Americans tend to think of themselves as some of the greatest celebrators and holiday decorators around, and I admit I’ve felt that way from time to time, but there are a lot of countries that really have us beat.
I’ve celebrated a lot of different holidays in a lot of different places. It never gets less strange seeing palm trees decorated with ornaments or jungle huts strung with tinsel. I’ve celebrated the biggies all over. I’ve done Christmas in Sweden and Australia, put together makeshift Thanksgivings in Ecuador and Australia, and rung in the New Year in Thailand, Sweden and Australia. I’ve also had the fortune to witness the celebrations of countless unique local holidays in other parts of the world. And I always try to get as involved as I can, whether it’s checking out bull fights and riding party buses during Founder’s Day festivities in Quito or wearing a crown of flowers, eating herring and drinking schnapps for Midsommar in Sweden.
There are different ways to bring the holidays alive. The thing that separates countries like the US and Australia from what I consider to be even more festive countries like Thailand and Peru is this: we go all gung ho for our own holidays, but in other countries they go all gung ho for ALL holidays. In the States we go over the top to decorate every public place and every home for, say, Christmas. (Australia, from my experience, seemed to go more over the top in public but less so on a personal level as in decorating their own homes.) (more…)
Literally, what does it look like to travel on a budget and keep track of all your spending? It looks like this:
While I kept an excel sheet, I didn’t exactly carry my computer around with me everywhere, so I had this little moleskine journal I kept in my purse with me at all times. Every time I grabbed something to eat or drink, bought a bus ticket, picked up a souvenir, etc. it went right into the book. I was also attempting to track my spending by category (food, activities, transport, etc.) so I had a highly sophisticated system of doing this as well… by which I mean, I just wrote what the money was for above it. (more…)
Whether traveling in a group or solo, living abroad or traveling fast and taking part in a lot of could-be-budget-busting activities, I’ve managed to do long-term travel affordably. To best share my knowledge, I’ve broken down my tips into four categories that tend to be the biggest budget drainers while traveling:
To best share my knowledge, I’ve broken down my tips into four categories that tend to be the biggest budget drainers while traveling: Transportation, Accommodation, Food & Drink and Activities & Attractions.
So I’m sitting here in the Houston airport with two more hours to kill, and free wifi as a Christmas gift from Boingo! 🙂 It’s amazing how I’ve been back in the States for just an hour or two now and already I’m in shock at all these small but striking differences.
For one, I can throw the toilet paper in the toilet….WHAT? I think I’ll still be throwing it in the trash for a while now.
And I had totally forgotten this amazing concept….They give you FREE WATER at restaurants? I came in to a diner for a (severely overpriced) milkshake and they brought me this giant glass of water. At first I was like, huh? I didn’t order this! Oh WAIT. Awesome!
The milkshake? WAS HUGE. And they bring you the remainder (which is basically an entire other milkshake). I forgot about the whole big portion thing here in the States.
Christmas is EVERYWHERE. In Quito they had some tinsel at the airport, and I saw a Christmas tree in a nice hotel once. But that’s about it. Here, Christmas music is playing everywhere, the waitresses are wearing Santa hats and there are wreathes and tinsel and little Christmas decorations everywhere.
But the best thing? Having a cell phone! I was starting to miss it since most of the people I hung out in Quito had mobiles since they were mostly spending extended time living in South America. But having my old phone back…It feels so weird in my hands. And I turned it on and it immediately started making very loud, obnoxious noises…TEXTS! It was nice to know the people thinking of me, texting me so I’d get them when I arrived and turned my phone on. And then it was a kind of funny feeling to be whipping my thumbs around on a tiny keypad, sending texts back at lightning speed. Oh, the simple thrills in life! (more…)
WARNING: Contains some gruesome content/photos (bullfighting).
I had big plans for my last days in South America, but the truth is after two weeks of going at it nonstop in the Galapagos and the jungle, and knowing I’m so close to going home, I’ve lost a bit of motivation and just become a bit tired. Especially after more than a month of traveling with others — the Aussie gals and then tour groups — it was harder to motivate myself to get up early, get a cab by myself, get a bus, find a hostel in a new place, etc. all when I still had to come back to Quito.
So after a couple mornings of being too tired to get up early for a bus (I had originally hoped I could find a daytrip so I wouldn’t have to really worry about any of the transport and details on my own), I gave up on my aspirations of going to the cloudforest in Mindo (even though I had been wanting to do the ziplining since I first planned this trip — I’ll just have to wait til I do a trip in Central America one day, where it’s supposed to be better anyways) and the markets in Otavalo (I settled for the markets in Quito instead).
My first day in Quito was supposed to be one of relaxation, but I felt a bit stressed and lonely. I was dealing with quite a transition after the past two whirlwind weeks, and I spent most of the day in bed on the computer. That and running back and forth to the agency trying to see if I was going to get a refund for my cruise or not. (In the past few days I’ve gone in there at least four or five times. FINALLY today I went in and they said, “I have some money for you!” My happiness was great, and doubled when they handed me $125! Woo! Now I don’t have to make another trip to the ATM before I leave!) (more…)
Last Thursday night, after I arrived back from the Galapagos and had a Thanksgiving dinner, my Dutch friend Maaike and I boarded a night bus to Lago Agrio. I also again ran into the Kiwi guy that I have been running into for the past month, as he’s been on the same route but about a day behind (and also went the Galapagos the same day as me, but on a shorter cruise) and he was of course on the same jungle tour as well!
Once we arrived in Lago Agrio the next morning we had a few hours to wait before we were picked up. Then it was the beginning (or continuation) of one very long day of travel. First we went in a truck for nearly three hours, half of which were on an unpaved road, to get to the port. It was a long drive. (more…)