign that made me giggle every time I used the restroom.

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Helping hand in Kuala Lumpur

My last night in Malaysia, I took a bus back to Kuala Lumpur for a good nights rest and an early rise for my flight to Japan. I chose the Reggae Hostel based off a suggestion from my local friends.

Time to make a quick acknowledgment to my new pal that went above and beyond his call of duty to help me. I had left my backpack with my previous host and needed to retrieve it before the evening was over.

Being that I was in one of the largest cities in Malaysia at night, by myself and caring all my belongings, taking the round trip alone didn’t seem like a brilliant idea. I asked this hostel employee if he had any friends in the cab service that I could just pay to do the whole trip with me. (At this point I wasn’t going to put a price on my safety).

He said if I could wait until he got off work that he would make the entire trek with me. He was a local and knew the streets, so I patiently waited for him to finish up work. My helpful guide named Usman is on the left.

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Not only did he kindly lead me right to where I needed to go, he payed for the tram and cab with nothing but a smile the entire journey. This didn’t even include the history lesson I got along the way as we would pass different buildings and church sites.

I returned safely with my backpack and a new buddy! The next morning as I was reviewing the map on which path to take to get to then tram that takes me to the bus that delivers me to the correct airport… In walks my personal guide. As if he hadn’t done enough already, he says, “Let’s go, I’ll make sure you get there”.

Add this guy to the list of quality people on earth who have helped me reflect on being a better person… Would I have done this for someone? I hope so.

With an easy trip to the airport, all checked in and ready to board. Next destination is south of Tokyo Japan to visit my cousin Brandon. Great times ahead!

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Categories: Accommodations | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Sleep in Spain! (on a budget)

It was a whirlwind this month going from city to city, so I’m going to throw you the basics of each stop just to give you an idea.

FABRIZZIO’S GUEST HOUSE IN MADRID:

With Madrid being so large, it was important for me to have a good location. Fabrizzio’s couldn’t get any better being in the Plaza Mayor, pretty much as central as you can get!

My favorite factor: The view from each rooms private balcony! The first pictue was early one morning in which I got to observe this group chanting something with enthusiasm. Sure wish I could tell you what they were so excited about.
The second is a “fancy photo” of the night scene in this gorgeous square.
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The inside of the house was nothing more and nothing less than you needed to feel comfortable, clean and safe. Here are a few shots including some friendly faces I got to connect with here at Fabrizzio’s.

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This is the owner of that decided to join us out for a night!
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THE FUNKY HOSTEL IN GRANADA:

To start with, Granada is an adorable place with warm people, beautiful streets and fresh markets everywhere! For the short stay, this was my pick and it was a great one.

The decor is by far the best quality of this hidden little treasure. I even got a “welcome” note!

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It was time to replenish some of the Euros spent to get there, so I hung this up in the common room.

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To say my room was “colorful” would be an understatement.

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This wall had clearly been designed by backpackers passing through, so of course I added a touch for travelers sake! I figured since the theme was creatures falling uncontrollably, I’d add a pic of me hand standing next to a tower of balanced rocks.

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This is the portion of the post in which I get to apologize for slacking in the accommodation photo department. Valencia, Alicante and Ibiza somehow slipped through the cracks. So just for kicks, here IS a few of what I got…

VALENCIA: Remember this was the tomato festival I have yet to expose, but I will introduce (or re-introduce) you to my fellow travel partners that ventured with me for a part of Spain.

Here they are arriving to Valencia. On the right is Bevan, an Australian I met back in Buenos Aires earlier this year while touring with Ian (on the left). Ian is a long time friend that flew to Argentina and hit the Iguazu Falls with me.

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Rub your eyes for a minute, because here’s a picture of them back in South America when we went to a percussion concert… Yes, that’s really Bevan in the middle!

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ALICANTE:
Meet Sofieke! I connected with her last summer while studying spanish. She was one of my flat mates and ended up moving here! The first picture is us on the beach a year ago, followed by this trip on the same beach, almost to date!

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If you can look past Bevan (oh… boys) this is us out on the town. Thank you so much Sofieke for the warm welcome, great girl talk and a perfect reunion. Besos!

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IBIZA!
Similar to Las Vegas, you don’t spend much time in the room so standards aren’t as high. Well, we got spoiled with a large room and ocean view. Again with the lack of pictures, here are a few just showing a smidge of what we saw.

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Off we go to Barcelona!

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FABRIZZIO’S IN BARCELONA:
Yep, the same family of Fabrizzio’s in Madrid. After hanging out with Ernesto (the one running it in Madrid) he sent us a connection to the one in Barcelona. It had the same comfortable vibe as if you were just lounging at a friends house.

(Enter really neat pictures that i didn’t take of the hostel here… My apologies again).

MANA MANA HOSTEL IN TOSSA DE MAR!
This one has got to be one of my favorites so far. Not because the property was spotless, not due to the amazing kitchen, spacious rooms or the roof terrace… No, not even for it’s prime location! Why is this one my favorite? The owners, Marta and Dani. Two incredible people that go above and beyond the call of running a hostel. Not only did I feel welcomed, I felt cared for. I won’t get too mushy, but they came into my life at the right time with the perfect energy. Thank you so much for everything and Mana Mana is the only place I’ll stay if I head that way again!

You can barely see her sweet face at the front desk. (Wow, I totally blew it on this post… sorry friends)!

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So there you have a general idea of what some of the options are for sleeping in Spain. Obviously it wasn’t a focus on this part of my trip, but please feel free to shoot me an email if you want more details about a specific accommodation or city.

Categories: Accommodations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

“How do you afford all that traveling?!”

How do I afford it? I’m not a professional traveler nor do I guarantee that “my way” will work for everyone. I’ve just been asked so many times that I feel the need to share as much as I can in hopes that others will take an opportunity in their life and make it happen as well.

Lets start with the primary way I’m able to travel, the beautiful world of volunteering. My thoughts have always been that I have a healthy body, active mind and an abundance of energy… Why not put it to use! While researching my possibilities, I fell upon the program described below and have stuck with it ever since.

“Help exchange” is an online listing of hosts that generally offers a room and meals in exchange for work. You can snoop around the website without registering, but the annual fee is minimal and it allows you to see everyone’s profile in detail. If you desire to travel abroad, meet locals, and learn more about culture than the “tours” provide, I highly suggest you check this out, it’s changed my life.

Help Exchange .

To give you an idea of some of the things I’ve gotten to do and places I’ve seen while volunteering, here are a few links to some of my favorite hosts!

This was with an amazing family in Australia that provided a tree house for the accommodation, scrumptious vegetarian meals and a plethora of knowledge with organic gardening.   LIFE IN THE TREES OF WOONONA .

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this took me to a tiny coastal town in New Zealand. I got to share a cabin with another volunteer from Malaysia.  ON THE RESERVE .

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An orphanage in Argentina that opened my eyes to a group of smart, funny and extremely entertaining children.  ANOTHER DAY WITH THE KIDS .

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This was in a small village outside of Cusco Peru. We got to work at the school and then direct the after class programs.
  CLUB SUYAWI WARI .
  TEACHING ENGLISH IN HUAMUTIO .
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If I’m not volunteering, I’m usually staying with a friendly fellow traveler that I’ve met along the way.  
“Well, if you ever make it to (fill in a random city here) you’re more than welcome to stay with me”. 
This is a common offer that I rarely turn down… and fully plan on returning the favor when (if) I grow up and get a place of my own.

If I’m not volunteering or reconnecting with a friend, I’m usually on the way to do so. This leads to my next accommodation that, for the most part, is free considering I have to do it either way. Planes, trains, buses and boats!
If at all possible I make my transfers during the “night route”. Prices are generally the same and sometimes even cheaper. Depending on how long the ride is, they depart between 10p and midnight, getting you to your destination by the morning. So if you can sacrafice a night without totally horizontal sleep and can endure the random crying baby, Mr. Sneeze McGee or Captain Cough sitting behind you… You’ve just got one more night of rest (or attempted rest) for no extra charge!

When none of the above has fallen into place, I resort to the hostel life.  
Definition of hostel: A hostel is a budget-oriented, shared-room (“dormitory”) accommodation that accepts individual travelers (typically backpackers) or groups for short-term stays, and that provides common areas and communal facilities.
It serves it’s purpose for a minimal price compared to hotels and resorts.  Even though it’s money out of the pocket, I still feel like it’s a positive addition to my journey. This is usually where I get bunked up with a stranger that leaves as a new friend that I usually reconnect with down the road.  Without the handy backpacker accommodation, I wouldn’t meet nearly as many people as I do. 
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Next expense – Transportation
Of course to get to the main destination, especially from the states, a flight is neccessary. Unfortunately I haven’t met a backpacker yet with part ownership in a major airway company, so I just rely on a few basic tricks to get the best, cheapest flights possible.  Here’s what I’ve found:

What day and time you fly – Be flexible. Do you have to fly out Friday Or Sunday (the most expensive days) or can you swing a red eye on Wednesday?

What day and time you purchase – It’s been proven that shopping and purchasing flights on Tuesday afternoon is usually the cheapest option. Airlines are battling for your ticket because most people snoop for deals on the weekends when they have time to look.

Airports – sometimes flying into and out of a nearby airport can save money.  This isn’t my favorite trick because sometimes you’ll spend just as much money (and time) getting a transfer to your final destination over the direct savings. 

Using the plastic – Because I use so many different airlines and travel companies, I use a general CC that allows me to save up points and use them towards ANY ticket. It’s a beautiful circle of using the card to buy the tickets (paying it off every month!) and then using those points for the next flight.  

Buying in bulk or one ways- Most of the time I just have a general layout of when and where I’ll be month to month.  This prevents me from purchasing specific tickets in advance, however I found a company that allows you to buy in bulk with the flexibility to change your dates.
  AIRTREKS .

If I don’t use them for my flights, I’ll stick to a one way purchase then figure it out as I go.
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Websites – Kayak, Travelzoo, Orbits, Expedia and the list goes on of sites that can help with your journey.  I don’t soley rely on them, however they are helpful to narrow down some options and they’ll email you valid deals that the general public won’t hear about.

Once I’ve landed…

Plane, train, bus or share – Before I decide on my transportation details, I first pick which type is going to be the best fit to my needs.  Financially, what is the cheapest and is it worth it. Is it safe enough to risk and save the money? What about time flexibility, can I afford to loose a day of travel on a 22 hour bus ride or should I just pay the extra for the 2 hour flight? A fancy train for speed, luxury bus for semi comfort or a local van to save the green? 

My favorite way to really save with ground transportation is sharing a ride.  I’m not necessarily talking about hitch hiking, although that was a blast in New Zealand! The photo below is the brave driver who picked me up, my new and still friend Hamish!
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The other option which is an organized ride share that you can usually find in every country.   www.blablacar.com for example is a site that links people looking for gas money if you want a ride to where they’re going.  A high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona is about 120 euro, a public bus averages 50 euro, but a ride share would ask for 30 euro. Is it worth it at that time?
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Last option that Ive always kept as a possibility is car relocation services.  There are online sites that link you with companies that need a one way driver. Maybe it ws rented by a previous traveler to go to an major airport and now needs to make it back to it’s original city. You pick it up, drive it to your next stop and then viola, you just payed for gas with a bonus of the open road! This is even more amazing if you can find another backpacker going in the same direction who wants a ride and will split the gas… Score!

I get there, stay there and now it’s time to eat!

When volunteering, part of your work is rewarded with meals.  It can vary between getting all your daily meals to just eating dinner with the family. Either way, I always have a variety of protein, carbs and fat in my backpack to hold me over and or consume as an emergency meal. Some examples are a variety of nuts, dried fruit or veggies, dry oats (granola if you need more flavor), honey, etc. Once I arrive to a new destination one of my favorite things is to find the local store or market and look around for healthy items that I’ve never seen before to throw in my bag for the next bus ride. Financially I can survive much longer by making my own meals which is another bonus of hostel traveling. The kitchen is open to the guests to use (something you won’t find at hotels).  

Left overs? Save them! If I DO eat out I’ll always see if someone wants to share a meal and if not, I’ll wrap up what’s left and eat that for meals to follow until it’s gone. See the “edibles” posts for some examples of creative re-use of food.
This meal, I turned into three!
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Commonly hostels or volunteer hosts will provide a spread for breakfast that might include (rarely including ALl) things like fruit, cereal, oats, breads, yogurt, eggs and so on. The yogurt will spoil over time on the road so eat that first. You need heat to cook eggs, so if yogurt isnt your choice of protien go for the egg.  The breads, oats and grain travel well, so snag a serving and throw it in your bag for a later snack.  Ive even put my morning yogurt in the freezer and taken it when I leave. This is so when I hit the road and get hungry, I snag a piece of fruit from a stand and my thawed yogurt is thawed and ready to eat…and free! 

Lastly, “Do you ever make money”?

Yes! I’m fortunate that the 4 career choices I’m experienced with, I can take around the world.  Primarily hairstyling because everyone wants a haircut and most travelers don’t have the desire to trust or over pay a salon.  So when I arrive in a new hostel I’ll hang a small sign stating my prices and room number and see what comes my way.  Usually at each hostel, I’ll make enough to pay for my stay and walk away with some change.  At one accommodation, the owner of the place let me give his staff haircuts and didn’t charge me for the 3 nights I stayed!
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Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
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Massage therapy, bar tending and teaching are the other three that I use when opportunity arise. Sometimes I get paid cash, other times its a barter like dinner, a bus ticket, a free night stay or my personal favorite, language lessons!
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Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

So there you have it, a general guide to my sneaky ways of traveling like I do. Hopefully it’s obvious I truly enjoy it, so please don’t hesitate to email me with specific questions.

universalaughter@yahoo.com

Cheers to adventure!

Categories: Accommodations, Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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