For the first time in over 2 years, I am overseas traveling a new continent—Africa! Specifically, I am traveling the lovely little country of Namibia (not to be confused with Nambia, Trump's incorrect pronunciation of it).
Namibia has stunning natural landscapes and the wildlife sightings happen left and right without even trying! I fly to South Africa next to see the "Big 5" on safari, but I've already felt incredibly fulfilled by all the wildlife and nature I have seen.
My first stop in Namibia was the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Then I camped in the Sossusvlei region which has the tallest sand dunes in the world and a really unique place to take photographs of 700 year old sun-scorched trees. It's been an amazing trip already and I'm only 1 week into it! Here's a sneak photographic peak at Namibia...
In August this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal for 2 nights. It was going to be a short stay, but I wanted to make the most of it.
I was traveling with my new partner, Ang. She was presenting at a conference, and I joined for some fun! I have been to Canada before—to Toronto and Bromont. But Montreal is a city I have been wanting to visit since I took French in high school. So this trip was 15+ years in the making! It also marked the first time I had been out of the USA since my round-the-world trip!
Summers in Montreal are full of art, music, and outdoor fun. I experienced everything I describe in this post over 2 days. But you can easily see and do it all in 24 hours.
I find myself thinking about what it will be like traveling internationally during the next 4 years under the Trump administration.
Our elected leaders matter when we travel.
The influence of the American government on the rest of the world's view of America and its citizens was omnipresent during my international travels while Obama was president just as it was when I traveled abroad during the Bush administration. These international travel experiences inevitably inform my outlook on the future. And they inform my steadfast position to keep traveling and spreading the values that I feel best represent me and my country.
I have an update: I started a new job this week—yay! And there's even more to celebrate: This week marks 6 months that I have been back in the United States! In all of my blogging and reading other people’s travel blogs, I rarely hear people write about the adaptation back into the job market after an extended period of travel. So I've decided to write about it in this post.
I will in no way sugar coat this: Job hunting post-travel is not easy. To give yourself the best possible chance of returning to a job, I will share in this post the tricks I used before, during, and after nearly 2 years of travel without official employment. These tricks include thinking carefully about your reasons for traveling, staying connected to your contacts along the way, and having a "product" to show for your absence.
The best way to avoid roaming charges and other heightened fees for talk, text, and data overseas is to use a local SIM card at your destination. SIM cards give you access to a local phone number and the plans are usually pretty cheap, e.g. $10-$30 for 30 days.
Many people opt to use Wi-Fi while they are abroad. This is certainly an option to consider—especially if you're only going to be at your destination for a few days. But even for those few days, you may want to consider a local SIM card for some of the benefits it offers.
I used local SIM cards in most of the countries to which I traveled during my 15 month trip around the world. Along the way, I learned a lot about when it is and is not a good idea to get one and what to do to make life easier when setting up and using a SIM card abroad.
I know I said I was going to stop doing these. But this update seemed too important not to share! Yes, surprise! I am heading back to New York! We all knew this day had to come sometime considering this is a year(ish) of deviation tour. Well, it's about time, as it's been over 14 months since I left New York.
Three days ago, I departed from Auckland, New Zealand and began a series of flights taking me to Bali, Indonesia. Today marks my first full day in Bali! Wooo! I've had Bali in my sights since before I left NY last September. Jono and I even considered it for our destination together until we decided on Niue. I am now traveling solo again and loving it! But it's also good to be following a path that will ultimately lead me home.
I was expecting Niue to be a small country. But there was no way I could have anticipated just how small and remote it is. Jono, my Kiwi partner, and I traveled from New Zealand to “the rock” of Polynesia at the end of August.
Upon our arrival, we realized the entire country is the equivalent of a rural village dropped onto an island in the middle of the ocean. With its approximately 1200 human dwellers (and possibly twice as many chickens), we felt like we were getting a true getaway from the fast pace of life. You’ll understand why if you ever have the chance to go, or you can just keep reading.
While traveling the North Island, I kept passing through Taupo instead of actually spending any time there. One time I finally did stop. Jono and I were on our way back from a weekend trip near Hamilton. Huka Falls and the “Craters of the Moon” had been on my mind since I passed through Taupo on several occasions prior.
Stopping to visit both was definitely worth it. The bubbling Earth of the geothermal field and the gushing power of the falls were awesome to behold. The best part? Laughing at the expense of frightened tourists riding in speedboats down the river!
Tall peaks and steep valleys covered in native plants and trees with huge rocky outcrops sticking up out of forested mounds stretched from either side of the winding highway 25. I could see the Bay of Plenty on the Pacific Ocean running along the horizon ahead. We had made it from the West Coast Taranaki region to the Coromandel Peninsula. Famous for its beaches and ecotourism, the Coromandel is a popular vacation spot for kiwi locals and foreign tourists.
Today, we had driven all day to make it to Hot Water Beach where visitors dig holes in the sand which fill with thermal water from hot springs underneath. Tomorrow we would find an overnight hike to do in the steep inland tropical forest. With nowhere to camp for free on the Coromandel itself, we ended up pitching tents just south of the Coromandel on district land with one of the most unique and hilarious public toilets I’ve ever encountered.
Harald the German and I were all set for our road trip across the North Island. We had 15 days before I needed to be in Auckland. We kicked off the journey around the Lower and Upper Hutt areas of Wellington staying at a few campsites. taking a few short hikes, then heading to the east coast.
Not long after our departure from the city, we glimpsed green pastures calling to be rolled down, winding mountain side roads frighteningly steep, and deep river valleys cutting through the hills. Everywhere we turned there was something beautiful to see. In just the first few days of our journey, we saw tons of gorgeous scenery, resisted rolling down a very poo-y hillside, and then found a new way to deviate the norm: showering at a library.
At long last, I was at customs about to leave Bangkok headed for New Zealand. I was in a strange place in my head, sad to leave Thailand behind after only one month there, but excited to be headed to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.
My arrival to New Zealand happened to coincide with the premiere of the final Hobbit film. I chose Wellington as my destination city because it had been home to the film’s studio and workshop as well as the previous two film premieres. But just a few weeks before my scheduled flight, I learned the final premiere would be held in London instead. At first I was disappointed, but then I remembered why I had planned to visit New Zealand in the first place: to see the gorgeous countryside. So my plan was to get out of the city as soon as possible. Easier said than done.
It’s four months and a new year already! For this check-in, I’m going to do something a little special—a re-cap of my top 10 favorite moments from my 4 months of deviation.
This was actually really difficult to put together. There were so many awesome experiences from which to choose! But I think I narrowed it down to my liking. To make it feel right, though, I had to list some honorable mentions at the end!
“I can’t believe I almost missed this,” I said aloud to my new friends as we walked down the sidewalk toward the Ping River. Above us, thousands of golden, twinkling lanterns were floating up and taking to the winds across the night sky, morphing and expanding along the thermals like a galaxy of stars. Just a few days earlier, I had made the decision to skip out on what would have been a much-too-short motorbike trip around the Mae Hong Son loop.
Instead, I met a Thai local named Samart who graciously hosted me for the week. I had the awesome opportunity to meet many of his friends, employees, and volunteers—a mixture of Thai locals and other travelers—who work with him at his bungalows outside Chiang Mai. Several of them had come into the city just for the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festivals.
I’ve been writing a lot about Thailand in their sequence of events over the last few weeks, but it’s time to mix things up! Since this blog is all about deviating the norm, I thought I’d deviate my blogging norm for a moment to wish everyone a Merry X-Mas!
I am writing from a house-sit in New Zealand. A lovely family is away for the holidays and they are allowing me the opportunity to take care of their adorable dog and relax in their home for the week.
During these last 3+ months of travel, I have found the solo travel lifestyle to be a perfect way to deviate freely and openly. Without surprise, I have spent very little time traveling alone. Even traveling between locations, like my overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I have rarely been by myself or kept to myself. I meet couples, other solo travelers, old friends from back home, and locals. I strike up conversations, exchange contact info, and sometimes I even temporarily combine travel plans. But not being tied down to people in a permanent way has led me down alternative paths to other exciting adventures.
In this post I am going to highlight one of the best parts about solo travel through a moment when I was in Thailand and my plans with another traveler went awry. Why would being a solo traveler be a good thing in this case? Read on to find out.
I was going to call this post “Monks and Motorbikes” but then I realized you would all picture monks riding motorbikes around and that would have been completely inaccurate. My in-depth post about my interactions with monks will have to come later. Instead, this post is about the day I got over my fear of riding a motorbike which included a ride up to a Buddhist temple near Chiang Mai.
West of Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Just before the Doi Suthep mountain summit (1676m) is the temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep—a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site. Other travelers staying at the Julie Guesthouse suggested going there as a fun day trip. They mentioned songthaews and buses as the means to get up there. “Or you could just rent a motorbike,” said one traveler.
Many of my friends and family back home are aware of my affinity for costumes and cosplay. Naturally, one of my favorite times of the year is Halloween—where you can dress up as anything you want, party until dawn, and eat lots of candy. What’s not to love?
When I realized I would be in Thailand for Halloween, missing out on all the fun parties back in New York, I was determined to find a costume to wear and party to attend. Halloween is not typical to Thai culture, so I was expecting to have to deviate the norm a bit to find a suitable costume and party. To my delight, I ended up receiving a zombie makeover, attracting the attention of many Thai locals with my undeadness, and partying with Thai people and other backpackers until the wee hours of the morning. A Halloween worthy of my high standards.
There was an excitement in the air each morning at the Big Bubble resort just after the sun had broke over the bay’s southern hills. Five of us divers would scramble to gather equipment and load it onto the small boat to carry out to the big boat where a large group of people would meet us from a neighboring resort. We’d travel out to our location, anchor up to the mooring, then jump in and descend.
After 3 days of these diving adventures, it was time to do something different. But I was not ready to leave the island yet. I ended up staying for an extra two nights. During this time, I got to experience more of the island life, connect with the local Thai people, swim and snorkel at the beaches, and celebrate a new friend’s birthday.
Hello from New Zealand! I am now over 3 months into my year of deviation. I’m a little late with this post because I was on a 2-day overnight hike up a mountain in New Zealand. I know I keep saying it in these updates, but traveling for this long has a funny way of feeling like time flies by and slows down all at once. It’s gone so fast and yet feels like a year has already passed! Countless times I have lost track of the day of the week or date in the month. Just a few days ago, I wrote my next post about my remaining experiences on Ko Toa in Thailand. I woke up the next day and realized, “Whoa, tomorrow is already December 1! Time for an update!” And so I wrote that, too. But then it took 3 days to be around WiFi to post—hence the tardiness.
When I left Bangkok for Ko Tao, I had no idea what I was going to decide to do once I arrived at the dive resort where Astrid works. I have always wanted to take a SCUBA diving course and get certified, but I never thought I’d do it in Thailand. Between the excellent instruction I received, the great underwater visibility, and the diverse tropical fish and coral reef, I made the best decision to learn to dive off the shores of Ko Tao.
After the 9 hour bus and ferry ride from Bangkok, one of the Big Bubble resort taxi drivers picked me up from the port. Five minutes later, we arrived at the resort where I met KaiNui who is one of the master divers at Big Bubble. He introduced me to a list of dive options and their prices. The open water diver certification course involved watching a video, receiving short instruction in the classroom, and going on 4 dives, 2 the first day which were mainly training focused and 2 the following day which were for fun and practice. The course cost about $300 USD and included 4 nights’ accommodation in their bungalows. Normally there are up to 6 other divers in each training group, but because it was low season for tourists on the island, I ended up having a private instruction for the group price! You cannot get this kind of deal back home, so I was immediately in.