Solo Travel Tips: 15 Things You Need To Know

Traveling alone was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. After over a year and a half of solo travel, here are my best tips:

Solo Feamale Travel Tips: What You Need To Know

1. Don’t Be A Stress Mess 

I will be completely honest here – I had a MASSIVE breakdown in San Francisco airport, while I was standing in line to go through security, immediately after my parents dropped me off for the first flight on my never-ending solo journey around the world. I had to resort to taking deep breaths in my hands. If only I could tell my SFO-breakdown-self what I know now – take it one day at a time! After that initial round of questioning why you would ever sign up for this, you’ll realize how amazing and rewarding solo travel really is.

2. Carry the Right Gear

As a solo traveler, you won’t have any strong man candy to lug around those extra large suitcases, so try packing light. I carry only a 44L backpack, and a day bag. By packing carry on only, you’ll be able to easily carry around your own luggage, plus you’ll save on checked baggage fees – ka-ching!

Tortuga Around the World Backpack 44L

3. Stay Where You’re Comfortable

When I was traveling through Europe, I did Couchsurfing, and loved it. In Central and South America, I tried out hostels. I was not too keen on the large dorm rooms full of anywhere from 8 to 16 people, but I was a fan of private rooms. I can be a light sleeper, so though it was more expensive to get a private room, I was able to sleep. I’m now a huge fan of Airbnb, as they have some excellent budget options (and some crazy cool villas, if you’re looking to splurge). Sign up to Airbnb here to get free travel credit when you book your first place!

4. Don’t be Afraid to Splurge

When I first started traveling, I was a bit freaked out to see so much money going out of my bank account and not much coming in. This sometimes made me want to stay home all day and inhale mass amounts of baguettes and red wine. But remember – you may never come back to this place. Carpe diem, seize the day, mi amor! Take advantage of where you are and do all the things you’ve always wanted to do – it’s been scientifically proven that we feel best when spending our hard earned money on experiences, so why not book that coffee tour in Colombia or go to the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai?!

Solo Female Travel Tips: What You Need To Know

5. You WILL Make Friends

I’ve met so many people while traveling the world. I’ve made far more friends in the past year than I have in any previous year of my life. If you are looking to make friends while traveling, check out my video on the subject. Also, consider couchsurfing (you’ll become automatic bff’s with your local host), and private or dorm rooms at hostels (check out reviews to make sure it’s a social hostel).

6. Learn to Take Your Own Travel Photos

The number one mistake I made when I started traveling was being shy about asking people to take my photo. I was even shy about taking selfies. I was happy to be immersed in the place I was visiting, but now I have no photos to look back on of myself in those places. Learn from my mistakes and take your own solo travel photos.

Take Your Own Solo Travel Pics

7. Research Before You Go

I felt fully prepared when I left for my trip, because I had done hundreds of hours of research on budget and solo travel. I scoured the internet for weeks to learn everything I could about travel hacking, solo travel on a budget, solo female travel, couchsurfing, and what you need to know as a solo female traveler. If you want to save some time, consider downloading a copy of my ebook, where I’ve compiled all the info into one easy resource.

8. Know And Prepare for What Makes You Unique

Everyone has their thing. For me, that thing is veganism. Though it’s been surprisingly easy to find vegan food around the world, I’ve made it even easier by using resources such as the Happy Cow app and searching for vegan friendly restaurants before I get to a destination. (See my favorite vegan restaurants in the most vegan friendly cities in the world).

Finding Vegan Food Around the World

9. Get Inspired

One of my favorite things to do in my free time is to read travel websites and blogs. Research the places that you are going, pick the restaurants you want to visit, and search on instagram to see some of the beautiful photos taken there of places you may want to visit.

10. Be Smart, Cautious, and Aware

I have quite a few tips on safety in my book, but the main point is to just be aware of your surroundings. Know which areas to avoid, don’t carry your phone in your back pocket, and if you’re in a busy place, keep an eye on your stuff.

11. Dress Like a Local

To avoid looking like a complete tourist, try dressing like the locals. This will help you blend in, and help prevent you from being a target of a mugging.

Tips for Solo Female Travel

12. Walk Everywhere

I always prefer walking over using public transport, because it’s usually a much more immersive experience. Don’t get me wrong, I still use public transport, but taking the long way has definitely resulted in finding more than a few hidden gems.

13. Try To Arrive During the Day

Believe me, this one will save you so much hassle. I’ve arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport at midnight, train system down for the night, with no way of getting to my airbnb. I ended up taking a very sketchy taxi. I would have felt much better arriving during the day when I would have had the chance to take the trains.

Tips For Solo Female Travel

14. Keep a Copy Of Your Passport and Important Documents

Maybe keep a few in a couple different places (suitcase, purse, money belt, etc). I also keep a photo of my passport on my phone and computer.

15. solo travel is Easier Than You Think

Most importantly, take that flight, explore, and have an amazing trip. Solo travel is insanely liberating and so powerful. Bring your positive attitude, embrace whatever comes, and explore to the best of your capabilities.

Ten years from now, make sure you can say that you chose your life, you didn’t settle for it.

Check out my ebook full of tips and tricks for solo female travel!

How To Travel The World On A Budget

 




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 🙂

 

How to Make Friends While Traveling

I get asked how I make friends while traveling so often, I don’t know why I haven’t addressed this before. I made so many friends in Europe, I made friends in Central and South America, I have actually spent more time with people than alone in most places I visit. How do I manage to meet so many amazing people? The answer is different for each country, surprisingly. I have so many ways that I’ve met people, but I’ve taken different approaches in different places.

Ways to meet people:

  1. Couchsurfing. I met sooo many awesome people (who I am still great friends with!) through couchsurfing in Europe. Couchsurfing is so much fun and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I will admit, it’s definitely easier for girls, but you can meet some fantastic people on there. I love couchsurfing because it allowed me to have a great mix of alone time and time with other people. During the day, I’d explore on my own, and at night, I would spend time with my host. It was a great balance for me. IMG_9310You can also meet people on couchsurfing if you never plan to stay at someone’s place. I met friends on there that found out that I was in their city and realized that we had stuff in common. One of my favorite examples of this is Hannah from Prague – we met for lunch at a cafe and totally hit it off. We hung out a few more times (sadly I was only in Prague for one week), and we had so much fun! It was especially great since I was couch surfing with a host who couldn’t spend a lot of time with me. I miss you, Hannah!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 
  2. Staying at hostels. There are so many solo travelers to be found at hostels! I made some great friends in Cali, Colombia, at one of my favorite hostels of all time, El Viajero. This place was amazing. They had a pool that tons of people would hang out at daily, they had a great outdoor bar, it was just a super social place. If you are looking to make friends, check out hostelworld.com and read reviews to see which hostels are really social! Usually if the hostel offers something like classes, a pool, a bar, etc, then it will most likely be a pretty social place.
  3. Facebook groups. This is how I’ve made lots of friends in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I joined a few Facebook groups (helpful if you are staying somewhere long term), and I was able to find a few people that are staying here a bit longer. This is where I met my great friend, Maddy! IMG_1115.png
  4. Other social networks. This one might be a stretch for some people, but I noticed that some people I follow on youtube are currently in the same city as me. I reached out to Aly from Psycho Traveler (on youtube), and we got coffee together. We have so much in common (both travelers, both make videos, both writers), it’s been so great to connect with her. If you can find people who are into the same things as you, it’s a great bonus!
  5. Meetup groups. Check out meetup.com for a massive variety of groups to meet up with. There are meetup groups for EVERYTHING. Photography, walking, raw food, whatever you are into, there is probably a meetup group for it.
  6. Just doing things that you are interested in! Go to a yoga class, a cat cafe, volunteer at a local animal shelter. Hang out in the health food store or sip a latte in a small coffee shop. There are so many great and easy ways to meet people, and most are open to making new friends.

I hope this list helped you! Let me know in the comments below how you make friends while traveling.

Why I Don’t Get Homesick

I often get asked if I’m homesick after traveling for so long. Good question!

The short answer is that I don’t get homesick often. I have gotten homesick maybe once or twice in the last six months. It usually happens when I am in a situation that is awkward, terrible, confusing, or difficult. Like the time I got attacked by an old man with a cane outside of a grocery store in Amsterdam. Or the time my new friend Matty and I had to wear only a sarong for three days straight. I could not make this stuff up.

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The long answer is…. no, I don’t really get homesick. And this is why.

I have too much going on to be homesick. I am busy exploring, making friends, enjoying new cultures, and doing my thing. I worked so hard to save up to travel and live my life on my own terms. Now I am finally doing it, and it feels just as good (maybe a bit better) than I imagined. I spend my days writing, reading, spending time with friends, trying new cafes, riding my bike, walking around the Old City of Chiang Mai, walking around Nimman area (a wonderful area full of co-working spaces, boutiques, and unique cafes). 99% of the time that I’ve been traveling, I’ve been busy doing things, seeing things, making friends, creating memories.

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Another reason I don’t get homesick – I am at a stage in my life where for the past five to seven years, I’ve moved around. A lot. I went from college dorms, to apartments with friends, then living with a boyfriend. I disconnected from living at my parents house, and never really had a home base, if that makes sense. I was always moving or always planning a move. I’ve never really been settled down in one place for more than a few years since I’ve lived at my parents house.

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Some people tell me that they could never travel like this because they are so close to their families. Well, guess what? My sisters and my mom are my best friends. I was worried about leaving home because I am so close to them. But I had a choice – I could either stay home and hang out with them, or I could leave for a bit and live my life and follow my dreams and then come back and hang out with them. So, I left. The first time was hard. Three months in Europe alone was scary, at first. But then I met good people and saw things I never thought I would see and just had so much FUN.

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I do miss my family. But I’ve learned that home isn’t necessarily where you grew up. Traveling has taught me that home can be anywhere. Home can be a person, a place, or home can be inside of you. My home now is the beach, the ocean, the jungle, the city. My home is Berlin, California, Thailand, Amsterdam, Paris, Costa Rica. My home is myself.

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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!

 

Access Denied: Getting Rejected at the Panama Border

I had one of the craziest days of my life trying to cross the border into Panama from Costa Rica. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

 

To understand the story, I’m going to supply you with some information: to cross the border from Nicaragua a few weeks ago, I had to have proof that I had a plane ticket going back to the United States. While crossing this border, I was with my sister, who was traveling with me for a few weeks. I told the guy at Immigration that I was on the same flight as my sister (which was a total lie), and he just stamped my passport and let me pass.

So, the day of the border crossing into Panama, I woke up early and went to a solid vegan breakfast with my new friend, Matty. I had to say good bye to my precious vegan restaurant (if you are ever in Puerto Viejo, go to Como en mi Casa)! I celebrated with a very thick vegan pancake, covered in jam and fruit.

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After breakfast, we headed to the border. Matty had made a friend who had a rental car, and wanted to see the border, so he gave us a ride there. He dropped us off, and we saw the famous bridge that goes across the river from Costa Rica into Panama.

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We paid the departure tax ($4), and got our stamps from Costa Rica immigration. We walked the bridge into Panama, paid the entrance tax ($6 per person), and then headed to immigration. This is where the story goes south.

Matty went to the immigration officer first. They asked to see her plane ticket back home. She was able to pull it up on her iPad, so she showed the ticket to the officer, got her stamp, and was free to go. I, on the other hand, do not have a flight back home, because I am not going home. I went up to the officer and explained my situation. I told him that I am traveling the world, with no return date to the United States. I told him that I am traveling by bus, so I don’t have a plane ticket. He listened, and then told me that I cannot get into Panama without a plane ticket home. He didn’t care that I was going to Colombia in less than two weeks; he cared about when I was going back to the United States. This was a problem.

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What does one do in this situation?

I bought a plane ticket home.

I use Chase Sapphire Preferred (my FAVORITE credit card for travel hacking and in general – they give excellent rewards), and I know that I can buy a plane ticket and then get it refunded by calling them within 24 hours. So, I bought a ticket home for $343.72 at an internet cafe (after paying $4 to use the internet) and showed it to immigration. They verified the ticket, stamped my passport, and waived me along.

SUCCESS.

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Things seemed to get easier after this. We got on a bus that would take us to the boat we needed to get on. We got on the boat with only a few problems (we did a money exchange with the taxi driver – LOL). The boat took us to Bocas del Toro, our final destination. Yay! Everything worked out.

UNTIL IT DIDN’T. We decided that we wanted to stay on this little island that had a really rad looking hostel. We got a water taxi for $1.50 each to take us to this island. We walked in and fell in love with the hostel (seriously, check this out – it has a trampoline to jump into the water!). We had to wait a few minutes to talk to the receptionist. When she arrived, we inquired about a room for the night. She gave us the look (you know, sympathy mixed with a bit of ridicule) and told us that there were no rooms for the night. She said there was one other hostel on the island, but she was pretty sure it was full.

At this point I was exhausted. It was 5 pm, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and I just wanted to set my bag down and take a shower. Matty said that she would run down to the other hostel, and I could chill out at Aqua Lounge and wait for her. I felt so relieved when she said that. I slid into a booth at the hostel bar, connected to wifi, and drank my water.

Matty came back about 15 minutes later and told me that the hostel had two beds left and we could stay there. Yes! We grabbed our bags and walked 5 minutes down the sand to the only other hostel on the island. The hostel was on the beach; it had wifi, an adorable restaurant, hammocks, and lounge chairs. It was perfect! We threw our bags in the room and got in our swimsuits. We locked the room and ran out to the beach, into the clear blue Caribbean waters. It was paradise.

UNTIL IT WASN’T. After a very refreshing dip in the ocean, after we talked at length about how great everything turned out and how lucky we were, we went back to the room. We noticed we had roommates now, and someone had moved one of the pillows from my bed to theirs. I didn’t mind, but I said something to Matty about it and we looked over at the stolen pillow. AND THEN WE SAW IT.

BED BUGS. The hostel was infested with bed bugs. We took a picture of the bug and looked it up on google to confirm. Once we were totally positive that it was a bed bug, we packed our bags super quick and ran out of there. No one was at reception – by now it was 9 PM, and reception was closed. The guy at the hostel bar was helpful; we told him what happened and he refunded us. He admitted that they had a bedbug problem a few weeks before. These little bugs are so disgusting and basically taking over the world (according to google). After a lot of research, Matty and I found out how difficult it is to get rid of them. Eeewwwwww.

So. Now it was 9PM, it was dark, and we were on an island with no place to stay. We tried the expensive-looking hotel next door, but reception there was also closed. We found a stranger who owned a boat and got a water taxi back to the main island. We walked 10 minutes to the hostel that we were looking at on the main island before, then realized it was closed. We were starting to feel a bit defeated, and I was seriously considering sleeping on the beach at this point. Then we met an angel.

While we were standing in the middle of the road, close to tears, a local walked by and asked how we were doing. The people in Bocas del Toro are extremely nice and friendly, but not in a creepy way. We told the guy our story. He introduced himself as Reynaldo, and we told him our names. He said he knew of a hotel down the road that we could go to; he knew for sure there was a vacancy there. He led the way. He even carried Matty’s bag (she has an insanely large bag that she had been dragging around on a trolly type thing). We walked a bit more to this hotel, and when we got there, Reynaldo started yelling out for Dennis (because this hotel was closed also), and an American man named Dennis came sauntering out of the house. Matty explained our situation and asked him if we could stay there. He looked at us with no expression, and just said “No.” I thought for sure that he was joking. I waited for him to smile and say “oh, I’m just kidding, come on in.” It was silence for a few moments before I asked, “Really?”

“Yes, those bed bugs are a pain to get rid of, and I don’t want to deal with that,” says Dennis. He turned around and walked back into the house.

At this point, I completely gave up. I actually shed a few tears. I honestly believed that we were SOL and we would be sleeping in the park, like homeless people. But our angel Reynaldo perservered. He would not give up. He looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t worry, I know another place, and it’s right over there.” It was right down the street. I left Matty with the bags and headed over to check this place out. I held back the story about the bed bugs and inquired about a room for two. The owner of this little hotel was the cutest little lady who speaks only Spanish. She gave us a room with two beds, air conditioning, and our own private bathroom for $40/night.

SUCCESS.

We grabbed our bags, got the key and the wifi password, and collapsed into our beds. Finally we could sleep! We took showers and headed off to dreamland. The longest day ever was over. I slept great, except at one point I woke up from this little guy outside my window continuously screaming “HOLA! HOLA! HOLA!” I took a look in the morning and found the culprit.

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He was so cute, I couldn’t be mad at him.

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Though it was a hard day, I almost titled this post “the best worst day ever,” because a lot of good things did happen. We got so much help from strangers who expected nothing. We got a full refund from the hostel that had bed bugs. We were able to get a water taxi back to the main island when all hope seemed lost. We ran into Reynaldo, who helped us tremendously out of the goodness of his heart. We went to an adorable French restaurant and had a very nice dinner for $12 each. I was with Matty, who made everything more fun. All in all, though it was a hard day, we got through it together and nothing too bad happened.

When traveling, I try to remember that some days will be hard. Some days it’s a struggle just to find food, water, and shelter. Other days this life is truly blissful. Though some days are hard, I would never give up traveling because of the hardships. Having a hard day inspires growth and makes me so much more thankful for the good days I have. I feel so lucky to be here in Panama, in 85 degree weather, surrounded by beaches, palm trees, tropical fruit, and insanely cheap smoothies. I’m working on my Spanish (I WILL be fluent before I leave South America!) and I am making amazing connections with people around the world. I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you so much for reading this super long post – stay tuned to see what Matty and I get up to in Bocas del Toro! 🙂

P.S. I called my credit card company from the infested hostel and got my plane ticket refunded – Chase Sapphire is the best! I was able to call from my cell phone even though I don’t have a cell phone plan. I am currently working on a video about how to use your cell phone without a plan. I’ll let you know when it’s up!