How To Stay Safe While Traveling Alone (+ Still Have Fun)

Are you a solo traveler? Are you concerned about staying safe while traveling alone? I've traveled to 36 countries - most of them on my own. Click through for my best solo travel safety tips!

When I tell people how much solo travel I do, I’m usually greeted with one of two reactions:
1) “That’s so fun!”
2) “HOW DO YOU STAY SAFE WHILE TRAVELING ALONE???!!!” (followed by an urban legend of someone who went missing while traveling alone.)

In my five years/twenty countries worth of travel, I have never been robbed, groped or seriously harassed. Mostly, I have been lucky. But I also employ the all-important “Don’t mess with me walk” and follow these tips:

Staying Safe While Traveling Alone Abroad

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And now to sleep, perchance to dream

(A is a grad student by day, fashion blogger by night, combining the two flawlessly in her blog The Glamorous Grad Student. She loves classic, bombshell style, cupcakes and fellow redheads.)
Ever since my final year as an undergrad, I’ve been tired literally all the time. It doesn’t seem to be a medical problem, I am just tired. Being a good grad student, I have applied Occam’s razor to the problem, which is a principle stating that the explanation of a phemonena should make as few assumptions as possible. In other words, the simplest explanation is probably the right one. So with the bloodwork coming back normal so far (yay!), I’m starting to think about sleep in more detail than ever before.

People need sleep in the same way they need food and water. Yet in our face-paced modern society, we often perceive this basic need as a weakness to be overcome. Looking back, I was spectacularly guilty of this as an undergrad, when the measure of a party’s success was how late we went to sleep. I would stay up late to cram for exams, thinking that this was what successful, dedicated students did. And I know I’m not alone. How screwed up is this thinking, when actually, even short term sleep deprivation has a significant impact on your alertness and performance in the day?

Oh, how little I knew. How stupid I was. I was always the “responsible” one at our undergrad outings. I would try not to drink very much as it seemed wise for one of us at least to be coherent and able to walk unassisted at closing time. The morning after, I was never hungover, but never felt like a million bucks either and often wondered why. I mean, jeez, a late night couldn’t be that damaging, right? Everyone does it!

Wrong. At the point in our lives when sleep deprivation effects us the most, we’re up until all hours! And as if this was not enough, there’s evidence to suggest that women require an hour extra in bed compared to men. So here I am, a 23 year old female grad student, unwittingly at a point in my life where I need to take care of my sleep needs the most, and not doing a very good job of it at all, as my all-day zombie face confirms!!

But fear not! All is not lost. I’ve discovered a few teensy tiny yet hugely effective ways to improve the way I sleep. Turns out it’s a lot like theatre! Because you need…

The right costume
Is there any task in life which the right clothing does not make easier to actually do? One of my breakthrough discoveries was the Bra Cami Top from American Apparel, which provides just the right level of comfort and support for us busty gals.

The right lighting
The impact of light on sleep is insanely interesting. For example, blue light can restore the sleep cycle, and sudden exposure to light when you’re asleep can interrupt it. So if your bedroom window overlooks a busy road, or your garden has one of those security lights that comes on when a curious cat wanders by, it may be worth investing in a good pair of blackout curtains.

The right set
Ok, so I haven’t found research on this, but I do think having an orderly, clutter-free, soothing bedroom is very important. The environment you sleep in should agree with all your senses. This may be a no-brainer, but the bed should feel comfortable. The room should either be totally quiet or sound calming, with toned down classical music perhaps. It should also smell nice, so try some lavendar oil on your pillow.

The right timing
As it turns out, going to sleep should be gradual, taking 10 to 15 minutes. It takes me about 30 seconds, which is a clear sign of sleep deprivation, so my tactic now is to try to be in bed 15 minutes before I usually get exhausted and try to relax into sleep. Lying awake in bed for hours is clearly no good either, so if that’s your problem, try getting up and pottering about for a little while then trying it again. You know, kind of like show-jumping horses, let yourself come round and take another run at it.

If anyone has any other tips on getting a good night’s sleep, please pass them along!!

How To Be a Better Writer In 3 Not-Particularly-Easy Steps

Do you want to be a better writer? If you write a blog, being a decent writer helps! Click through for writing tips that will help you improve your blog + land more clients!

How does one become a better writer? Is there a pill? A 5-step process? A short manual?Alas, no.

But today writer and comedian Sarah Storer is telling us how she became a better writer.

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Fairytale Fashion Circa 2009

Oooh! Let´s engage in a little day dreaming and imagine what would happen if the heroines of our favorite Disney movies were young ladies, gadding about the city circa 2009!

 

Ariel

Things between Prince Eric and Ariel rapidly head south when he callously suggests a seafood buffet for their wedding. The nerve! Ariel is crushed that she can´t run home to her sisters, but finds solace in UCLA’s oceanography program. Her classmates are awed by her fantastic swimming abilities. That and the fact that she insists on combing her hair with a fork. 

BelleBelle
After a few years of pottering around the castle and constantly brushing Beasty Boy’s hair, Belle runs out of gowns to wear and songs to sing. She remembers fondly her days of bookwormery and announces to her mister that it’s high time she went back to school. In September, she joyfully begins her Master of Library Science. Mrs. Potts returns to her teapot state to accompany Belle to grad school and sees her through many cups of Earl Gray and revisions of her thesis.

Jasmine

Jasmine

After marrying into one of Dubai’s royal families, Jasmine spends a few months relishing her new new role as a tabloid fodder royal (“They’re like us! They eat falafel! They chastise their pet monkey for throwing poo!”). However, she quickly realizes that her previous life of singing on carpets and battling evil sorcerers has not prepared her to rule a country. So onwards and upwards: a BA in Public Policy with a minor in music. One can’t completely abandon singing on flying carpets.Who were your favorite fairy tale heroines? And what would they be like these days?

How To Become a Runner Who Likes To Run

like-to-runChrissy is a native New Yorker presently living in Texas. At The New Me she blogs about her life (being a librarian, being in love and walking her dog), her obsessions (vegan cooking, photography, and running) and her dreams (marathons and best-selling novels, naturally).

In the second grade, I was placed in Remedial Gym. How does a person get placed in Remedial Gym? In my case, I was a stubborn seven year old who did one sit-up and stopped, who refused to even attempt a pull-up, and who sat in the grass, looking for four-leaf clovers, while the rest of my class ran a mile around the track. Needless to say, I scored low enough on the physical fitness test to warrant remediation. (On the bright side, I positively excelled at Remedial Gym.)

Somehow, that stubborn seven-year-old grew up to be a goal-oriented twenty-six-year-old, who recently decided to train for a marathon. Oh, if my Remedial Gym teacher could see me now! These days, I love running. I love waking up at 5:30 in the morning three days a week and hitting the trail. I love the feeling I get when I’ve finished a run when my face is pink and my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest. I love the way running has strengthened my body and quieted my mind.

Running has made me better in a lot of ways – I’m healthier (can’t run without proper nutrition), I sleep better (running will wear you out), I drink less (have you ever run with a hangover? Not recommended) and I’ve found that the discipline of running has translated to other aspects of my life. Writing, reading, my job – the sluggish manner in which I once approached the challenges of my life has faded away, replaced by the drive of an ambitious woman with a voracious appetite for adventure and knowledge, fueled by powerful legs and a whole lotta carbs.

I’m not going to lie. This whole running thing hasn’t been easy and it’s taken me a year and a half to get to where I am. I’d never been a runner before, had never once, in my whole life, run a full mile. And yet, in January of 2008, I decided it was time to try something new. Here’s how I went from jogging ten feet at a time to training for an upcoming marathon in fourteen not-so-simple steps.

1. First, I convinced several of my girlfriends to train for a 5K with me. We started a blog where we posted our runs, and we met up once or twice a week for group workouts.

2. The Google led me to a running plan that seemed do-able – it was called the Couch to 5K plan, which was right up my alley. The first week, you jog for 60 seconds and alternate that with 90 seconds of walking. Piece of cake!

3. That cake did not last long. By the fifth week we were expected to jog a full two miles! It was painful, but it got easier over time.

4. In March of 2008, I ran my first 5K in exactly 34 minutes. I was high for days!

5. Then I didn’t really run at all for about four months. I had completed my goal and considered myself done.

6. I missed running. I missed the little victories, like improving my speed or adding another half a mile to my run. I missed the routine of putting on my sneakers and being outside on the trail. I missed the muscles in my legs. I decided to start running again.

7. Four months off is a long time. It was even harder than I remembered, and I nearly threw in the towel for good.

8. But instead I pushed on. My boyfriend started running with me, which was challenging – he’s very fast with enviable endurance. I almost quit again, but then I noticed that I was getting faster, running farther.

9. I joined a great website, dailymile.com. I started logging each run and being able to see my improvement while connecting with a community of supportive athletes, was what I needed to break through my wall.

10. The first time I ran four miles, I was so proud I almost cried in the middle of the gym.

11. The first time I ran five miles (about three weeks later) I felt like I’d won a gold medal in the Olympics.

12. I started doing short runs during the week, and long, slow runs on Sundays. The long runs were actually relaxing, which was a pleasant surprise.

13. In April of 2009, I ran my second 5K – 25 minutes and 22 seconds. My calves were sore for the following three days.

14. On May 1st, I begin training for my first marathon. I have a training plan, I have a love for the sport of running, and I have confidence. I’ll be sure to let y’all know how it all turns out.

These are the steps that worked for me, and I’m not done running yet. I’ve got a lot of miles in front of me and I’m honestly looking forward to them. If you’ve ever thought of running, the only thing I can tell you for sure is to begin.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to run a mile, or whether you come in last place in your first race. The real challenge is getting out there and doing it on a regular basis – once you get that part down, the rest will follow.

Good luck, and I’ll see you at the starting line!

Things I Bought That I Love

In light of this, I am committing the ultimate blogger crime and reposting something that I´ve already published elsewhere. But we´ll all look past this because it involves shopping, right?

Oooh, let´s give ourselves over to some hedonistic consumerism, shall we?! I´ll dish on some of my favorite, bestest purchases if you´ll dish on yours!

    1. Clinique Pore Minimizer Instant Perfector: Or as I like to call it ¨Robot Face¨ because when I use this magical, magical stuff I look like a cross between a Botticelli-clam-shell-stander and those weird human robots from A-I.

 

  • Lint Eating Machine; Do you have any Virgos in your life? Because they will love you forever if you get them one of these. And while you´re at it, get one for yourself. It will rejuvinate your favorite sweater and allow you to buy all those cute, pilly cardigans at the Salvation Army.

 

 

  • Black Harem Pants: I bought mine in 2006 from a street vendor in Italy. Half as a joke and half as sleeping gear for the train. So no one was more surprised that me when I found myself wearing them every blessed day of the last three summers. Because they´re comfy! And match everything! And vaguely weird/fashion forward without being totally ridiculous! Just somewhat ridiculous.

 

 

  • IKEA Poang Chair: I know, I know. IKEA furniture is nigh on disposable. But this chair is so insanely comfortable! And it doesn´t burn my retinas the way Eazyboys do. And it costs less than one paycheck.

 

 

  • Dr. Scholl´s Massaging Gel Insoles: I have the feet of a Jane Austen heroine – thin and pale and ridiculously high arched. And yet I will insist on buying $11 novelty ballet flats from Target. To make up for this, I buy a pair of these insoles and tuck them into every blessed pair of shoes that I have. So great! I am, indeed, gellin´.

 

What about you? What purchases have you made that are worth their weight in gold?P.S. This list is inspired by the fantastic and hilarious blog Things I Bought That I Love. It´s now defunct, but I promise, you´ll want to read through every single post. It´s written by Kelly Kipoor from The Office!