Too close to home

Gasp! Choke! Chest-clutching! Quote … hitting … too close to home …!


Affluent college bound students
face the real prospect
of downward mobility
feelings of entitlement clash with
the awareness of imminent scarcity
there is a resentment at growing up
at the end of an era of plenty
coupled with reassessment of
conventional measures of success

Jenny Holzer

 

How to Travel on the Cheap: Part 2

cheap travel tips

Did you like part 1 of this super long post? What’s more awesome than traveling? Traveling for $2. Here are a few more ideas for cheapo travel…Travel during the ‘shoulder’ season

Sure, I’d like to be in St. Tropez for Valentine’s day … but so would every other girl and her sister. All those eager travelers equate to packed hotels and high prices. The shoulder season is the month before the ‘real’ tourist season kicks. You’ll still see good weather, but you’ll be privy to open beaches, short lines and even discounted rates on your lodging. Here’s an awesome list of shoulder-seasons for popular destinations the world over.

Sniff out the deals
There are travel deals to be had everywhere, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Kayak and Mobissimo both search heaps of travel sites for you so you don’t have to shuttle around from one site to the next. I’m also a huge fan of Travelocity’s ‘Last Minute Packages‘ tab. If you’ve got a three-day weekend coming up and your only requirement is ‘somewhere warm’ you can get amazing deals. Right now, I could get a round trip flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta, plus three nights in a hotel for $247!And don’t discount non-air travel. Though America isn’t known for it’s public transportation system, Megabus is making some pretty significant inroads. Routes are limited to the Midwest and east coasts of the US and Canada. But! You can get tickets for $1! $1! Of course, a lot of the tickets are a bit more, but they are always reasonable. I’m actually heading to Chicago next weekend for less than the cost of a new sweater.

Stay with friends or Couch-surf
I encountered some dumb luck while planning my world ticket and happened to have friends living in four amazing cities that I wanted to visit. If you have friends abroad at the moment, seize the moment and go sleep on their couch! You’ll get free lodging, your own tour guide and insight into the city. Just be sure to clean up after yourself, cook them dinner and send a thank-you gift … But you already knew that, right?But if you’re headed to someplace obscure or friend-free, give couch surfing a try. Here’s how it works: After you select a country you’re traveling to, you sift through profiles of various intrepid souls who have opened up their homes to travelers. You email hosts that interest you, introducing yourself and sharing the details of your trip. If both parties are keen, you stay with them on your way through their city, make a new friend and return the favor to other travelers when you get home. So lovely, right?

Rental relocations

Sweet Jesus, but these are awesome! Countries like New Zealand and Australia have huge tourist industries with heaps of tourists driving all over, very often in one direction. Many travelers land in Auckland, rent a car and then spend a few weeks driving down to Christchurch where they fly home. And lucky you – the car rental companies are happy to rent you that car for $1 if you drive it back up to Auckland for them! The Mister and I spent a three-week holiday on the southern island of New Zealand driving wherever the rental relocations were going . We even drove a $300-a-night camper van for a few days. This website will tell you everything you need to know about the rental relocation process.

Eat like a local
One of the best ways of experiencing a new culture is through the food, right? What would Bangkok be without mango sticky rice or Edinburgh without haggis? Lame, that’s what. But eating out all the time gets spendy! If you’re going to eat out, nosh during the lunch hour when prices are a lot more reasonable and take your leftovers back to the hostel for dinner. Or make a picnic out of nibblings from the grocery store or the fruit and veggie market. I’m also a huge fan of eating from street vendor carts. Authentic, adventurous eats for a pitance. But stay away from those grey cubes rolled in black sesame seeds. They’re not tofu. They’re congealed duck blood.

Haggle
I nearly turned inside out with embarrassment the first time I haggled a price down in South East Asia. “But it’s already cheap! And it’s so damn awkward!” It doesn’t have to be – just like most things, if you approach haggling with charm and confidence you’ll be fine. Often prices are not posted and the price you are quoted is a) intended as a starting point b) inflated because you’re a foreigner. So smile sweetly, reduce the price by a third and have a go!

photo by Giuseppe Milo // cc

 

How To Travel On The Cheap

Want to travel on the cheap? Who doesn't? These budget travel tips helped me travel through 7 countries, over 11 months, for just $5,000 dollars. Click through for affordable travel tips you haven't heard before!
Here are some things that I know about:
How to eat epic amounts of cheese in one sitting
How to dress like Dolly Parton
How to travel the world on $2

Okay. Maybe not $2. Maybe $4. But that’s still traveling on a really small budget, for pete’s sake!

In 2010, I did a six-country, 10-month trip to the tune of $5,000. Quite a deal, right? I know better than most travelers how to travel cheaply and still travel well.

Want to travel on the cheap? Here are my secrets for affordable travel:

Travel to somewhere cheap

We all grow up fantasizing about seeing Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower, but Western Europe’s expensive, yo! And there’s a lot more excitement to be found outside of the EU. There are heaps of lovely, amazing, culturally significant, safe countries just aching to be included in your itinerary. The Czech Republic, Mongolia, Tunisia all get high marks. You can find other suggestions here and here. Plan your trip to an affordable travel location and you’ll save big!

Stay in cheap travel destinations for awhile

The biggest expense of most trips is the transportation to and from your destination. So get the most out of that $1,600 ticket to Saigon and hang out for a bit! The key to traveling cheap is focusing on being in cheap places, rather than hopping from destination to destination on expensive tickets.

The feeling of really staying in a city, getting to know all its nooks and crannies, having that little cafe you always get coffee at … well, it’s a lot better than changing hostels every night and spending every day standing in lines for various Important Landmarks. You will have a much deeper relationship with your host country … and save a chunk o’ change as well!

Get cheap or free travel lodging by volunteering

Seriously, if you’re looking to travel for cheap is the way to go. Not only will it significantly cut the cost of your trip, you’ll meet heaps of people and contribute something to your host country. The trick here is to find a volunteer program that is free and will cover your housing.
Many volunteer programs require that you cover your own costs and, thus, are actually really expensive. But free volunteer programs do exist. I had an amazing time volunteering on a tiny island in Greece with The Aegean Wildlife Hospital. In exchange for two hours of water-bowl filling and corn scattering I got my own bedroom in a sweet little Greek farmhouse and the rest of the day was free for sunbathing, ouzo-drinking and cliff diving.
A sure bet for a volunteer/lodging exchange is WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOFers volunteer on organic farms in exchange for room and board, often living as a member of their host’s family. There are WWOOF farms on every continent except Antarctica. You just choose a country and farm that you’re interested in, email them and go! Amazing, right? It’s my best secret for cheap travel!

Related: Airbnb is always an affordable option and if you’ve never used it before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!

Want to travel on the cheap? Who doesn't? These budget travel tips helped me travel through 7 countries, over 11 months, for just $5,000 dollars. Click through for affordable travel tips you haven't heard before!

Cheap travelers are best friends with public transportation

Traveling for cheap often means traveling like a local! Sure, taking the bus through downtown Bangkok can be pretty intimidating. So if you’re in a non-English speaking country and you’re only in cities for a few days at a time, I’ll give you a pass on this. But if you’re planning on kicking it in Berlin all summer, you have no excuse for avoiding that subway. Even in places where the taxis are cheap (compared to what you’re used to paying) all those rides add up.

The added bonuses of taking public transport are a) meeting locals b) seeing parts of the city you’d miss on that air-conditioned tour c) feeling quite chuffed that you’ve figured it out on your own! One of my favorite memories of our three weeks in Fiji are the 70-cent, open-air buses full of babies and families and clanking hip hop music.

Work while you travel to offset costs

If you have expensive travel destinations in your plans, making them cheaper by working while you’re there can really help to offset the costs. Most hostels/backpackers hire guests to clean the building in exchange for their board. If you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, fruit picking jobs are huge in New Zealand and Australia and hospitality jobs are usually easy to come by in most tourist ports. Proper employment calls for a working holiday visa, but it’s often easy to find cash-in-hand casual work, too.

If you’re a Virgo like me and have to plan everything out ahead of time, please allow me to sing the praises of Italy’s ACLE program. You teach English to Italian kiddos for six hours a day, for 250 Euros a week. And! You stay with an Italian family so you get all the gnocchi and gelato you could ever want without spending a cent. Nice, eh?

Get cheap travel during the ‘shoulder’ season

Traveling on the cheap means you’re going to plan trips during non-peak shoulder seasons. Sure, I’d like to be in St. Tropez for Valentine’s Day, but so would every other girl and her sister. All those eager travelers equate to packed hotels and high prices. Cheap travel during shoulder season has great benefits beyond affordable travel costs too!

‘Shoulder season’ is the month before the ‘real’ tourist season kicks. You’ll still see good weather, but you’ll be privy to open beaches, short lines and even discounted rates on your lodging. Here’s an awesome list of shoulder-seasons for popular destinations the world over.

Want to travel on the cheap? Who doesn't? These budget travel tips helped me travel through 7 countries, over 11 months, for just $5,000 dollars. Click through for affordable travel tips you haven't heard before!

Sniff out the travel deals

There are travel deals to be had everywhere, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. Kayak and Mobissimo both search heaps of travel sites for you so you don’t have to shuttle around from one site to the next. I’m also a huge fan of Travelocity’s ‘Last Minute Packages‘ tab for cheap travel deals.

If you’ve got a three-day weekend coming up and your only requirement is ‘somewhere warm’ you can get amazing deals. Right now, I could get a round trip flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta, plus three nights in a hotel for $247!

And don’t discount non-air travel when looking for cheap travel destinations. Though America isn’t known for its public transportation system, Megabus is making some pretty significant inroads. Routes are limited to the Midwest and east coasts of the US and Canada. But! You can get tickets for $1! $1! Of course, a lot of the tickets are a bit more, but they are always reasonable.

Stay with friends or Couch-surf

I encountered some dumb luck while planning my world ticket and happened to have friends living in four amazing cities that I wanted to visit. If you have friends abroad at the moment, seize the moment and go sleep on their couch! You’ll get free lodging, your own tour guide, and insight into the city. Just be sure to clean up after yourself, cook them dinner and send a thank-you gift. But you already knew that, right?

If you’re headed to someplace obscure or friend-free, give couch surfing a try. Here’s how it works: After you select a country you’re traveling to, you sift through profiles of various intrepid souls who have opened up their homes to travelers. You email hosts that interest you, introducing yourself and sharing the details of your trip. If both parties are keen, you stay with them on your way through their city, make a new friend and return the favor to other travelers when you get home. So lovely, right?

Try rental relocations

These are so, so awesome. Countries like New Zealand and Australia have huge tourist industries with heaps of tourists driving all over, very often in one direction. Many travelers land in Auckland, rent a car and then spend a few weeks driving down to Christchurch where they fly home. And lucky you – the car rental companies are happy to rent you that car for $1 if you drive it back up to Auckland for them!

A friend and I spent a three-week vacation on the southern island of New Zealand driving wherever the rental relocations were going . We even drove a $300-a-night camper van for a few days. This website will tell you everything you need to know about the rental relocation process.

Want to travel on the cheap? Who doesn't? These budget travel tips helped me travel through 7 countries, over 11 months, for just $5,000 dollars. Click through for affordable travel tips you haven't heard before!

Eat like a local and get cheap travel eats

One of the best ways of experiencing a new culture is through the food, right? What would Bangkok be without mango sticky rice or Edinburgh without haggis? Not nearly as awesome, that’s what. But eating out all the time gets spendy!

If you’re going to eat out, nosh during the lunch hour when prices are a lot more reasonable and take your leftovers back to the hostel for dinner. Or make a picnic out of nibblings from the grocery store or the fruit and veggie market.

I’m also a huge fan of eating from street vendor carts – authentic, adventurous eats for a pittance. But stay away from those grey cubes rolled in black sesame seeds. They’re not tofu. They’re congealed duck blood.

Haggle for cheaper prices

I nearly turned inside out with embarrassment the first time I haggled a price down in South East Asia. “But it’s already cheap! And it’s so damn awkward!” It doesn’t have to be – just like most things, if you approach haggling with charm and confidence you’ll be fine.

Often prices are not posted and the price you are quoted is a) intended as a starting point b) inflated because you’re a foreigner.

So smile sweetly, reduce the price by a third and have a go! Here’s a good how-to.

Are you an experienced budget traveler? Share your best tips in the comments so we can learn from you!

P.S. All my best budget travel tips in one place + 7 travel tools I will not shut up about till you buy them.

photos by annie spratt // cc

7 ways to celebrate Day Lights Savings (in addition to sleeping in)

celebrate-daylight-savings

How often do we happen upon a pocket of un-scheduled, un-spoken-for free time?

How often do we stumble into an open hour that we can use as we please?

This happens to me, oh, about once a year and – shockingly – it seems to coincide with turning the clocks back. If I’m not careful, I’ll just absorb that hour into my day, squeezing in another load of laundry or another round of emails.

But what if we were intentional with that hour? What if we spent those sixty minutes doing something lovely and interesting and wonderfully unproductive?

Yes? Yes.

Some ideas for how to use that extra, delicious hour

  1. Write a proper letter to someone you love

    Yes, put actually pen to paper and tell someone what you’ve been up to. Inform your grandma of your latest shenanigans or ask your niece how soccer is going. Send Autumnal greetings to your far-flung friends or just write something like “Dear Meghan, remember when we ate lemon meringue pie at that fancy hotel in Kerala? And watched fireworks in our stained, sweaty salwar kameez sets? Miss you and love you!”

  2. Youtube a favorite childhood television show

    He-man and Scooby-doo are personal favorites of mine. Decide if they’ve withstood the test of time. Revel in the jokes you understand now that you’re an adult and be shocked that Shaggy’s pot smoking jokes made it on the air in the late 80s.

  3. Make a list of all the things you’ve accomplished this year

    As the year winds down and we’re encouraged to think about the changes we can make to be better! faster! thinner! richer! it’s important to remember and honor all the awesome things we’ve already done.

    Pull out your favorite notepad and really think about what you’ve done this year. It can be easy to forget the mundane-but-important things, things like “hired a financial planner” or “finally started drinking enough water every day” or “scheduled that really important doctor’s appointment after avoiding it for a year and a half.” You’ll remember more by looking through your calendar and Facebook page!

  4. Give yourself a good ol‘ fashioned at-home spa treatment

    Whipped avocado, honey, and olive oil hair mask! Coffee and sugar scrub! Yogurt and honey face mask! Or draw yourself a lavender milk bath and read your best, most frivolous book in it.

  5. Read the Wikipedia entry on any topic you’ve always wished you knew more about

    May I suggest Rasputin, the Rain Queen of South Africa, a list of all the guest stars on Sesame Street, or phantom time hypothesis. It’s also hard to go wrong watching episodes of Drunk History, MTV’s True Life or any VICE documentary.

    The world is full of amazing things! It is so fun to learn about them!

  6. Head to the top of the tallest building in your city with your camera

    Just google ‘tallest building [your city]’ and check to see if they have an observation deck or an inevitably overpriced coffee shop or bar up there. Put on something cute, make sure your camera/phone batteries are fully charged and head up there for some great views and lovely photos.

    If you live in Minneapolis, your best bet is the Foshay tower’s observation deck. It opens at 11 am on Sundays!

  7. Sleep the eff in

    But, like, with intention.

I’m planning on a little of number 4 and a little of number 7. What are your plans?

How to Have An Amazing Halloween Even If You Made Zero Plans

last-minute-halloween
I’m a total Halloween nerd who regularly plans her costume months in advance. Last weekend I was nearly worked into a snit when I had to throw together an impromptu costume. The horror, I know!

But if you have such a full life that you haven’t been able to devote that last few weeks to readying yourself for this most awesome of holidays, fear not! There’s still fun to be had at the last minute.

1. Get your friends together for a scary story party

Flashlight under the chin required. (Here’s a roundup of classic round-the-campfire stories.)

2. Visit your local haunted house

No, not the one put on by the Catholic Youth Group – the one where Old Man Jenkins lay undiscovered for a month before anyone noticed he was missing. Cwwweeepy. Minneapolis’s Soap Factory haunted basement is famous!

3. Put together a costume from what you have in your closet and recycling bin

Yes, it’s possible! Look here and here for ideas.

4. Stay in and hand out candy to all the be-costumed kiddies

3 points for dressing up, 4 points for dressing up your dog, 10 points for responding to ‘Trick or Treat!’ with ‘Trick’ and then doing that ‘removing your finger‘ bit.

5. Engage in a little harmless tomfoolery

Wrap cling wrap around your friend’s car and draw on it with a sharpie. Here’s a roundup of 18 perfectly harmless pranks that won’t get you arrested.

6. Play a round of Ouija Board with your friends

Try to get ahold of James Dean or Anna Nicole.

7. Watch one or two of the scariest movies on Netflix

With friends. Who then sleep over.

What are your plans?

photo by elle c // cc

Halloween Candy Astrology

halloween candy astrology

Now, I don’t particularly buy into the concept of daily astrological predictions. (“You will make an important decision today,” Really? Does the decision between cheddar and Swiss in my sandwich count?)

However! I am pretty entertained by astrologically determined personality traits … largely because I am a by-the-book Virgo, ready for anything with my stash of post-its, hand sanitizer, and tiny sewing kit. And this got me wondering … how would these astrologically determined traits translate into Halloween candy choices?

Aries

Adventurous and impulsive, Aries is the girl who joyfully pockets the unwrapped candy from your creepy Boo Radley neighbor. She might also try sucking on the nickels Old Lady Hanson is handing out or punch any untoward zombies in the throat.

Taurus 

Candy corn is security and reliability formed in tri-colored sugar which is perfect for tradition-loving Taurus. She’ll gladly trade you all of her yuck-o black licorice for your three pounds of candy corn.

Gemini 

Sweet Tarts are great for these Zodiac twins. Because they’re sweet! and tart! and sweet! and then tart again! She also loves to suck all the dye off so she can flash her creepy blue zombie tongue at all the boys.

 Cancer

Affectionate Cancer is holding out hope that someone has a few out-dated boxes of Valentine candy hearts for her. Then she can coyly slip them into her cutie’s candy pail and feign ignorance when they find 15 hearts that read ‘Hot Buns.’

Leo 

Wax lips make for a great conversation piece and attention-getter, which Leo loves. And anything that makes a girl look a bit more like Angelina Jolie can’t be discounted. Even if it means chewing on wax all night.

Virgo

M&Ms are perfect Virgo food. So clean and glossy! Conveniently melting in your mouth – not in your hand like those pesky, inconsiderate Snowcaps. M&Ms are also designed for compulsive color coding and then consumption in ascending ROYGBIV order.

 

Libra

Diplomatic, easy-going Libra is the friend who will trade you her king-size Butterfinger for a half eaten roll of Necco wafers. She is also the friend who wholeheartedly believes your flash-light-under-the-chin horror stories and is still a little unnerved by a darkened bathroom.

Scorpio

Any excuse to flirt is a good one for passionate, magnetic Scorpio. A candy necklace presents endless possibilities for strangers to nibble at her neck and use classy lines like “You look good enough to eat.”

 Sagittarius

“Where did the kittens go on their class trip? – the meow-seum.” may not be your idea of comic genius, but jovial, philosophical Sagittarius thinks Laffy Taffy is the height of hilarity. Meow-seum, indeed.

Capricorn

Practical, prudent Capricorn has reviewed her candy options and the caramel apple seems to be her safest bet. A bit of fiber, vitamin C and it won’t set her back toooo far at the gym.

Aquarius

While all her friends are fake gagging over their black licorice, independant, original Aquarius swoops in and gladly relieves them of it. Who cares if they say it’s Grandpa candy?

Pisces 

Swedish fish. For duh.
Contrary to my Virgo birthdate, I actually love me some Reese’s Pieces and Panda Black Licorice.

What’s your favorite Halloween candy? 

photo 1 by worth1000.com // photo 2 by muffet // photo 3 by joshua pomales // photo 4 by pen waggener // via ohnuts.com // photo 5 by amy loves yah // photo 6 by oskay // photo 7 by oldtimecandy.com // photo 8 via boydsretrocandy.com // photo 9 by nerissa’s ring // photo 10 by oskay // photo 11 by dolles // Luke Jones