Tips for traveling alone

What if we love travel,  but we wouldn’t dare to leave home by ourselves? It can be daunting to even think of going somewhere you’ve never been without a friend or family member with you. All I ever read in travel blogs are ‘must-dos’ before you settle down, and they often include a bullet for traveling alone. So why is that no one seems to do it?

Here are five tips to build up the courage to travel alone and to make it worth while.

1. Start your adventure in your own town.

Be a tourist in your hometown for a day. Take yourself on a date, don’t go to your typical spots and walk around without looking at your phone. See your hometown as if you’ve never been there before. Remember though, don’t look at your phone while you walk… take a look around and see how it feels to wander by yourself.

2. Find a place you’ve wanted to go for a long time.

There’s got to be somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Pick out a place that you would feel safe if you were there alone. For some, it’s Charleston, South Carolina, for others it’s Dubai. Don’t put limits on yourself!

3. Plan specific places to go.

Once you’ve chosen a destination, find some of the best spots to hit while you’re there. Whether it be certain beaches, museums, restaurants or hikes, find them and write them down. Don’t stop there though, investigate and document all the intricate ways to get there. Keep the directions in a journal so you can take it with you. (Use pictures and maps as well!)

4. Plan for problems.

Bringing extra money with you while you travel alone will help you relax in tense situations. If you lose your train ticket, you need a late night bite in a decent area, or you want to upgrade to a better hotel room to feel comfortable, allow yourself that luxury. Traveling alone can be stressful enough, so keep yourself packed with financial support. (Not with cash, but money in credit cards.)

5. Don’t be afraid to make friends when you get there.

Yes, being safe when meeting strangers is imperative. But there are so many incredible people who embrace lone travelers as if they were family. Find a cafe that matches your style, bring your laptop and get some work done. I’ve found that working in a bustling place encourages new friends to inquire about what you do. From there, you’re able to share who you really are with them and potentially create new relationships that could last a lifetime. Or – perhaps sit at a wine bar before the dinner crowd arrives and befriend the bartender. Bartenders seem to know all the ins and outs of a town. Start there!

Traveling alone is definitely for the brave. Luckily, you’re brave… so don’t wait for someone else to find interest in places you’ve always wanted to visit. Get out there and make life what you want it to be.

Stop, and turn around

It’s been quite awhile since I last wrote. Maybe because I’ve not felt as inspired or maybe because I’m nervous that what I have to say isn’t interesting enough to share with the world.

But today, I feel like sharing.

I’ve noticed a lot of my friends merge into careers that they maybe wanted, maybe didn’t want…but nonetheless, they seem to be fine. Generally, we go from college to post-grad thinking that we are going to slowly, consistently move upward. Sure, we might get a job that we are using as a stepping stone, that we don’t enjoy immensely but can tolerate… and then a two years go by. So really… we are just falling into the normal routine that is the American tradition…and why is it that I’m having a really hard time being okay with that?

My career path has been unexpectedly different.  It’s taken a rough push backward, a few confusing circles and some small steps to the left and right. I got my dream job right when I graduated. My favorite media company that made a true difference in the world hired ME. Interestingly enough, my dream job wasn’t what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for the position but when I decided it was my dream job to work there, I didn’t know that step one was generic 9 to 5. Probably because I always expect fireworks, bursts of color, magic and inspiration in everything around me. Including my jobs.

I think when we get to a certain age, our “dream job” isn’t actually what we had in mind. This is a cliché however… this is something cynical people have told us over the years, that our dream jobs are going to shift and soon enough we will be driving home at 7pm on a terribly average Thursday to a cold empty house where we’ll have about 3 hours to make dinner alone, (something that tastes mediocre and blends two or three types of ethnic foods from Trader Joe’s) watch two or three episodes of something on Netflix, brush our teeth and go to sleep.

This is what we are supposed to accept? Constantly, people who are secure and in a steady place in life will tell me,

“Well, real life is hard. It’s always going to be hard. You’re going to have to put your time in and do something you don’t enjoy for a couple of years until you have that break into the position you’ve been hoping to get.”

All I hear, is:

“Go give away X amount of years of your life in order for it to be good later.”

Sorry, but I don’t accept that and I don’t have to. That was 1985. 1985 was the 9 to 5 desk jobs concept that our parents created and accepted. Computers brought people into a gigantic space with no color on anything. If I don’t see color I don’t see anything and I just get uncomfortable.

There’s article I stumbled upon a few weeks ago about the most common regret people have on their death beds. It was,

“I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do. I did what I thought I was supposed to do.” 

This was the first time I’d heard the notion, because I was swept up in the current with everyone else and didn’t think I could do what I wanted to do. I’ve mentioned this to my parents, mentors, peers, but for some reason they’re responses are always, “well that’s really hard to do and doesn’t pay the bills.” Instantly I sink into another heap of disappointment.

Now, I’ve tried to see this concept differently. by understanding that there is a way to balance doing what you want to do and putting in the hard work. There will be late nights that you don’t get paid overtime for, or people you meet who try to put out your light. But I honestly believe that living your life takes more courage than they tell us. If you want to work in a flower shop and not climb the corporate ladder, then work in a flower shop and don’t climb the corporate ladder. We don’t have to do the most impressive things. Impressive things are not the same things as those that make us happy. We don’t have to work at a big company, we don’t have to chase money, we don’t have to work in an office, we don’t have to fatten our resume just to impress other people, we don’t have to accept that paying the bills trumps every dream we ever wanted. Thats not naive, that’s just changing the conversation. We can pay the bills doing anything… look at YouTube stars, look at bloggers, look at people inventing apps, look at those kids choosing to not do what they were told is the only thing they can do to succeed. There isn’t an ONLY WAY. You just have to remind yourself, that no matter what job you choose to do, no matter what career path you give up, or what job you turn down in order to do something less impressive, that you are the type of person that succeeds at anything and everything you do. If you believe that, then those risks you took along the way will pay off, regardless.

So, do exactly what you want to do and don’t apologize. No matter how bold it might seem.

T.

Little surprises…

While rummaging through some old documents sitting on my desk today, I came across a letter I wrote while applying for a scholarship through the program I was to study abroad with in Paris. I completely forgot I wrote it, but it was just the surprise I needed. I read this letter and knew I wrote it, but it became so interesting to realize how my mind has evolved since writing it.

Here I am. I’ve applied for internships, worked in television production and spent my senior year trying to soak it all up, but I feel slightly unsatisfied. This letter reminded me of why I am doing all of this work. I’m not trying to get internships at Discovery Communications and others like it because I want money. I am applying to work for these specific companies because of the possibility of travel opportunities. I love cinematography and broadcasting television, but so much of my soul is based from a fire within me to travel and help other species. I don’t just want a job I want irreplaceable experiences. I am going to copy the letter I wrote here, for any of you who may have the same feeling about travel that I do. This is why I travel…this is why everything I am doing matters at all.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” 

Beginning the moment I could understand the written word and recognize rotating images on Animal Planet, Travel Channel and Discovery Channel, I became a restless soul constantly seeking the ever changing and expanding world of endless culture surrounding each corner of the planet. To me, travel became an innate obsession after watching the genocide in Africa, reading about the extinction of the Baiji White Dolphin in the Yangtze River in China and observing the timeless architecture in Paris. In no way would I sit in one place watching the world from behind a screen ever again. 

My curiosity and desire to see the world through the eyes of those living thousands of miles away grows by the day. This has resulted in flying across the world to Reykjavik, Iceland to discover the plentiful landscapes and budding philosophy based on the notion that we must care for the planet the way it cares for us. As my Icelandic tour guide Oli believed, “nature must be preserved completely. Without it, we have nothing.” 

The memory of my travels has resided deep within my heart and has been a privilege that I am grateful for as each day passes. I recognize the opportunities I have been able to grasp; a significant reason why I have chased this Parisian journey so incessantly. My goal is to understand the way the world works. I want to feel what others feel. I want to be out in the field fighting for what is right. 

Without the glories of travel, I believe imagination is limited. Just the way a dog living inside a home cannot experience the softness of the grass, a person cannot respect the differences between her and the foreigner beside her without traveling to culturally diverse countries. In order to develop an true internal acceptance of others, a person must live alongside other less fortunate or perhaps more fortunate cultures. Broadening the knowledge of how the world spins will generate empathy for those living with less. In life, this can be one of the most difficult mindsets to embrace.

I know that travel an be frightening and it can be challenging in more ways than one. This is a life lesson; that which requires bravery will muster the greatest of changes. This is the largest hope for my future: to change, to develop, to be confused, to be uncertain and to learn what it means to make a significant impact on someone’s life. 

Now, I wrote this letter before I traveled to live in Paris for four months. And to be completely honest, my feelings before the semester have only grown more intense. Still, I have learned one special lesson that I never thought I would. Sometimes, us travel fanatics tend to feel unhappy in one place for a long period of time. If we feel upset or frustrated, we look outside ourselves and want to change our environments. Perhaps our problems are from the weather, the air quality or even traffic. After I lived in Paris, I noticed that
some of the problems I would have at home still existed when I lived abroad. So I learned that my little problems weren’t from external sources at all. They were stemming from inside me. So, being here in Southern California once again, I’ve made the distinctive choice to be happy right where I am. I often complain that I want to travel, but the truth is, I am traveling right now. When I lived in Seattle, I was so eager to come here and go to school. That was my biggest adventure to date. I was going to experience college outside of my hometown because I felt just as eager to live in a new place. But a year passed and I wasn’t happy because of things that I couldn’t change. So, I wanted to up and leave once again. But what if changing my environment wasn’t the solution? What if changing my mindset was the answer.

Truthfully, it was my mindset. So reading this letter to myself now, it means something completely different than it did then. I don’t travel just because I want to see new places, I travel because I truly want to help others and make a difference in the world. I want humans to live as one with their planet, not against it. That was the reason buried deep in my heart. It took sifting through the muck surrounding it to find the authenticity I always had, but never saw.

I ended up being offered the scholarship. When they gave it to me, they had no idea their money was going toward me finding myself once again, not just funding a travel-hungry college student.

T.

Light me up

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One of the hardest parts of saying goodbye to an adventure that has defined my character indefinitely, is to remember of a quote from my favorite song. It says, “when one door closes, open a window.”

That is the best way to think of my journey living in Europe. As I sit here at the airport, nearly tearing up, I have to think of a few things. If we never end the happiest moments of our lives, we can’t truly understand the value of the experience. These may be cliché notions but I am having to reach into my pocket and take them out because I don’t want to let go. We have such a huge planet that is so vast; we can spend an entire lifetime traveling around it. Though I haven’t left Europe during the course of this trip, I am to be forever restless to discover whatever else there is out there.

To be me. To travel. To be a traveler. To be a wanderer. To be a nomad. To see a train and want to get on it. To not care where the destination is, as long as it is somewhere new. To love public transportation. To plan the next trip in the middle of the current one.  To find the greatest peace in the simplest of things. To find a few minutes to sit and watch. To buy too many travel books. To feel the most comfortable in the airport. To talk to everyone you see. To walk long distances. To love the modest lifestyle. To feel lit on fire…all the time.

I’ve learned to be comfortable in the most uncomfortable situations. My biggest joys are new mountains, rivers, new colors and new people.. I am obsessed with soaking up new cultures. Small annoyances and mishaps become funny anecdotes. Whatever problems bubble up pass so easily. My biggest fears have slowly diminished.

What is life…to be genuinely happy and to realize that people and experiences mean more than anything else out there. Joy is the sun that shines through airplane windows. Joy is a bus ticket. Joy is witnessing two separate tables of people strike up conversation with one another, despite a language barrier. Living four months traveling the world teaches the truth about life and what it should be like. All of the people out there country-hopping know exactly what I am talking about. It is the priceless education of travel.

For those of us who know what I mean, trying to “find yourself” takes a while. We all think we know what we want, what we want to do, who we want, where we want to end up and what each day means. But how can we know any of that if we don’t step out of our own backyards. I don’t mean our physical locations, I mean the comfort of our limits. We can travel the world, sure. But to be a tourist and to be immersed in a culture are so different and produce completely contrasting results. One is a photo album of all the beautiful places we’ve been. The other is a photo album of all of the nights we spent playing guitar with locals until 3 a.m., of moments we lost our passports on the train, of the tiny hostel rooms we had to cram ourselves in, of the ferries we missed, of the protein bars we had to eat because we can’t afford anything else, of the best friends we made in the most uncommon of circumstances. I love getting uncomfortable, feeling dirty and walking so much my shoes break.

And so it continues, a life of always chasing a new sunrise. Here I come, Portugal.

T.

Croatia, my love

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Eight days, good friends, ferries and locals. That was it.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed Croatia making its way into the public eye through word of mouth and mediums like ABC’s hit show The Bachelornow I’m beginning to understand why.

Croatians love their seafood, love tourists and genuinely want you to get to know their country. I spent 8 days venturing through the the town of Split and the islands of Hvar and Brač. We also hopped on a bus from Split to a seaside port called Trogir.

The country was nothing like I expected. Every person we met was so eager to help us get around, find restaurants, meet other locals and discover hidden secrets. Coming from Paris, where they seemingly hate American tourists, it was a nice change. There was the famous Diocletian’s Palace dating back to the Roman Era, where you could get lost and feel like you’re in The Gladiator. It was indescribable walking across the stone paths and stumbling upon tiny, family-owned shops and bars.

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Watching small Croatian children fish on the island of Hvar.

Split is right on the edge of the Mediterranean sea. There are restaurants lining the water just like Barcelona, but something felt different. The community is always bustling around the palace talking to each other, laughing, fishing, buying foods from the outdoor markets and playing music. As I sit here, I can’t help but crave to go back. I  loved lying by the sea in the sunshine and hearing all of the different languages being spoken.

We met a hubbub of the friendliest travelers from all over Europe and Asia. Even all of the little cats walking around seem uncharacteristically snuggly. This country might be small, but it’s the home of some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

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Public transportation in Croatia was more like having a constant tour guide. Riding the ferries was a genuine pleasure because they moved somewhat slowly, so you could sit on the top deck outside in the sunshine. The water was so blue, it almost seemed straight out of Photoshop. On any island we visited, there were young kids sitting on the side of the piers fishing beside the adult fishermen who were selling freshly caught sea bass, octopus and squid right off their boats.

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Croatia’s token octopus salad.

Cuisine in Croatia easily became comparative to what I might find in Seattle. I live on the Pacific Ocean, but it seems that the Mediterranean had something more to offer. In the morning, owners of restaurants walked to the pier, bought local seafood off the boats, and properly showed you a tray of the freshest daily options that evening. It was just magical. Our world is moving so fast, yet Croatia has the ability to slow things down. Even in gelato shops, there were machines that made daily gelato right in front of your eyes. I can’t brag enough about this country.

The first restaurant we visited was an accident and something right off Pinterest. Konoba Korta, oh how I miss you.

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Vegetable couscous with a spicy kick.
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Bacon wrapped chicken skewers with grilled vegetables.
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This was anything but your typical creamed tomato soup.

Our experience consisted of one kind server, two perfectly homemade brewed Croatian beers, a tomato soup, an octopus salad, two bacon-wrapped chicken skewers and a whole lot of smiles. When we got the check I almost dropped it when I saw the total. A meal I thought would cost $45, was only 80 Kuna, (the Croatian currency) which is equal to about $11.36. Unbelievable.

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That afternoon, we casually played soccer with some local kids who constantly made fun of our lack of skill. It was adorable.

Croatia reminds me that that even though there is a lot of darkness in the world, there’s good as well. Sometimes our minds are bogged down with such negativity, but if we take a minute to connect to one another, we can feel our purpose more easily.

Croatia, thank you!

T.

 

To bake with the Parisians

 

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About a week ago, I had the pleasure of walking to the back of a pâtisserie called Leloup Gourmand on 129 rue du Temple in Paris. This was such an amazing treat, literally. Imagine learning how to make authentic French croissants in the heart of Paris. I can honestly say that this was an experience I will never forget.

The adorable chef, Bernard Leloup, was genuinely passionate about his pastry perfections. Speaking completely in French, he told us he wanted to bake since he was very young. What an amazing career choice…to bring joy to people everyday through perfectly flakey croissant crust.

Immediately, we walked back to the kitchen. It looked just like a kitchen I would see in any restaurant, but filled with smells of Paris. Decorating the walls were mixing tools, bread knives, spatulas, dough scrapers, lemon squeezers, measuring spoons, nutcrackers and anything else you can imagine in the kitchen of a French pâtisserie.

We were warmly greeted and couldn’t help but drool the entire time we were being introduced. Monsieur Leloup was so excited to welcome us in to his haven.

The first order of business was to take a taste of pain chocolat. Pronounced (pan chowkowlah.) Pain chocolat are a traditional breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack option for any day of the year. Many of my lovely friends studying abroad have built a strong and long-lasting relationship with this simple treat.

M. Leloup carefully cut a pain chocolat in half to show us the importance of perfect layers. He showed us the small chocolate strips that are carefully rolled in to each one. He said the ingredients that make each pain chocolat is what gives us that satisfying moment of a first bite. This is not food to M. Leloup, this is artwork.

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We were given another demonstration with croissants. Because I was starving at 2:30 p.m., I couldn’t help but stare as he put the tray of freshly baked croissants on the counter top.

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We were taught exactly how to properly knead the dough, cut the pieces in to small slices and formally pull and roll the dough in order to wrap the slices into small little bits of croissant goodness. We learned to paint egg white on the top of each croissant before it is baked. This gives the croissants their crispy, tasty flavor.

My passion for food has always given me a reason to meet new people, travel and be more experimental in my life overall. I realized while M. Leloup was teaching us his ways, that spending time to care for the process of making something is just as valuable as eating what you make. Just like painters paint, writers write, and dancers dance…chefs and pâtissiers practice great patience in order to give themselves the opportunity to create something truly wonderful.IMG_3570

Among the first two treats we tasted, there were plenty of dessert recipes M. Leloup was happy to break down for us. He showed us how to make a lemon cake bar and fruit compote with fresh vanilla.

The fresh fruit compote was made with a small pinch of sugar and rhubarb. I could taste the fruit as if I had just picked it from the imaginary garden in the back.

IMG_3563M. Leloup showed us where he gets the vanilla for the compote and sure enough, he uses the freshest vanilla he can find. He pulls out the vanilla canes so we can smell just how fresh it has to be in order to evoke the best flavors.

The lemon cake bar was a simple recipe of fresh cake dough, pears and a splash of lemon juice. We watched the batter pour into the baking trays. Once baked, the cake is somewhat flat rather than puffed up like a traditional gateau. The dough was moist and sweet. I loved the addition of the pears because I feel like pear can be a underrated fruit. They really are delicious.

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I admire Europe’s love for dessert. I appreciate that Europeans seem to give themselves time to savor something, no matter if it might not be healthy for them. “Healthy” has become a relative term for me. Something “healthy” doesn’t necessarily mean healthy for the body, it could be healthy for the soul.

T.

Let’s talk about salads.

So it’s common knowledge that salads are generally good for us. If we load a salad with ranch, which I know we love, then it might add about 500 calories to our “healthy” salad.

In Paris, I’ve come across a salad that is quickly becoming internationally famous. Its called “salade chevre chaud.” If you’ve been here, which most of my friends who are studying abroad have, then you know what this salad is. Sometimes it is just cheese melted on small toasts over arugula or some kind of bed of lettuce. Sometimes we will get les pommes de terre, or hard boiled egg with tomatoes, carrots, pomegranate, avocado, parmesan cheese, apples, walnuts, or whatever else they decide to throw in.

Still, this salad has puzzled me completely. How do the French take a simple salade chevre chaud and switch it up completely? At the St. Regis restaurant near the seine, they have the cheese melted on small toasts over a simple bed of lettuce. But in the 14th arrondissement, at a small restaurant I couldn’t find the name of, this is what they gave me.

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So there is honey on there…with cucumber. I was SO confused when the waiter put it in front of me on my tiny table. The other funny thing is, they won’t write all the salad’s ingredients on the menu. Sometimes you will get a menu in your hand or occasionally it is posted on the wall and they bring the chalkboard over to your table. This salad was fantastic. It looks good in the picture, but to be starving and see that salad placed in front of you…there’s nothing better.

We all know I love food more than anything…well, not more than yoga.

MY POINT is that when you come to Paris, which we know you all want to now, you must order a chevre chaud salad just because of how much fun it is to wonder what is going to be in it. The herbs they put in the goat cheese (that’s what chevre is) makes the salad. Or, sometimes it’s the honey drizzled all over the salad as salad dressing.

How smart is that? Honey rather than salad dressing? Think about how much we try to be smart with what we eat…yet the salad dressing we love, which might be 1,000 calories, is drenched all over the ingredients. We need to pay more attention.

But salad isn’t just about the way it tastes, it’s about the way it looks as well. The image of the salad gives your mind an impression of the experience you are about to have. The smells help with that as well.

Salad doesn’t have to be a boring bed of greens.  If you are making a salad at home, use butter lettuce. There is something about the texture and flavor that changes the dynamic of the salad. There are so many salads that are made with butter lettuce in Paris.

I think they get it.

Now go cut up some goat cheese, throw some herbs on there, cut up some toasts, bake them in the oven and make your masterpiece… 🙂

T.