10 Ways to Get Around Bangkok

Getting around Bangkok can sometimes be extremely frustrating, as you can often find yourself slowly inching forward in what seems like a never ending traffic jam. However, there are several ways you can travel around the wonderful city, sometimes without having to see a single car.

Getting around Bangkok can sometimes be extremely frustrating, as you can often find yourself slowly inching forward in what seems like a never ending traffic.

However, there are many alternative ways to getting around the city. Check them out –

1) Bus

Taking the bus around the city will definitely not help in avoiding those traffic jams, but it will cost you next to nothing.  Some of the red buses are actually free, and some of the orange ones have AC!

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2) Tuk-Tuk

Ohh the good old ‘tuk-tuk’. The most touristy and fun way to see the city, but also the most expensive. Be warned – over recent years, Tuk-Tuk drivers offer to take you anywhere in the Bangkok for only a few baht. Sounds too good to be true? it is! These drivers will take you to a tailor, travel agent or jewelry shop to get a ‘petrol stamp’. If you don’t buy anything from these stores, the owners can get very aggressive and forceful.

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3) Bangkok MRT

Many people are unaware Bangkok actually has a subway system, as it doesn’t cover the more popular tourist areas of the city. However, if you plan on going anywhere in the Bangkok Metropolitan region then this an effective, cheap and reliable way of getting there.  It is also worth noting that the MRT connects to the Bangkok BTS train route.

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4) Taxi

A taxi will take you anywhere you want to go. They are cheap enough, just make sure you ask to use the meter. Upon seeing a foreigner, some taxi drivers will try to overcharge, sometimes 10x what the journey should cost.

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5) BTS

My personal favourite. The Bangkok Mass Transit System, or BTS Sky Train, is exactly that: a train that is elevated above the city’s roads. The BTS is not expensive to use and covers some of Bangkok’s most popular areas. The air-conditioned cabins provide great views of the city as you travel from station to station.

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6) Boat

The river Choa Phraya runs throughout Bangkok and out into the Gulf of Thailand. Travelling up and down the river by boat is easy and affordable.

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7) Canal Boat

Hundreds of little canals stream off from the Choa Phraya river and into the city. Local boats run regularly up and down these routes and take you to places that the big river boats cannot reach.

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8) Motor-taxi

If you’re alone and don’t have much luggage, it might be more cost effective for you to travel by motor-taxi instead of an actual taxi. This tends to be a little more dangerous, so make sure you ask for a helmet and hold on tight!

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9) Foot

The heat puts the majority of people off from walking around the city, but apart from being free, exploring by foot can give you a unique perspective of the Thai capital. Bangkok is rammed with narrow Soi’s (Thai for street/alleyway) which are brimming with character that is not visible from a taxi or bus.

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10) Bicycle

Another very cheap way of seeing the city is by bicycle. If you are brave enough to face the humidity and the Thai roads, then give this a try!

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If you’re going to Thailand, don’t forget your travel guide:

– Liam

Top 10 Countries to teach english abroad (after the pandemic)

There is no question that the TEFL industry has been hard hit by the current pandemic.

Millions of schools have closed, and travelling has almost grounded to a halt.

When the world will bounce back to the ‘new normal’ is hard to tell, but when it does, the demand for English teachers will be back stronger than ever.

If you’ve used your time in lock down to get your TEFL, or you’re itching to get back to teaching English abroad in the future, here are 10 countries you should consider checking out:

South Korea

Travel Guide: South Korea

South Korea is a hugely popular TEFL destination at the moment.

If you have a bachelors degree, you can expect to earn at least $1800 a month teaching English in South Korea.

But money isn’t the only basis on why you should move to the ROK, there a million more reasons why you should teach in the land of K-Pop! Check out this post: Teach English in South Korea.

China

Travel Guide: China

The demand for English teachers in China is huge. There are no shortages of good job opportunities all over the country.

I think because the demand is so high, it allows us teachers to do more research and pick what position is best for us.

If you want information on getting a visa, check out this post: Visa Guide

Mexico

Travel Guide: Mexico

Whether you want to work in Mexico city, out in the country or near a beach, there is a huge market for certified TEFL teachers south of the American border.

Cambodia

Travel Guide: Cambodia

Teaching English in Cambodia is becoming more popular year after year. The ESL market throughout the country is growing, so it is more common to find TEFL job opportunities.

Taiwan

Travel Guide: Taiwan

I’ve only visited Taiwan, but I loved it. The Taiwanese are known to integrate more than other cultures in Asia and the island doesn’t suffer from freezing winters like Korea and parts of China. If you have a BA degree & at least a 120 hour TEFL certificate, then Taiwan may be the place for you!

Spain

Travel Guide: Spain

Spain is one of the TEFL hotspots in Europe. Hourly wages vary a lot, but good positions can be found in the cities. You’ll have an easier time getting a decent job with a degree, TEFL & some previous teaching experience.

Thailand

Travel Guide: Thailand

Thailand was my first TEFL destination all the way back in 2013. It was the time of my life!

There are so many reasons why you should teach in Thailand that I created a list of why you shouldn’t! Check it out – Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Costa Rica

Travel Guide: Costa Rica

I’ve never taught English in South America, but I have friends who strongly reccomend the TEFL lifestyle in Costa Rica.

Why? Check this out

Hong Kong

Travel Guide: Hong Kong

TEFL teachers in Hong Kong are well paid, but living costs are high. Do your research and make sure the job you’re applying for won’t leave you short each month.

If you’re thinking of teaching in Hong Kong, it’s worth checking out the NET scheme!

Prague

Travel Guide: Prague

Prague is an absolutely stunning city! Teaching English in Prague may not be as popular as other European cities, but it’s worth considering.

The average monthly salary is $600 – $1000.

So, there you have it! 10 TEFL destinations that you could be heading to after the pandemic.

Do you plan on teaching English abroad in 2021? Where do you plan on going?

Teaching on the road

I’t’s been about 18 months since I made the transition from teaching English in classrooms around the world to teaching English online from airbnb’s around the world.

It has granted me a freedom that I could of only dreamed of a few years ago.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making different cities my home for a few weeks. I prefer taking the time to explore slowly and not rushing my experiences. From Budapest to Marrakesh, from Bangkok to London, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to multiple parts of the globe.

How? All because I make money from my mobile phone.

But, the lifestyle isn’t all travelling and late starts. It’s hard work that requires planning and discipline.

However, in my opinion, the rewards are well worth it.

If you’re willing to put in the hard work, teaching online doesn’t only provide you with a flexible schedule, but it can help you achieve a healthy bank balance.

I’m going to cover travel and teaching online topics such as: portable classrooms, internet backups , devices and much more in future posts. But for now, I want to help you to get on your own way.

So, firstly, you’ll need a job!

Online education is on the rise. There is no shortage of online companies to choose from. Do your research and find out which one is best for you!

I work for Palfish and I LOVE IT!

Palfish

There are many reasons why working for Palfish is great. Good pay, flexible bookings and a social network of teachers and mentors are just a few.

I’ve helped several teachers get started on Palfish. If you’d like to join the team, download the Palfish app and insert my invitation code – 45012005.

Alternatively, you can drop me a message and I can answer any questions you have.

Palfish only hires native English speakers with a degree. There is no leeway.

Airbnb

When you teach and travel, it is important to ensure you have a quiet space and some privacy.

I’ve found using airbnbs not only the cheapest option, but the least risky. You can message the host in advance to enquire about the wifi and ask any other questions that may effect your teaching experience.

Chances are you already have an airbnb account, but if you don’t, sign up here and help a brother out –

https://www.airbnb.com/c/lhaddock4?currency=GBP

If you have any questions about teaching online or teaching and travelling, please get in touch!

Have a fantastic day!

Top 5 Things To Do In Hong Kong

Top 5 Things To Do In Hong Kong


Hong Kong is one of the most famous places in the world. In February 2016, I was lucky enough to visit for a few days, and experience some of what ‘Asia’s World City’ had to offer.

Here is a list of my TOP 5 Things to do in Hong Kong –

The Peak

The Hong Kong Peak is normally described as “Hong Kong’s #1 Thing To Do”. I can see why. The Peak provides visitors with a panoramic viewing point looking down at Hong Kong City and the ocean. I don’t think I’ve drunk a coffee with a view like it before!
The best way to get to The Peak is by using the infamous ‘tram’ service. At some points during the journey, you will fear for your life – I am not exaggerating when I say that the tram will travel almost vertically, but just hold on tight & you’ll be fine!

The Cable Car & The Tian Tan Buddha

The cable car ride to the top of the mountains is optional, but really, unless you are down to your last dollar or have an extreme fear of heights – there is no option. This was my favorite part of my trip to Hong Kong and I would recommend anyone visiting to do it. The price is HK$130 for standard & HK$180 glass bottom (roughly $16/$23 USD).
The cable car to the Tian Tan Buddha is a steady, but fantastic experience. The higher you get, the more of the unusual landscape of ocean, buildings, and mountains will be revealed.
Soon enough, the outline of a giant Buddha will begin appearing and the buildings in the background will fade away.
At the Tian Tan Buddha itself, you can explore the immediate area of historical monuments, temples, and stores… just be careful of the cows. You could also choose to walk the 268 steps up to the Buddha itself.
The photos really speak for themselves…

Markets

I’m not a “shopper”, but damn, the street markets in Hong Kong made me want to buy a lot of shit I didn’t need. “Temple Street” and “Ladies Market” (not just for ladies) are just two of the night market areas in Hong Kong that boast everything from food to clothes to even wild stock.
It is easy to spend hours meandering around the bright colorful stalls, browsing the wide (and I mean wide) variety of products on sale. The hunger-creating smells of nearby street food and restaurants are the only thing strong enough to entice you away.

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Not just a city

The most surprising element of Hong Kong to me was it’s natural beauty. It really is more than just a city. Hong Kong has no shortage of mountains, islands, and beaches. Most of these can be accessed by public transport for little cost. If you’re in Hong Kong for more than a couple of days, I’d highly recommend venturing out of the city and seeing some of this spectacular terrain. It’s worth mentioning that 2 of the most popular islands to visit in HK are Lantau and Lamma.

Promenade

The most stereotypical selfie taken in Hong Kong is taken at the promenade. The promenade is a spectacular area at both night and day. I can see why many joggers choose to run along the waterfront and I can see why tourists flock to get a photo of the stunning electronic landscape across the water. It’s completely free, so it’s worth walking along it if you get the chance!

I hope this gave you some ideas of what to do in Hong Kong or provided you with some nice flashbacks of your time there. Is there anything you think should have made my list?


Feel free to comment below!

If you’re going to Hong Kong, buy your travel guide below. It has everything you need and more!

Troubles Abroad: Life Without Peanut Butter

Ants on a Log. Fluffernutters. Classic PB&J. And who didn’t make a pinecone-peanut butter bird feeder as a kid?

We put it on bananas, slather it on french toast and of course eat it straight off the spoon.

No matter what country I’m headed to, you can be certain I’m tossing a couple jars of skippy in my rucksack. Whether it’s for a familiar snack, a quick spoonful of energy, or to tide me over til I figure out the grocery situation, peanut butter exists for me in the gray area between “luxury” and “necessity” when backpacking.

It’s one of those things you don’t realize how much you miss until you wake up with a craving for a nice PB&J. All of the sudden the idea of collecting all THREE ingredients at the same time seems an unbeatable obstacle. Decent peanut butter, fresh sandwich bread, and a jar of grape jelly just never seem to exist in the same place at the same time once you cross the ocean. If a simple sandwich is such a challenge, you can forget about chocolate-peanut butter ice-cream in the summer heat or that big bag of Reese’s cups come Halloween.

Getting peanut butter while living abroad can be a challenge—you can try to make that jar from home last as long as possible, but soon you’re scraping the bottom and praying someone will pay international shipping on a care package full of Jif. Still, sometimes it’s not as far away as you think, so long as you know where to look.

Below is a bite-sized guide to finding Peanut Butter abroad, compiled from both my own PB-hunting adventures and those of my fellow expats:

North America:

Canada & United States: In US & Canadian supermarkets it’s hard to miss—peanut butter is spotted taking up a good chunk of the aisle, with various brands, sizes, and flavors.

Mexico: While not as popular as in the rest of North America, PB is still fairly easy to find in Mexico, especially in big-box stores like Walmart, where Peter Pan and Great Value can be found at a decent price.

Asia:

China: IF a store has it, it’s often found in the sauce aisle near the mayonnaise. Since neither mayo nor PB are popular, they can be hard to spot—and smaller stores don’t care it at all. It’s hard to find western brands, but Chinese peanut butter is decent (if a bit dry).

Indonesia: This one’s tough, guys—despite boasting world-famous peanut sauces and peanut soups, I’ve yet to actually locate a jar of PB in Indonesia. If they’re out there, they’re hard to find.

Japan: Right where it should be, near the breads and jellies. You can even get the giant tubs at Costco in Japan!

Korea: Often found near the bread in the bakery section, surrounded by nutella & banana spreads. Korean peanut butter is actually pretty good and comes in both crunchy and creamy.

Laos: While difficult to find in the store, PB is a surprisingly common topping for roti pancakes (one of the best street desserts you’ll find in SE Asia). You’re best bet at finding it in the stores is near the nutella or by the actual peanuts.

Malaysia: Finally, another country that appreciates PB! Malaysia is one of few SE Asian countries that actually offers variety, often located near the sauces and seasonings.

Philippines: Boasting world-famous peanut spreads that rival American brands, the Philippines are a Peanut-Butter Oasis. Thinner than what North Americans are accustomed to, Filipino PB is a bit grainy and just as sweet.

Thailand: Perhaps one of the easiest countries to find PB in, Thai stores carry multiple US brands including Jif and Skippy, conveniently found near the Jams & Jellies.

Vietnam: Vietnam carries store-brand and local peanut butters which will often be found near the soups & seasonings, and while delicious they are often quite oily and runny.

Central & South America:

Argentina: So far, no one I know who has travelled through Argentina has been able to locate PB.

Brazil: Similar to Argentina, PB seems to be a near-impossible find.

Chile: Walmarts in Chile have Great Value (store) brand PB.

Costa Rica: Peanut Butter is often found in the “imported foods” section of the grocery, with many familiar brands.

Peru: While there are rumors that some expats have been lucky enough to find a jar of Peter Pan, American-style peanut butter is almost non-existent in Peru, and unfortunately I’ve never heard the local style described in a manner even close to edible. Your best bet is to look near the condiments.

It’s always exciting delving into foreign cuisine, but sometimes you just need those familiar tastes of home.

-Ashley

Top Ten Films to Inspire your Inner Traveler

Top Ten Films to Inspire your Inner Traveler

Sometimes inspiration can come from unexpected places. So don’t expect to see The Beach or Into the Wild on this list—great movies for sure, but I want to share the ones that really keep me going.

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“There’s this theory: Given an infinite universe and infinite time, all things will happen. That means that every event is inevitable, including those that are impossible. That’s as good an explanation for all this as anything else.”

More or less a roadtrip movie, Interstate 60 (2002) stars Jason Marsden on a quest to find an answer to his life as he travels down an unknown highway said to be where all the “roads not taken” converge. Guided by a Magic 8 Ball, he faces life-changing forks in the road in the peculiar towns he finds along the way. Genuinely creative and amusing, it’s a great upbeat-tale that stresses the importance of choosing your own path despite how unpredictable life can be.

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“You truly love each other and so you might have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the story books say. And so I think no man in a century will suffer as greatly as you will.”

If I need to tell you what this movie is about then you definitely need to go out and see the world, ’cause you’ve probably been living under a rock. The Princess Bride (1987) naturally appeals to your sense of adventure, offering tales of love, greed, revenge, and honor. A diverse cast of perfectly flawed characters draws you in and makes you yearn for a taste of their world where you play the hero, conquering the Cliffs of Insanity, surviving the Fire Swamp, or even out-swimming the Shrieking Eels.

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“That’s what everyone thinks. But kind people find that they are cruel; brave men discover that they are really cowards. Confronted with their true selves, most men run away screaming.”

Of course, no list of inspiring movies is complete without a fantasy quest and you really can’t beat The Neverending Story (1984). Atreyu embodies what all travelers aspire to be: fearlessly stepping into the world alone and defenseless; finding the will to keep going when the whole world is falling down around you; trusting a new adventure is just over the next hill. Staying home and reading about another’s adventures is simply no comparison for getting out there and exploring on your own (even if it means trudging through a literal Swamp of Sadness).

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“I miss everything. I miss my friends, I miss my dog, I miss my family, my house. Everything. I even miss the things I hated at this point.”

Essentially another roadtrip movie, Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006) takes place in an alternate afterlife peopled entirely by those who committed suicide. While the hero sets off on a journey to find his ex-girlfriend, he and his companions struggle to deal with perpetually broken headlights, lose everything of importance to a blackhole under the passenger seat, encounter insignificant miracles and desperately seek to regain their ability to smile and see the stars in the sky.

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“Ironically the loneliness gave me the chance to get to know someone.”

The Teacher’s Diary (2014) is a Thai love story about a school teacher who is moved from the city to a floating boat-house school in the middle of nowhere, where he discovers the journal of the former teacher and slowly falls in love with her. While not actually about travel or backpacking, this movie is really jam-packed with nostalgia for me, as so many of the situations the hero finds himself in are reminiscent of some of my first experiences teaching abroad, as well as my experiences in Thailand itself. If you want insight into teaching in rural Thailand, this is the movie to watch, and if you like sappy love stories and cute kids you won’t find a better film!

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“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

Set in the 1950’s, Stand By Me (1986) follows four kids who set out on a quest to find a dead body. Traveling across the county on foot, they each learn to deal with the various troubles in their lives including loss, abuse, and neglect. This movie does a fantastic job portraying the strength of friendship and the importance of overcoming obstacles together. Beyond that, the time period helps inspire me to disconnect; those boys have the adventure of a lifetime with no cellphones, internet, or even cameras—just rucksacks, sleeping bags, and an old radio.

4endlesssummer

“With enough time and enough money, you could spend the rest of your life following the summer around the world.”

The Endless Summer (1966) follows two surfers from California on a round-the-world trip as they seek to live a perpetual summer of warm waters and great waves. Along the way they teach locals of different countries how to surf while experiencing new cultures themselves, all set to a stellar soundtrack. I’ve seen this document more times than I can count and the idea of a truly endless summer is all the motivation I need to keep exploring.

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“Hello, and welcome to Amsterdam’s finest and most luxurious youth hostel. We feature one medium sized room containing 70 beds which can sleep up to 375 bodies a night. There is no bathroom. Nor is there one nearby.”

Purely a teen comedy, Eurotrip (2004) follows four friends from Ohio who spend the summer before college backpacking Europe on a quest to find the main dude’s penpal/love-interest. This movie came out when I was in high school, and seeing those kids just take off for London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, and even the Vatican with no rules or schedules really just clicked in my brain. It was one of the first times I remember thinking I could totally do that.

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“I took the trip because I wanted to get something out of my system…but it doesn’t work, because I think the one thing that’s changed about all of us, we take this trip, is that a normal life really doesn’t seem that attractive at all anymore. I can’t imagine not traveling again.”

A Map For Saturday (2007) is a documentary by Brook Silva-Braga following his nearly year-long backpacking trip in the early 2000’s. It gives astonishing insight into the life of a backpacker, the amazing types of people you encounter, the realities of hostel life and the highs & lows of long-term travel, as well as the realities of going home again. Whenever someone says, “I could never do what you do,” I tell them to watch this movie. For many, it’s the push they need to finally give up everything & hit the road.

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“Chester Copperpot! Don’t you guys see? Don’t you realize? He was a pro, he never made it this far. Look how far we’ve come. We’ve got a chance!”

One of my all-time favorite movies in existence, The Goonies (1985) is truly the perfect adventure story: outlaws, pirate ships, hidden treasure, wishing wells & first kisses. Sure, they may not travel the world but the Goonies have more adventure in their small town than most people have in a lifetime. Friendship, perseverance, understanding, and courage…I get more inspiration from those kids than any other movie I know, and not just from Mikey’s “Our Time” speech.

If you’ve got any films that inspire you to explore, feel free to share!

-Ashley

7 Must-Have Apps for Travelers

Yeah, traveling often means surviving without a phone or computer from time to time, but on those occasions you find yourself in a cafe with a decent wifi signal or are spending enough time in a country to warrant splurging on a local simcard, you’ll be grateful to have the following essential traveler apps!

PrintAndroid: http://tinyurl.com/nxmuq72
iOS: http://tinyurl.com/jqzas8g

At first glance Momondo seems like your run-of-the-mill flight/hotel app, but take a closer look. Momondo allows you to sort through your results and narrow down options more easily than most mobile apps. While apps from Hostelworld and Hostelbookers are great for booking ahead, Momondo is great for when you’ve arrived at your destination but not yet booked your lodgings. Simply tap “Near Me Tonight” and you’ll quickly be presented with a map showing all available options, with prices, reviews, and amenities. This app has honestly replaced all other booking programs on my devices.

PrintAndroid: http://tinyurl.com/hnyhcj4
iOS:  http://tinyurl.com/jzfhba3

While we all have our favorite map and GPS apps, we’re often at the mercy of WiFi and cell reception to actually make use of them. MAPS.ME offers a simple solution: detailed maps for cities and countries around the world that can be downloaded and utilized offline.

PrintAndroid: http://tinyurl.com/jf9x3kr
iOS: http://tinyurl.com/bcjfox2

Okay, I know we all love streetfood and stumbling upon a new favorite hole-in-the-wall, but sometimes you get a craving or just want to try something new—Foodspotting is the ultimate solution. Rather than just little blips of restaurant locations popping up on your map, actual dishes do. It’s a visual guide to the food around you and allows you to review and vote for the dishes you’ve tried. I never thought I’d need an app just to find dinner, but this one is seriously addicting!

PrintAndroid: http://tinyurl.com/npxntkm

aMetro lets you hit the ground running in a new city, as it contains subway, bus, train, and station maps from around the world. A simple idea, but super convenient!

Unfortunately, aMetro isn’t available for iOS, although a decent alternative for iPhone users can be found in metrO ( http://tinyurl.com/zulf2jk ).

PrintAndroid: http://tinyurl.com/j42pg2p
iOS: http://tinyurl.com/z3n2fwx

SkyScanner’s mobile app is one of the must user-friendly flight searches out there, and I especially love their “search everywhere” option that allows you to see the cheapest international flights available. Sure, you didn’t plan to visit Macau, but it was only $60!

PrintAndroid: http://tinyurl.com/8tdwjoo

iOS: http://tinyurl.com/a3yodtr

Google Translate prevails as the best translation app available, supporting over 100 languages and allowing users not only to translate written words, but photos as well. Many languages boast voice input and the app can also read text back to you (which can really help users learn foreign pronunciation!).

PrintAndroid: http://tinyurl.com/hyxpol5
iOS: http://tinyurl.com/jncrbu3

TravelSafe is an essential app that you hope you never have to use, containing a database of emergency contact numbers for police, fire, & rescue numbers for more countries than most people can name, much less visit. The only app on this list that isn’t free, that $0.99 is well worth the peace of mind knowing help is only a few taps away.

Top 5 Struggles of Long-Term Backpacking (and how to beat them!)

5 Struggles of Long-Term Backpacking (and how to beat them!)

Any backpacker will tell you that their life isn’t just one never-ending vacation. Yeah, you’ll have some amazing experiences, meet fascinating people, and gain a deeper understanding of foreign cultures one could never garner from books and movies. But backpacking isn’t easy—it takes dedication, flexibility, and resilience. However, knowing what struggles to expect and understanding that every traveler has highs and lows can be a great way to prepare yourself when hard times crop up.

loneliness_subheading

When traveling solo, loneliness can be a real struggle. There will be times when you’re completely alone, sometimes for a day or sometimes for a week. The people you do meet come in & out of your life rapid-fire and these friendships, no matter how short-lived, can be very intense. You spend a week hitchhiking with someone and doing everything together, and suddenly you know everything about one another—the quirks and habits only a roommate would ever pick up on, the vulnerabilities you may drunkenly spew at 4am, and all while sharing an experience full of “you-had-to-be-there” moments no one else will ever really relate to. Then a day later they’re gone and chances are you’ll never hear from them again.

how to beat it:

You’ll eventually get used to all the hello’s and goodbye’s, but these realizations often hit rookie backpackers pretty hard. Many think they’ve made friends for life only to find that they’re feeling forgotten only a few weeks later. Enjoy your time with the people you meet and make the best memories you can. Don’t let missing people deter you from getting to know others. You’ll learn so much from the great discussions you’re bound to have and these fleeting relationships will be full of eye-opening experiences.

And if someone is important to you, make the effort—believe me, some travelers make great pen pals because we’re used to communication taking a little elbow grease.

disenchantment_subheading

I’m hesitant to use the word “jaded”, but there definitely comes a time when your experience begins to work against you on the road. When you first start out, everything is new; you want to see everything and there never seem to be enough hours in the day. But down the road, you’ll find thoughts rife with apathy beginning to creep into your mind: “Another temple? I barely remember the last 30 anyway…” “There’s a waterfall? Eh, I’ve seen bigger.”

how to beat it:

This can be hard to overcome, but it’s all about living in the moment (clichĂ©, I know). Think about it this way: Just because one time you had really fantastic pizza, does that mean you’ll never eat pizza again ’cause no other pie could compare? Hell no—pizza’s still awesome.

Treat each experience as its own and do your best not to compare. Why deprive yourself on the assumption that yesterday was better than the possibilities of today?

Any traveler knows that some of the best memories and experiences are the ones that were complete surprises—areas stumbled upon after a wrong turn or last minute excursions taken on a whim. You never know what’s around the corner, so don’t assume you do.

discomfort_subheading

Being on top of a mountain overlooking the valleys below or drifting down a river at sunset is one thing—getting there is another. It amazes me how often I hear people complain of the conditions they find themselves in, as they clearly didn’t expect their journey to be anything other than smooth-sailing.

There will be 18-hour bus rides with no pit-stops. You may travel in cramped quarters with both humans and livestock. You will stay in hostels with bedbugs. You may occasionally find yourself sleeping on the street. Air-conditioning is often a luxury you can’t afford and carrying that 60-liter rucksack will take its toll from time to time.

how to beat it:

Time for some tough love, kids: Get over it. This isn’t luxury travel and backpacking isn’t a glamorous lifestyle. While discomfort may range from slightly annoying to genuinely painful, these journeys will reward you in so many ways. You’ll find yourself growing in terms of patience, understanding, courage, independence, & trust, among others. The experiences you’ll have and the things you’ll see will make it all worth it.

homesickness_subheading

Homesickness hits different people different ways…for some it grows and builds over time, while for others it suddenly hits them at all once like a semi coming head-on. Some miss creature comforts while others long for their loved ones or for the familiarity of their old stomping grounds. There are times when you’ll fixate on what you’re missing out on—you’ll hear of old friends getting married, having kids, getting houses or accepting promotions and wind up thinking, “Whoa, am I falling behind somehow?”

how to beat it:

Remember that you can’t have it both ways: you may be missing out on things back home, but those back home are missing the journey you’re on. You need to figure out what’s important to you. If you settled into the 9-to-5, would you resent it down the line? Or are you yearning for the contentment that comes with setting down roots? Determine what your goals truly are and set your path toward what you want to achieve. For some that path will lead them home again while for others it will just keep going.

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There’s definitely a myth out there that backpackers are lazy. Many short-term travelers will note how they’ve seen so many backpackers just sleep all day, rarely leave the hostel, or seem to have a perpetual hangover. But ya know what? Traveling is exhausting. You get tired…like, really really tired. Between stressing over the logistics of getting from point A to point B, constantly adapting to new cultures & climates, and trying to fit in as many new experiences as possible on a non-existent budget there are times when it can become overwhelming. Some days the idea of getting out of bed and dragging your rucksack onto another 18-hour bus seems like a gargantuan task that you physically and mentally just can’t handle.

how to beat it:

This may seriously be a “no duh” solution, but honestly: just take a break. Whether that means spending 5 straight days wallowing in your bunk at the hostel in a nest of soda bottles & Pringles cans, or it means taking a month off back home, it’s important to recharge both mentally and physically.

Remember that every journey has it’s highs & lows, so try not to let the hard times defeat your adventurous side!

-Ashley

Getting the MOST out of Angkor

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I’ve seen a lot of Angkor Guides out there that insist on providing you with an in-depth history of each temple. The thing is, you’ll see and learn as you go so there’s no need to have encyclopedic knowledge of the whole park before you get there. It can be a pain sifting through the vast amount information for the tidbits you need, so I’ve compiled a bare-bones guide on how to get the most out of the Angkor Archeological Park:

COST

1 Day Pass: $20

3 Day Pass: $40 (any 3 days within one week)

7 Day Pass: $60 (any 7 days within one month)

WHAT TO BRING

I’ve seen some extensive packing lists for exploring the Angkor complex—flashlights, compasses, maps, you name it. Honestly though, my own advice (especially for those going in the summer months) is to pack as light as possible.

-> Wear light, loose-fitting clothes in bright colors to deflect sunlight.

-> Comfortable shoes are a must—you’ll be going up and down hundreds of steep, uneven steps as you explore and you’ll be walking on rocky terrain.

-> Summer temperatures hover in the mid-90’s at best, so start each day with at least 2 large bottles of water. You can always leave one (or more) in the Tuk Tuk while you explore.

-> Sunscreen: If you tend to burn, make sure to layer it on.

DRIVER

The best way to fit in the most sights in the least time is to hire a Tuk Tuk for the day. There are countless available on the street and most hostels are more than happy to arrange one for you. Typically costing $10-$12 a day, the drive can act as your tour guide.

Believe me, they do way more than just drive—they help you with obtaining your tickets and if youget a multi-day pass they will pick you up at your hostel each morning. Many have guide books with them and will try to teach you a bit about the temples as you go and wait patiently while you explore.

-> An important side note is to LISTEN CAREFULLY. They will often tell you what entrance to meet them at and where you can find them.

FOOD

Again, this is where your driver will be a great resource. While there are plenty of carts selling drinks near the temples, food is harder to come by. Your driver will know nearby areas full of restaurants or street food, depending on your preference, and will wait while you have a lunch break (or take the opportunity to grab some food himself).

SCHEDULE

For those who are budget-conscious but still want to see the majority of temples, I’d best recommend the 3-day pass. Most drivers will have suggestions on how to spend that time, but in general:

Day 1: Use this day to do the minor outlying temples—they take longer to drive between and are harder to cram in at the end if you haven’t gotten to them yet. This is a great way to get acclimated so you can be better prepared for a more strenuous Day 2 & 3, while also seeing some more remote temples many tourists tend to miss.

Day 2: Now that you’re into the swing of things, make this your most adventurous day by getting through the largest complex, Angkor Thom, and its surrounding structures. Angkor Thom covers more than 5 square miles, at the center of which is the Bayon, recognized by its 216 stone faces.

This will also keep you close to Phnom Bakheng, the famed sunset point. It’s a must-see, but remember that it is best to get in line quickly, as it fills up long before sunset commences. Also, keep in mind that while you’ll be climbing up in the daylight, you will be descending in the dark which will indeed be more difficult.

Day 3: Angkor Wat—saving the most famous/recognizable for last is a great way to make sure you stay motivated, because by day three you may be sunburned, achey, and a little worn-out. At the same time, Angkor Wat itself is smaller compared to all you may have seen on Day 2, so you can either get a later start or an early finish to get in some much-needed relaxation.

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-Ashley

3 Myths About Niagara Falls

So I recently took a trip out to Niagara Falls, something I’ve been wanting to see for years. When I mentioned my plan to friends, the general reaction was always, “Why?”. Their opinions ranged from indifferent to overly negative whether they’d been there before or not. Undeterred, I hopped a 7-hour bus from Chinatown up to Niagara to see for myself. So did any of those negative insights hold true? Let’s see…

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“You’re gunna get soaked!”

The highlight of any trip to the falls is a boat ride out into the mist. These boats run from both the Canadian and American sides, with the American Maid of the Mist boats beginning operation in 1846 and Hornblower Cruises operating the boat tours from the Canadian side since 2012. Now, it’s true that it’s cold, windy, and wet…but this is why they provide you with the biggest ponchos I’ve ever seen in my life. Americans get blue while Canadians get red and believe me, they’re gigantic. Definitely longer than I am tall, with long sleeves and drawstring hoods. You can barely tell there are people on the boats rather than giant walking garbage bags. You’d have to put in serious effort to get yourself soaked.

“Eck…it’s SO commercialized…”

Niagara Falls are arguably some of the most famous waterfalls in the world, and definitely the most famous in North America. Yeah, it’s true that the name and image is plastered on everything from t-shirts to shot glasses, but ya know what? So is Angkor Wat. So is Mt. Everest. So are the pyramids at Giza.

Passing by souvenir shops or paying admission doesn’t mean the falls have lost any of their power or presence.

“It’s boring…once you’ve seen it you just turn around and go home.”

This was the most common complaint I heard and I’m convinced that people who believe this never took a whole 2 seconds to look around. While it’s true that the Niagara, New York is a somewhat empty town, it does boast historical Fort Niagara, a remnant of New France built in 1726. For those with an interest in history, architecture, or photography, it’s an incredible must-see. Beyond that, Niagara, Canada has casinos, museums, waterparks, arcades…it’s seriously like a tiny Vegas.

This was one of those trips that revived my conviction to always make my own opinions. Don’t let naysayers discourage you from getting out there and experiencing new things…it’s all about perspective. Yeah, sometimes you’ll be disappointed, but more often than not you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

-Ashley