Day Trips from Melbourne: Great Ocean Road & Twelve Apostles

On a cloudy Wednesday morning, I woke up, packed a lunch, made a to-go coffee, and hopped in the car. A friend and I were off to drive down the famous Great Ocean Road!

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia

The drive was estimated at 4 hours, so we planned to be at the Twelve Apostles by 3 PM, after leaving at 11 AM. We had snacks, we had water, I had a large supply of black coffee. We were set.

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia

We took the long way, driving to Torquay, along the ocean. The cliffs and beaches reminded me a bit of home in California, but the color of the ocean here is so much lighter.

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It’s fall in Melbourne right now, and as typical of Melbourne weather, we had a bit of wind, a bit of rain, and a bit of sun. Luckily, we were able to get some sun at all of the places I had wanted to stop off.

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia

We drove past Torquay, through Anglesea, and along the jagged cliffs of the ocean. The road was beautiful, though it could be a bit rough if you are prone to car sickness. Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia

We stopped to take photos at a few places, and ended up cutting our time pretty close. The sun sets at 5:30 PM in Melbourne during the fall. Luckily, after a bit of stress, a bit of car dancing, and a lot of snacks, we made it to the Twelve Apostles at 4:45 PM – just in time for the sunset! Twelve Apostles, Australia

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Australia

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Australia

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It was freezing cold and super windy, but the view of the cerulean ocean and the steep, jagged cliffs made the long drive completely worth it. I was blown away by the natural beauty of this magical place.

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Day Trip from Melbourne

We took the shortest way possible home, singing in the car, dancing, and eating potato chips all the way back to Melbourne. It was a wonderful ending to an unforgettable day.

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Day Trip from Melbourne

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Day Trip from Melbourne

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Day Trip from Melbourne

Let Me Know!

  • Have you ever driven the Great Ocean Road?
  • Would you add it to your list?

 

 

 

 

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you are considering a trip to Thailand, you can’t leave out a visit to play with elephants outside of Chiang Mai. I’ve been to Chiang Mai twice, visiting the elephants both times, and each time that was the highlight of my trip. Elephants are the sweetest and most playful creatures, and spending a day with them is guaranteed to become a memory you’ll never forget.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai Thailand

The sad truth about elephants in Thailand is that so many places will torture and abuse the elephants to make it possible for the elephants to be ridden. An elephant’s spine is not naturally strong enough to carry a little hut for humans to ride in, and they have to go through so much pain and abuse to be able to carry those.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai Thailand

If you’d like to visit and play with elephants without contributing to their abuse, I would highly recommend visiting a sanctuary! I’ve visited two elephant sanctuaries, my favorite being Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai Thailand

When you book a trip with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, you’ll have the opportunity to play with elephants in a loving and caring environment. You’ll have the chance to feed them bananas and sugarcane (their favorite!), pet them, bathe them, and take loads of photos with them. These elephants have been rescued from the abusive environments of parks, and now have a loving home.

You get the option of many different tour packages with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, the most common being a half day or full day. You can even stay multiple days if you have the time! I opted for the half day, but that quickly became a regret, as I only was with the elephants for a few hours (the park is about an hour and a half drive outside of Chiang Mai). I would recommend splurging on the full day tour (still only about $70 USD). The tours usually include a ride to and from the park, and a meal, plus a couple bottles of water per person.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai Thailand

The elephants at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary are well taken care of and happy – you can see it on their faces. If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, I highly recommend booking a tour with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary!

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai Thailand

For more info on Chiang Mai (and to see why I made it my home for three months!), check out my Ultimate Guide to Chiang Mai.

THE BOOK IS HERE

Happy New Year! It’s 2017 and I hope that everyone is looking forward to the New Year. I love the energy that a new year brings. Fresh beginnings, a clean start, all of the opportunity that we can create this year – let’s do it!

I can’t wait to see how this year unfolds. I have loads of personal and professional goals lined up, along with a LOT of travel goals! Speaking of which…. Remember a few months ago I mentioned that I was working on an ebook?? Well, it’s finished, and IT’S HERE.

I’ve been working on an ultimate guide to traveling the world – this baby contains all of the answers to the questions I get asked so often, plus lots of tips and tricks for traveling. I’ll give you a sneak peak – here is the table of contents.

  1. Why I Chose Long Term Travel over the American Dream
  1. Preparing for your trip: What to do immediately
  • Bank accounts
  • Credit Cards
  • Savings Plan
  • Travel Insurance
  • Planning Your Trip
  1. How to Pack Only the Necessities & the Gear You’ll Need to Do It  
  1. How to Find the Cheapest Flight & Are ‘Around The World’ Tickets Worth It?
  1. Booking Accommodation
  • Which type of accommodation are you looking for?
  • Long Term Accommodation: How to Find The Best Apartment
  • How to Keep Your Stuff Safe While Travelling
  1. How to Get Around
  • Figuring out Local Transportation
  • Safety on the Road
  1. Saving Money on the Road
  • How to Get Free Tours
  1. So You Want to Travel Long Term
  • Work Visas vs Tourist Visas
  • Making Money Online
  • Getting Your Stuff Together at Home – Opportunities

9. Sample budgets from Thailand, South America, Europe and Australia

 

As you can see, I’ve covered a LOT of information. This book is 40+ pages full of insight on how to save money to travel, how I used travel hacking to get free flights (and how you can too!) and even tips on keeping your stuff safe while traveling. It’s pretty jam packed!

I know you guys will love the book. I created this because my mission is to help people travel more. Travel has changed my life in the best ways possible and has helped me grow into a better person. I hope that I can help you achieve your travel goals in 2017! Click here to get your copy – I can’t wait to hear what you think about it!

xoxoxx

Amanda

 

Unexpected Encounters: Killer Wildlife in Singapore Botanic Gardens

I needed a chill out day after two full days of touristing through Singapore. I thought I’d head over to the Botanic Gardens in Singapore to relax with some greenery. I arrived at the gate of the garden. I walked a bit. It was serene. There were butterflies fluttering around my head. The birds were singing, along with a couple of hippies that had a guitar. It was more serene than I ever imagined a botanical garden could get. But then it turned bad. And dangerous.

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About half way through the garden, I basically turned into Steve Irwin after spotting a massive killer lizard. By “I turned into Steve Irwin”, I meant that I bent down and snapped some pictures. No way was I going to touch that thing.

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Okay, he isn’t a killer lizard. It’s a monitor lizard. Harmless. He looks pretty serene, right?

I would be lying if I said I didn’t automatically assume that he was a hunter. He looks a bit scary. I looked up monitor lizards when I got home and apparently they are carnivorous. Not necessarily for humans, though. He mainly eats turtle eggs.

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I also had some nice, serene moments before (and after, shockingly) this near death experience. I experienced total relaxation in a foliage garden. You really haven’t experienced life until you’ve been in a foliage garden. You can see the relaxation and pure bliss in my face below.

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I was feeling so giddy and full of sunshine and nature that I decided at this point that it would only be fitting to hug a tree.

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I believe this tree hugging experience really brought everything together. I think if you visit a botanical garden, you really can’t leave without hugging a tree. It was just the cherry on top of a wonderful, garden filled day. Here is me walking out of the garden, alive and mostly well (in case you wanted proof).

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Catching up in Chinatown, Singapore

Today I headed over to Chinatown in Singapore. San Francisco has a Chinatown, which I haven’t been to since I was a kid, so I was excited to see a different version of what I knew growing up. I was so happy when I hopped off the MRT directly in the middle of Chinatown. The buildings here are so brightly colored and the alleys have beautiful paper lanterns draped through them.

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It was a hot, overcast day. I walked through the streets and alleys of Chinatown with my lukewarm bottle of water and a sense of adventure and awe.

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The alleys were packed with tourists. I snuck a peek at one of the restaurant menus (I RARELY eat in touristy areas because the food usually is really expensive and not that great), and the beer was $6 for a Tiger, which is the Asian equivalent of a Coors light. My couchsurfing host had told me to look out for alcohol prices in Singapore, because it is so expensive to drink here. Good thing I’m not too big on drinking! I walked and walked and walked instead. Finally I came upon something that caught my eye…

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How cute is this?? Finally, after walking over 5 miles, I had to call it a day. I’ll leave you with this picture. What do you think the lady in the background is doing?

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I think I just fell in love: Singapore

OH MY GOD. I landed in Singapore late last night (my flight got in around 8:30 to the top rated airport in the world, Changi), and I trudged to my couchsurfing hosts’ condo after scarfing down a veggie sandwich at the airport. I got to his place around 10 PM, but he was really nice about it and I could tell that we will become good friends. I chose to stay with this host because he seems super cool, he is Australian (I’ll be going there later this year so I could use some of his tips), and he has a spare bedroom! So after a bit of a chat, I went to my room (with an ensuite – seriously) and went to bed. In the morning, I got ready super quick and basically ran out the door. I was so excited to go to the place with these massive “trees,” which I now know as the Garden by the Bay. It is a MASSIVE garden, so lush and green and beautiful.

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This garden is so cool and definitely the spot I was most excited to check out in Singapore.

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After walking around for a bit, I hopped back on the MRT (an underground train system, like a subway) and headed to another spot I was DYING to get to.

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In San Francisco, there is an amazing place called Veganburg. It is basically vegan fast food. My favorite food in the world is a good, solid vegan burger. So you better believe I was beyond excited to find out that Veganburg has ONE other location, and guess where it is. SINGAPORE! I had to go. 

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Please be patient with me as I am still learning how to use a camera, obviously. I could not be bothered to do a full photoshoot considering how hungry I was when I got here. I snapped a picture and devoured that burger. And it was incredible. 

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I am so happy that I planned to stay here for five full days because I have a long list of places to explore! Stay tuned 🙂

 

Why I Quit Budgeting for Travel

Recently, I was thinking about how much money I should be spending in Thailand. I broke it down by day, telling myself to spend only 200 baht a day, which equals out to about $6 USD. Then my friend had a going away party. Then another friend asked me out to coffee when I’d already gone out to lunch. Then I got invited to something else.

I had to make a choice. I could either stick to my extremely small budget, or I could go out and live my life. I could travel very cheaply or I could do what I wanted to do. If you know me at all, you know which one I chose.

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I saved money to travel so that I could experience a different style of life. I wanted to go out into the world and experience it to the best of my ability. I recently watched Me Before You (yes, another friend date), and there is a quote from that movie that really stuck with me. One of the main characters says, “You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.” This could be my new slogan, I am so much in agreement.

While I definitely admire those that can travel on a super small or zero budget, I am not one of them. I like my luxury apartment with once a week cleaning, I like going out to eat with friends, I like having a bicycle and taking songathews (a very interesting Thai twist on a taxi) at night instead of walking. It’s worth it to me to maybe have to find a way to make money sooner rather than later. I am in Thailand to figure out what I want to do, find my passion and live my life. I didn’t come here to hole up in my apartment every day and force myself to be creative when I don’t feel it.

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Sometimes I do eat three meals at home in one day. Sometimes I go out for coffee twice a day. Sometimes I spend hardly any money, other times I go crazy and spend $20 in a day. Twenty USD can get you pretty far in Thailand. The point is, I came to live in Thailand because it’s inexpensive and I don’t have to worry about things like sticking to a strict budget. As long as I’m not spending tons and tons of money, I can still live here for less than it costs me to travel in other parts of the world. So, for now, I quit budgeting. I quit worrying about money. I buy what I need and I’m a relatively budget conscious person already. But no more will I calculate how much I spend in a day and whether or not it’s over my budget. From now on, my goal in Thailand is to LIVE.

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So yes, I will keep going out for banana coffee smoothies (pictured above). Because I’m wild and free.

I’ll Never Buy {New} Clothes Again

I watched a documentary a couple nights ago called The True Cost. It’s on Netflix (go check it out), and it is super interesting. I was aware of mostly everything that was brought up in the movie, but it is a great reminder of what we are supporting when we buy clothes that are made abroad and super inexpensive. The documentary really goes in depth with the people who work in the factories that produce clothing for the United States. At a few different points during the show, I was actually repulsed by the way these companies are treating the workers and getting away with it. It disgusted me enough to make a pact.

I have made a decision that from now on, I will not buy new clothes anymore UNLESS they are fair trade. I’ll be buying most of my clothes second hand (this is so much easier on the environment too), which will be a fun challenge. I really look forward to where this leads me, and I really hope that you can watch the movie and join my pledge. If you are willing to pledge with me, leave a comment down below and let me know. 🙂

P.S. Check out the YouTube video I did on this subject here.

Why I Moved To Thailand

It’s official! I signed a three month lease for a luxury studio apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I could not be more excited to settle down in the first place I ever traveled to – ironically, it was exactly a year ago that I was here for the first time.

It’s a bit weird to re-experience Chiang Mai as a more seasoned traveler. I’ll be honest with you – the first time I came here, I could barely read a map. I spent so much time getting lost and trying to find my way back to my guest house. I did all of the touristy things last year, like visit the elephant sanctuary (awesome) and check out the Tha Phae gate with a hot cup of Starbucks (highly recommended).

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But now I am back in Chiang Mai, after a whole year; 6 months of which was spent traveling the world. I feel like a new person. I decided to take a break from traveling after realizing that I had been to SEVENTEEN countries in the past six months. Seventeen! I was traveling way too fast. I was just going and going and going, I wasn’t spending enough time in any of these places. I needed a break from buses and planes and trains and ferries and cars.

I decided to settle down in Chiang Mai specifically not just because it holds a certain nostalgia for me, but because it is stuffed to the brim with expats. There are people from all over the world who have moved to Chiang Mai, many of whom have quit their jobs to try to survive here as a digital nomad. Chiang Mai is a popular destination for digital nomads because it has everything. There are tons of cafes, coworking spaces, and the living is cheap. A studio apartment can cost as little as $150 a month. Eating out is often less expensive than making your own food. I eat out most meals, and they usually cost me around $3 max.

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Chiang Mai is a vegan heaven. It is ALMOST on par with the US. I can get vegan food anywhere, and there are over 100 vegan restaurants in this city. I absolutely love it. The weather is great, there are tons of pools, and the Thai people are among the friendliest in the world. There is no cat calling, no worries of getting mugged, no worries of getting my bike stolen when I leave it outside. There is greenery everywhere, the locals are so friendly, and the fruit is incredibly sweet. Chiang Mai is just a magical place.

I am so excited to spend the next three months here in Chiang Mai, exploring Thailand and spending my time how I choose to spend it. I’ve been working a lot on my writing (seriously considering writing a book), spending hours a day reading, walking a lot, I even bought a bicycle to ride around town. I spent my first two weeks in Koh Samui, daringly riding a motorcycle around the island. I’ve made a lot of good decisions in my life (especially in the past year, hello travel!), but choosing to live in Chiang Mai may just be one of the best. I have never been happier and I’ve never experienced such radical self growth as I have in the past few months. Cheers to you, Thailand!

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How To Plan A Trip Anywhere

Today I am going to tell you a story. This is a story about how I decided to travel the world. And it’s a good one.

About a year ago, I was on airbnb.com, dreaming of all of the beautiful vacation rentals around the world. I had wanderlust, and I had it bad. I found this stunner in Costa Rica and decided I could not let this beautiful place continue to exist without me in it. I immediately texted my sisters and asked if they would want to go to Costa Rica, and live in this house. Of course they agreed. How could they not?!

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We booked the trip, my mom joined in (terrified to travel somewhere new, but we reassured her that it would be fine), and we started planning. I started looking at maps to see where we would be and what we could do. I realized that maybe I could extend this trip and check off some other countries to my list. I’d wanted to go to Nicaragua after my friend Diana went there – her pictures were stunning. I had already started a vague plan with my brother to visit Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Why not throw all of these together and just do it all at once?

Once I decided to do these all at the same time, the trip got bigger by the minute. I knew I wouldn’t get enough time off work to be able to travel to all of these places, so I came to the conclusion that I would have to quit my job. I committed to this trip. It became my baby. It spiraled into an around the world trip. Because, why not? Or Por Que No, as they say in Nicaragua. 😉

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After making these decisions, I knew that I would have to start saving. I saved incessantly. I was obsessed. Knowing that I only had a certain amount of time (and income) to save, I became ruthless. I cancelled my cell phone contract immediately. I started carpooling to work. I turned into a money saving machine. I did my own pedicures. I started making coffee at home and banned myself from Starbucks. I have an entire article of everything I did to save money, see it here.

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The bottom line is this: if you want to plan a vacation, or if you want to quit your 9-5 to travel the world for a year (or forever), you can. Just do it! Make a plan, save like a crazy person, spend time on travel websites, and cut your expenses. If I can do it, anyone can. It just involves dedication, a little research, and a decent amount of saving. Let me know in the comments where you want to go next!