Limestone Pools & Exploring Caves: Semuc Champey, Guatemala

Semuc Champey is a hidden treasure that is located off into the mountains near town of Lanquin in Guatemala.

This is a perfect get away for any adventure lover, as well as one that is looking for pure nature and breathtaking views. This place consists of many limestone pools, with some of the most beautiful turquoise colors and caves that you will ever see.

Semuc Champey is located about 45 minutes by truck from my hotel, Utopia (totally recommended). The ride getting there was was an adventure in and of itself! We rode standing up in the back of the truck, zipping quickly along the windy roads and holding on tightly as the driver swerved to miss the holes in the road. What a ride!

Our very first activity was cave exploring. Upon entering, we were given a candle that would serve as our only source of light for our entire adventure. We then slowly eased into the water, quickly feeling a sense of shock from the temperature. I was more alert than ever and ready for our big adventure.

Our local guide gave us a quick briefing and prepared us mentally for the obstacles ahead.  While he was speaking, he reached his hand to touch the side of the cave to get some mud on his fingers and with the best of his ability, he drawed a design on each of our faces before starting into the darkness.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The caves were pitch dark, and being the one in the front of the line, all I could see was the darkness in front of me. Safety and security were not on the table for the day. We set off with no helmets, lifejackets, nor any real instructions of what we are going to face.

During our one and a half hour adventure into the caves, we had to squeeze into many tight spaces, climb up ladders, go underwater and even take a 10 feet jump off into the water, with no idea what was to be found below.

At one point I went underwater with my candle, with no light to lead my way. I heard the whisper of our guide come up from behind me saying, “close your eyes, hold your breath and fall down into the hole before you.” I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest. I nervously asked him,

“How far does this hole go down?! I can’t see anything. Can you please go before me so I don’t have to be the first one?”

His voice came into my ear again and he repeated “close your eyes, hold your breath and just go!”

I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. I took a deep breath and then fell blindly into the hole.

I made my way through the tight space with some scratches and bruises, but on an adrenaline high. We continued on through the caves until we saw a small speck of sunlight coming in from ahead. We had made it to the end!

Following our action packed cave adventure, we continued on with even more activities.  We swung out into the river from a large rope swing chair multiple times before starting our hike into the wood. Midway through our journey uphill, it began to downpour and we all ran to seek some sort of shelter underneath a tree.

We finally arrived to the halfway mark to see the gorgeous views and take some quick pictures before making our hike down.

The rain finally let up and we jumped into the turquoise water to cool off and relax from our hike. This is a beautiful area where you can see waterfalls and even ride down them if you are brave enough.

We ended our adventure by tubing an hour down the river, ending directly at the entrance of our hotel. This was one of the most relaxing and best ways to end our adventure packed day.

 

Are you brave enough to go cave exploring?

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Don´t forget to also check out:

VOLCANO BOARDING: EXTREME SPORT IN LEÓN, NICARAGUA

MY FIRST TEDX TALK: HOW TO BECOME A SPEAKER

COUCHSURFING: WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN?

 

 

 

 

adminLimestone Pools & Exploring Caves: Semuc Champey, Guatemala
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Volcano Boarding: Extreme Sport in León, Nicaragua

As an adventure seeker, I am always looking for new types of activities and ways to test life´s limits. At many times in my travel, I leave many people confused and asking themselves,

“Why in the world would Sarah ever think about doing that?!”

 

People from all around the world have followed on my crazy adventures, whether it be attending crazy world festivals, bungee from the worlds highest dam in Switzerland, sky diving, hitch hiking alone across 25 countries, or eating something that most people would not even think about trying.

My heart beats for adventure. Maybe it´s an addiction but I love the rush of trying something new and putting my confidence to the test.

 

In my solo trip through Central America, I made a stop in Leon Nicaragua, before making my way down to Costa Rica. Nicaragua is a gorgeous country that It is known for it´s volcanos, many of which are still active.

Normal tourists might think “I would love the opportunity to hike a volcano, take some beautiful pictures, and get out into nature,” while others, like myself, are programmed to think a bit differently and in terms of action activities. What if someone told you that instead of just going on a hike and taking some nice pictures, that you could have a once in a life time experience volcano boarding.

We are talking about going at high-speed’s down an active volcano on a small piece of wood.

Sound like your type of adventure?

Cerro negro

Cerro Negro is an active volcano that is more than 160+ years old, located about an hour drive outside of the city of León. This volcano Is about 728 m high, with an average hike up of about one hour.

 

Quetzaltrekking Nonprofit

For this adventure, I decided to go with the non profit called Quetzaltrekking. There are countless companies throughout the city that try to offer you a deal, but there is no company that measures up to what this non profit offers.

Quetzaltreeking is a nonprofit that opened in 1995. The money that is paid for the excursions goes towards helping with local projects and disadvantaged youth.

Not only was I having a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I was making a sustainable impact by working with a non profit that is actively making a difference in the world.

What To Expect

The morning that we arrived to the volcano, the fun began….. Well,  maybe it’s better to say, the challenging part began.

We strapped our wooden board and gear to our back and starting the ascend up the volcano. The weather was absolutely perfect, with very little wind (normally its much worse).

It is important that you wear close toed shoes, due to the amount of small and large rocks going up the volcano. There are many places to stop along the way to get some beautiful panoramic views and take it all in.

After about an hour, you will arrive to the top, where you will get the chance to see  a volcano crater with smoke coming out.

Volcano Boarding 101

Before going down, you will first receive a briefing on the basics of volcano boarding. They will then give you a protective suit (in case of crashing), gloves, goggles and the small wooden board.

We were given the options to go down two different ways: sitting down, as if you were on a sled, or standing up, liking in snowboarding. It was quite funny to see the amount of people trying to go down standing up, because in the end, they only managed hurting themselves. In my case, I wanted to go down with my GoPro, so I decided to place it around my arm and sit down.

The board has a rope that you hold onto for stability. As you hold onto the rope, you are instructed to lean backwards in order to gain speed.

I took a deep breath, and started my way down the volcano. I instantly got nervous, due to the fact that I was going faster than I was expecting. Before I knew it, I was going at top speed, as black sand was blowing quickly up in my face.

I quickly tried to slow myself down and ended up crashing about halfway down the volcano.  I took another deep breath, climbed back on my board and finally made it to the end.

What an exhilarating experience!

 

When we reach the bottom, I was a bit scratched up, but the experience was so worth it. The best thing about going with Quetzaltrekking, in comparison to others, is the fact that instead of only getting one chance to go down the volcano, you can learn from your mistakes and make a second run down!

 

Would you ever give volcano boarding a try?

 

Don´t forget to also check out: 

COUCHSURFING: WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN?

INDIA: MEDITATION BOOT CAMP: THE START OF MY MEDITATION PRACTICE

9 POWERFUL WAYS TRAVEL AND INTERCULTURAL EXPERIENCE HAS CHANGED MY LIFE

 

 

adminVolcano Boarding: Extreme Sport in León, Nicaragua
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Argentina: Take a Nature Vacation

Have you ever finished a nice long trip and arrived home only to find yourself exhausted and needing another vacation just to rest and recover?

After an exciting three weeks traveling through different parts of Uruguay and Argentina, I found myself mentally and physically exhausted. Every day of those couple of weeks consisted non stop travel between different cities, television and radio interviews, collaborations with companies and governments, blogging and capturing the special moments of the day, long hours of bus transportation and very little sleep.

After leaving Córdoba Argentina and finally receiving my Brazilian passport, I was on my way north towards Brazil. I had learned about a very highly rated nature hotel in the north called Ñande Reta and thought that it could be a perfect and needed stop on my way to Iguazu Falls in Brazil (one of the wonders of the world).

One great thing about Argentina is their bus systems, especially compared to other parts of the world I have visited. From my experience they were organized and much cleaner than other places and for that reason I decided to opt out of taking an airplane and go overland.

From a first glance look at the map it doesn’t seem like much distance from the middle of Argentina to the north, but looks can be deceiving.

In order to get to Cordoba to the hotel would be around 15 hours by bus and another 6 by car. Being the adventurous person than I am, and already going in the direction of Brazil, I decided to take the challenge and make my way to the north to go a city called Goya.

After a long ride, I arrived at 0300 and I was out in the middle of nowhere. The hotel arranged my transportation and from there we made the long 5+ hours by truck to the hotel. If one is looking for adventure then this is the road to take. Many parts of the road was not paved, so much of it was a bit like being on a roller coaster ride. I will admit, I am very thankful that I don’t get carsick.

It was a long journey, but arriving to the hotel made the experience all worth while.

I felt an instant energy and sense of coziness as we arrived to the hotel in the morning, just in time for breakfast. The location is located way out in the middle of nowhere. Nature was all around and silence filled the air. I wandered upon arriving and instantly noticed their nice big pool, with hammocks and chairs all around to relax and read a book.

This type of hotel is like a outdoor retreat. They offer many different types of activities throughout the day, like horseback riding, guided nature tours through the woods, night boat rides, daytime rides etc.

This is a perfect place for a family, a couple or a single person like me. This is one place that you’re able to come and forget about your worries and just relax. They have three organized meals throughout the day that are absolutely delicious, so you don’t have to think and find a location nearby to eat. The options varies and it was homemade, fresh and incredible!

The hotel had a very cabin like feeling and with rocking chairs in front of a chimney (it was summertime so we didn’t make a fire). Each and every one of the rooms were nicely designed and cozy, with an incredibly comfortable bed. One of my favorite parts was waking up in the morning with the window slightly cracked and hearing the birds outside and a nice cool breeze. My Internet connection did not reach my room, however, in the end I was grateful for that because it forced me to disconnect and only use the Wi-Fi when I needed it the most in the reception.

One of the best activities that this hotel offered was the opportunity to take a boat ride in the evening (also offered at night) to see the alligators and all the animals were in and around the water. I was pleasantly surprised with how many animals and wildlife we actually saw in the time that we went out. I had my camera going the whole entire time and got some really great pictures of this exciting journey.

However, I think out of the whole entire experience, my favorite was the sunset that we saw on the boat ride back to the hotel. It was hands-down the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen! I can’t even begin to explain the peace that I felt in that moment.

Sometimes when life is chaotic and we work day in and day it with people, the best medicine is a little bit of nature and time alone. Studies actually show that people’s mental energy is rejuvenated when they spend a little bit of time in nature, or even looked at a picture of nature.

The days that I was in this hotel also allowed me some time to clear my head, get a new perspective, clearer concentration and get me back on focus to continue the rest of my travels. When many people think of vacations, many think of nonstop activities, big cities, beaches and parties. However, having a nature vacation could be a different vacación worth exploring.

Take time for yourself. Get outside in nature. Put down your electronics and stop long enough to hear the birds singing and feel the wind blow against your skin. When you do this, you will feel more rejuvenated, happy, peaceful, and ready to tackle any problem that comes your way.

 

Don’t forget to also check out: 

INDONESIA: WEDDING CRASHING

5200 STEPS UP ADAM’S PEAK MOUNTAIN IN SRI LANKA

MY BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION AT OKTOBERFEST IN GERMANY

 

 

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comArgentina: Take a Nature Vacation
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Rosario, Argentina: Unexpected Connections

Argentina is a vibrant country full of many exciting adventures and different cultures. In my travels across this massive country I decided to do it only by overland in order to take in all of the beautiful scenery. After a beautiful week in Buenos Aires, I decided to take an Omnibus (the local bus transportation) from Buenos Aires to Rosario, which is about 300 km.

 

Luxurious Bus from Buenos Aires-Rosario

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Rosario is the third largest city in Argentina, with around 1.2 million people, and located on the Paraná River. Arriving to this city was a complete change from the crowded and loud capital city and was exactly what I was needing for a couple of days of rest.

During my stay in Rosario, I chose to stay in the Esplendor Savoy Rosario. This beautiful historic hotel is centrally located and walking distance to everything. After a long bus ride from Buenos Aires, this was the perfect hotel to go and relax.

The hotel has everything you could want and more:

  • Rooftop Pool
  • Indoor Pool (all year)
  • Outdoor Pool (seasonal)
  • Hot Tub/Jacuzzi
  • Massage
  • Fitness Center
  • Sauna

For the couple of days that I was there, I was expecting to spend it completely alone, given that I didn’t make any kind of arrangements to meet any local people. I spent the day alone going through the rainy city and visiting the main monuments and learning a bit about the history.

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Rosario has a 20 km long riverfront street called La Costanera and most of the entertainment of the city is taken place along this area. In order to get a good feel for the night life and to try some delicious Argentinian food, I decided to do a nice long workout in the gym and then head toward the riverfront to see what it was all about.

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Solo travel always brings up new adventures. A friendly smile and personality can at times open up new doors to new friendships and opportunities to connect with people, and that is exactly what happened in Rosario. As I was running on the treadmill at the gym hotel, I ended up connecting with a local who then offered to show me the city and introduce me to some typical Argentinean dishes at the Riverfront.

That night we stayed out late, trying different kinds of meat (Argentina is very well known for that), cheese, wine and incredible typical desserts. I will admit, I have tried a lot of desserts in my travels across the world, but the desserts I tried that night were unforgettable. We ordered a homemade flan and Budin de pan, aka: bread pudding. This is a special dessert that is eaten all year round and out of all the desserts I have tried in the last year, this WAS the winner.

Amaaaazing!

After stuffing ourselves full, we took much needed stroll through the city and got a feel for the friendly and chill atmosphere.

Overall, what I expected to be a solo trip through Rosario turned into one that I will never forget.

Traveling alone may seem like a scary and isolated experience, however some of the most beautiful experience come from stepping out into the unknown and giving life a chance.

I had no idea that I would end up having the experience that I did in my short trip to Rosario, but when you keep your heart open, something as simple as a friendly smile with someone can open up a whole new world of connections and friendships.

More photos of Rosario:

 

Don’t forget to also check out: 

 

 

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CouchSurfing: What Exactly Does That Mean?

Traveling is an adventure that truly can change your life and make you richer in body, mind and soul. My experiences traveling have changed me and have truly opened my eyes to the world around me.

As a person who grew up in a small town in Arkansas, this experience of stepping out into the big world and exploring has given me an insight that I would’ve never had staying comfortably back in my life in America.

While living in Spain in 2013, I was introduced to CouchSurfing for the first time. When I first heard the name I laughed, thinking it was some sort of sport. However, after my friend explained the concept to me I laughed even harder and said, “that is the most ridiculous and dangerous thing I have ever heard. I would NEVER do that!”

 

How does CouchSurfing work?

 

Couchsurfing is a service that is offered online that connects people from all over the globe together.

There are three main ways in which you can get the most out of this service:

  • Exploring and connecting with people in your own city.
  • Offering your home without cost to a traveler that needs a place to stay while visiting your city.
  • Finding accommodation or a person to meet up with while you are personally traveling to a different city.

 

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Couchsurfing host: Bandung, Indonesia

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How can I get started?

 

The first step is to open your mind to such a foreign idea and just give it a try. Start by completely filling out a profile, which will consist of you writing in detail more about who you are, what you like to do, places you have visited, pictures, a description of your home if you are going to host, time of availability etc.

Once you have that completely filled out, then you can start exploring. There will be local discussions, events and easy access to contact the people that live within close distance to you.

 

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Couchsurfing host in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

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What is a typical experience like using CouchSurfing?

 

Every experience I have had has been completely different, which is what makes the experience so exciting and addicting. A typical experience of mine usually consists of talking by email, phone or Skype with the possible host during a span of 1-2 weeks, depending on if it’s last minute or not.

After I gain some trust with the person, we plan the travel details and I give them the date and place of arrival. Upon arrival the host will either pick you up or give you specific directions on how to get to his or her home.

Once together the activities might include: talking and getting to know each other, a tour of the city, being introduced to the host’s friends or family, trying different traditional foods, cooking together, going on a small trip, concert, or seeing whatever may be going on in the city in the dates you are there.

If the visit is during the week, it’s common that the host will have to work. In that case he or she may decide to give you the keys or will tell you the time in which he or she finishes work so that you can enter in the house. Talk with you host beforehand and work out the little details in order to avoid any kind of complications or misunderstandings.

Read more: COUCHSURFING: A CROATIAN SURPRISE

 

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Couchsurfing: Jakarta, Indonesia

How do I know who I can trust and not?

 

There are millions of users on Couchsurfing from all over the world. With that many users, it’s inevitable that there will be people that are not using it for the right reasons, so safety is priority. First and foremost, reading someone’s complete profile is a must.

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If you find that someone does not have certain areas filled out and it looks a little sketchy, automatically eliminate them from the search and move on.

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Look for people that have an active profile and that seem to have similar hobbies and interests to you. On your profile you are able to add as many pictures as you want, so take a look at the other person’s pictures and get a feel for what he or she likes to do to see if you think you might be compatible.

Both hosts and travelers can obtain references from other hosts, friends and guests and for me this is my lifeline when choosing my hosts.

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As a solo female traveler,  I would say that my biggest suggestion to reduce the risk of problems is by choosing a host with more than 10 positive reviews from both girls and boys. I often look for comments from girls that say “I am a single traveler and I felt safe in his home.”

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If someone has over 10 references saying positive comments, you can drastically reduce the risk of something happening, although you can’t completely avoid it.

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Read more: COUCHSURFING: TRUST YOUR GUT

 

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Couchsurfing: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Is Couchsurfing Safe?

 

Just like anything in life, you have to be careful and listen to your heart. I have used Couchsurfing more than 100+ times alone without any kinds of problems. I am aware of the dangers in each and every place that I go and if I have any sort of hesitation I do not ignore it.

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CouchSurfing can be an experience that truly changes your life and can introduce you to amazing friendships from all over the world.

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If you take the safety measures while using this service, you will have the opportunity to meet and connect with all kinds of different people from all over the world and create memories that last a lifetime.

 

Read more: Couchsurfing- Safely Choosing a Host 

 

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Couchsurfing: Chennai, India

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Don’t forget to also check out:

7 FEARS TO CONFRONT AS A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER

DETAINED BY IMMIGRATION OFFICERS

PHILIPPINES: A WALK INTO PARADISE: KAWASAN FALLS

 

  • Have you ever used CouchSurfing?

  • Would you ever give it a try?

  • Share your thoughts and stories below!

 

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comCouchSurfing: What Exactly Does That Mean?
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4 Tips to Organize & Plan For Travel to Countries You Can’t Communicate

Our verbal communication is a survival tool that gets us by in most day to day situations. However, have you ever thought about life without that special tool?  As I travel around the world, especially off the beaten path, verbally expressing my needs so that people actually understand me has been a constant challenge. As I travel alone to different countries where English and Spanish are not spoken, people constantly ask me the same question,

“How in the world are you able to function and communicate effectively, completely alone, across so many different cultures and countries?”

The uncertainty of not being able to communicate is one factor that leaves many people paralyzed with fear and unwilling to take a step into the unknown and travel to foreign territory.

The fear of being stranded without knowing where to go, traveling alone and not having anyone that speaks your language by your side, or going to a public place and not knowing what is on the menu, are all fears that can cause anyone to be turned away from the idea of traveling abroad.

Trust me, I know…..I had all those fears myself before traveling.

When I first began my journey, I clung to the comfortable European countries, where English was within easy reach. I never liked the idea of traveling alone, so I just comfortably stuck with my English-speaking friends in the places that I went.

If we were ever in any situation where English was not spoken, no problem, because I had the help of my friends by my side. I didn’t have to face it alone, and I didn’t have to go through that feeling of embarrassment that is associated with not knowing what the heck is going on or what to say. However, after countless trips traveling with other people, I felt a deep sense within that it was time to break outside of my comfort zone and to start my own adventure, completely alone.

 

After years of solo traveling and numerous exciting adventures around the globe, I have had my share of ups and downs, mistakes, moments of panic, and feeling of complete helplessness due to communication errors. I have prepared a list through my own personal experiences and errors on the top ways I have learned to plan, organize and effectively function and communicate across cultures and countries where the language is not my own.

1. Organization, Planning and Knowledge

When it comes to traveling to a place where the language is not your own, organization and some planning are key. I am a huge believer in the importance of researching and learning about the different places that you travel before visiting, not only for safety purposes, but for being more educated and knowledgeable when you were talking with other people. General knowledge on your location helps in any situation, but the one thing I have noticed is that this knowledge helps reduce the risk of you getting ripped off in different occasions (bus tickets, accommodation, taxi rides, food etc.)

 If you go into a situation not having any idea of what to expect, local people have a better chance of taking advantage of you.

Organizing your trip a bit, knowing the top attractions, information on the local money, areas of town you might want to stay away from, top places to eat, accommodation, wifi hot spots throughout the city, bars and night clubs, etc, are all very helpful to discover and locate beforehand. Knowing these things can save you a headache when arriving and trying to figure it all out with people in the street.

Another important point in the planning stage is learning and writing down the most important words and phrases, important destinations, street names, names of hotel, restaurants or anything you plan on going to see. Investing in a good dictionary, phrasebook, local guide book and phone with GPS may serve you well.

2. Give it your best effort and don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Part of the fun when I travel is trying to learn a few of the local words and phrases. I must admit, my pronunciation in many languages is absolutely terrible, but what I have found is that locals appreciate the effort, even if it’s not perfect.

The most important phrase I have used and memorized in various languages is, “Do you speak English?” You can be assured with this phrase that you will get at least a yes or a no, and you don’t need to know the language to understand a head shake. It’s not a realistic goal to say that you’re going to learn the language every country you visit, especially if you only plan on staying a short amount of time in each place, but a little effort sure does go a long way.

If you get a phone plan, you can always download a translator and use it when you need to communicate. If you can’t say it right, you can always make the translator talk or show the written sentence to the person you are speaking with.

3. Get in tune with your nonverbal communication

When traveling to unknown territory, gestures will be your best friend. I underestimated how much power were in gestures until I traveled to a little village in Armenia where I could not find a single person that knew English or Spanish.

I arrived after a long day of travel with an empty stomach and a craving for chicken. I stopped at a restaurant with absolutely no idea what the menu said. In a desperate desire to communicate, I started flapping my arms as if I had wings, while showing with my hand a small amount to show the person that I wanted a little bit of chicken.

They hysterically laughed due to the lack of communication, but I learned that fluency is not necessary in many situations.

Sometimes something as simple as flapping your wings can speak a full message to someone. In addition, this experience makes you a more humble person and it gives everyone a good laugh.

 


Other gestures I use daily include: thumbs up, the OK sign, pointing, different facial expressions (ex: showing disgust when I don’t like something, smiling, raising shoulders to how that I don’t know something etc).

It is said that 93% of our our language is actually our non verbal communication and only 7% is our spoken words. Each day that I travel across the world I realize the truth of this statement.

4. Patience, patience, patience…..and more patience

If you travel outside of the bigger cities to the small villages be prepared to pack patience with you, because being faced with a language barrier is inevitable. End of story. There is no escaping it, unless you have a full-time translator with or go with a tour group.

In a small village in Romania I had to walk the streets for hours asking people for directions to the right bus station. No matter what gesture I used, no one could seem to understand and communicate with me. There were about 100 buses lined up, no wi-fi, hundreds of people passing by, and not one of them could direct me in the right place. I asked person after person, including the police officers, but I got the same response, “English….no”

After hours of walking around, I finally found someone with a broken level of English that was able to direct me. All the signs were in a different language, and even with her help I was not 100% sure if I was going in the right direction.

In these kinds of situations I have learned to rely on that inner gut feeling that each one of us have to guide me in the right direction.

At first all of this confusion was very frustrating, but then I realized that this is part of the adventure and losing my patience didn’t help with anything. I have to admit, I have been hysterical and in tears in the street due to frustration and being completely lost without a sign of help earlier in my travels. I had to quickly learn that this behavior did not help me to solve my problems any quicker and that sometimes the best move is just to take a deep breath and then take action.

Traveling to countries where your language is not commonly spoken can be scary at first, especially when you are thinking about it from a perspective where you are living in a very comfortable part of the world and you are able to communicate each and every day without an obstacle.

However, if you step out into the world of the unknown and give foreign travel a chance, you will not only be changed, but most likely you will find the kindness and goodness of people from all around the world, who are more than happy to help you in your adventure with patience, love and an open heart.

 

Don’t forget to also check out: 

 

 

 

 

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.com4 Tips to Organize & Plan For Travel to Countries You Can’t Communicate
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India: Meditation Boot Camp: The Start of My Meditation Practice

When I landed with a one-way ticket to India, I left the airplane in complete culture shock from the madness and chaos that surrounded me. It was an experience that I had never had traveling at that time and I could not get my head around the reality that I was seeing before my eyes.

Thousands of people in every direction, naked kids running and playing, some totally alone and many begging for food. Piles of trash and overflowing trash cans, cows wandering aimlessly between traffic, rushed cabdrivers impatiently driving and honking and one set of eyes after another directed towards me as I stood out like a sore thumb, with my blonde hair and face of utter confusion.

India is known for being one of the most cultural diverse countries in the world, with more than 200 dialects of languages throughout the country. They are famous for their reputation of dedication towards meditation practices and home to some of the most holy places on earth.

 

I had traveled to India looking for a different type of experience, something different than the normal travels that I had been having in the more comfortable, westernized countries. I strongly desired to open my heart and mind to a new experience and learn a little bit more about about their culture, connect with the people and learn about their meditation and religious practices. However, in the midst of the chaos, I felt like I was in the wrong place.

After a week of traveling and exploring parts of India, my heart started to change and I began to enjoy and adapt to the experience. However, after just one week I decided to escape the loud, busy streets and enter in a 10 day meditation/silent retreat called Vipassana.

Meditation and I once had a rocky relationship. It’s one of those practices that I always knew were beneficial to my life and health, but for someone who absolutely loves talking, it was a practice that I always put off saying, “one day I will try it out.”

Meditation has been known for countless benefits for the mind body and soul. It’s known to help you stay focused and live in the present moment, while helping you to stay happier, less anxious and keep the stress under control. It enhances compassion and changes the lens in which you see the world, yourself and the situations that come your way.

Some of the biggest names today claim meditation to be one of the main keys to their success and well-being. Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Kobe Bryant, Steve Jobs, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner and Madonna, to name a few, all have enjoyed or are enjoying the countless benefits that meditation offers.

As a person that is always striving for personal growth and development, I decided to give this practice some special attention and knew that there would be no place to do it than in India. Vipassana is only a place for serious learners and people that are committed to making meditation a part of their daily life.

Upon arrival, we were asked to turn in our personal cell phones, computers, cameras and any electronics. There was absolutely no reading, writing, making eye contact, caffeine, alcohol or exercise during the 10 days of the retreat. If you felt like you could not abide by the rules, they simply asked you to leave at the beginning.

Vipassana is not a retreat for the weak in mind.

Meditation started at 4:30am on the dot each every morning. This is not the type of meditation where you’re able to lay down and comfortably meditate in the time frame of your choice. In Vipassanna, you will be assigned to a mat in a meditation hall, set hours, with instructors sitting in front of you making sure you’re doing what you are supposed to do. To best describe it: hard core meditation boot camp

 

 

The retreat is strictly organized because they understand the tendency of the mind to wander, desire to lay down and do exactly what it pleases. The instructors are there to help you incorporate a new practice, become disciplined and be active accountability.

Meditation is not something that is learned overnight, nor in just 10 hours a day for 10 days straight.

However, from the first day I started, compared to the last, it was a complete night and day difference in my focus and ability to sit for hours with little movement and focused concentration.

In the first five days all I could do was move, open my eyes and think about 5000 other things and places that I would rather do and be besides in that hot meditation room sitting on top of my uncomfortable blue pillow. However, like all things in life, mediation requires time, dedication and going through the feelings of being uncomfortable. With time and dedication to the practice, anyone can enjoy the benefits that meditation offers.

All it takes is a starting with a 2-5 minute meditation each day, totally concentrated and once you have that down, you can gradually increase your time. It’s as simple as that.

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“Meditation connects you with your soul, and this connection gives you access to your intuition, your heartfelt desires, your integrity, and the inspiration to create a life you love.” – Sarah McLean

Don’t forget to also check out: 

 

 

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comIndia: Meditation Boot Camp: The Start of My Meditation Practice
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My Journey Towards Minimalism

 Excess is everywhere we look. From our material possessions, school and personal debt to even our weight. Simplicity for most people seems too boring and empty, so to compensate people tend to add, add and add even more, resulting in more excess. The tendency to have more than we can even manage is the norm in our society these days. It’s been said, “the more the merrier” and some people don’t have any hesitation to live that to a tee.
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The year before moving to Spain, I was in over my head with clutter. Clothes, shoes, school books and bags loaded down my closet shelves to the point where I was afraid to open the closet door. On top of that, I was in over my head with student loan debt with a interest rate that was eating me alive. Seeing life outside of my debt seemed like an impossible task.

All of this clutter and excess around me not only cluttered my space, but it cluttered my mind.

When I decided to move to Spain, I was faced with the hard reality that I was going to have to make a change and I would not be able to take all my stuff with me. As hard as it was, I packed all three of my big bags to the maximum weight restrictions and moved to Spain.

After 6 months of living in Spain and after collecting another luggage full of clutter and stuff, I was first introduced to the idea of minimalism.

I sat in my bedroom of my home in Spain with all of my material items around me and broken on what to do. The idea of minimalism sounded freeing, but I was so attached to it all.

From that day I decided to take a step towards minimalism. I knew I would not be able to become an expert over night, but I could read more on the topic and get rid of something unnecessary each day, and so that’s how I started.

Little by little I began to read about this idea and the more I read, the more I started to fall in love with the idea. I went from kicking and screaming over getting rid of something I thought I “needed” to becoming empowered each time I donated an item.

As I write this I have come along ways in my path towards being a minimalist. I de cluttered my personal space, paid off all my debt and even managed to travel long term with nothing more than a small 36 liter backpack. The freedom I have experienced has changed every aspect of my life and has opened the doors to many exciting adventures.

Working towards minimalism is not something that just happens over night, but rather something you can strive incorporate in your daily life. It may be hard at first, but I promise you the pay off is worth it.

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Minimalism in other aspects:

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Art

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Architecture  

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Decoration 

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Design 

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Publicidad y Marketing

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Cooking

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Don’t forget to also check out:  

 

 

  • What are your thoughts towards minimalism?

  • Do you practice this in your every day life?

  • Share below!

adminMy Journey Towards Minimalism
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Paraguay: A Day with Priest Betancor

This week I have had the opportunity to visit many different places on the Jesuit Route in Paraguay. I have learned a lot of the history and now I have a different perspective on the culture of this beautiful country.

I had the opportunity to know and connect with the Jesuitic priest of San Ignacio, Antonio Betancor.

This is my first time to ever spend time with a priest and I had a lot of time to ask him questions and get to know him. I am not Catholic, but I’ve spent many moments in my travels attending mass and trying to learn all that I possibly can, while keeping an open mindset

Cuando voy a misa, siempre veo al sacerdote muy serio y formal, pero cuando estuve allí, pasé horas con él, conociéndolo de forma más personal y es súper gracioso, divertido y muy abierto a diferentes formas de pensar.

Tuve la oportunidad de acompañarle 2 horas en coche a una ciudad diferente y nos reímos mucho en el trayecto..!

En mi camino he aprendido que no tenemos que estar de acuerdo en todo. Deberíamos abrirnos a nuevas ideas y sobre todo respetar otras creencias que son diferentes a las nuestras.

Aunque no entiendo todos los aspectos de Catolicismo, tengo un gran respecto por lo que hacen y la vida que han elegido vivir.

Fue increíble ver todas las formas en la que él sirve y ayuda a tantísimas personas cada día.

Su energía y presencia fue algo que no voy a olvidar. Muchas gracias padre Betancor…

Me encanta Paraguay!!

Para mas información o para visitar aquí: 

  • http://misiones.gov.py/san-ignacio/
  • http://www.portalguarani.com/
  • https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Ignacio_Guaz%C3%BA_(Paraguay)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMLim_VMR8o

No te olvides de leer:

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comParaguay: A Day with Priest Betancor
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9 Powerful Ways Travel and Intercultural Experience Has Changed My Life

When I left my comfort zone in 2013 and moved to Spain without a single comfort by my side, my world was shaken in an instant. Living in the USA, I had all the comforts of the world by my side: a well paid job as a nurse, family, friends, more than enough materialistic possessions, a beautiful car, home, gym and my favorite body pump class only 5 minutes from my home.

Life was comfortable. I had no complaints…..except for the fact that my heart craved adventure.

Looking back at the close minded small town girl I was in 2013, to where I am now, it is a night and day contrast. My experience living abroad, combined with my experience traveling across the world, has not only changed me as a person, but has changed the lens through which I see the world in 9 big ways:

 

1. Gratitude and Appreciation for the Small Things

It easy to take our life for granted when we are used to the same daily routine day in and day out. Breaking out of my normal pattern and stepping out into the unknown has allowed me to really appreciate the things that I no longer have within reach, like a hug from my family when I need it the most, or the beautiful Arkansas countryside that I used to see each day as I drove home.

It has also helped me for the first time to really appreciate and be thankful for my country and small town that I grew up in, because until moving abroad I never did.

 

2.  A new lens through which I see people and the world

I used to be a pretty close minded and racist person before being exposed to the world. Living and being completely immersed in a whole new culture, with people that have a whole different way of doing things, has helped me to expand my way of thinking and learn that there is not just one right way of doing things.

Traveling and having stayed with more than 100+ people on Couchsurfing has also given me intercultural experiences that I would of never had with any other experience while traveling. These interactions have helped me to see the beauty and value in people and to realize that, while there are true dangers in the world, there are more people out there that are willing to help you than hurt you.

 

 

3. Reconnection with my life’s purpose and direction

Moving or traveling to a foreign country truly makes you connect with yourself in a unique way. This connection can help you to tap into your purpose and direction here on Earth in order to help you live a more fulfilling life.

My plan from day 1 of moving abroad to now is completely different. Each day that I have lived abroad and traveled, I have learned a little bit more about myself and what my heart really desires to do.

 

4. A new love with life, its beauty and many adventures

This exciting adventure that I have been on has helped me to fall in love with all that life has to offer. Life is full of so many beautiful people, places and experiences waiting to be had, but we will never have the chance to experience these adventures if we are not willing to step a bit outside of our comfort zone and take a risk.

Through this wild journey, I have many highs and lows. However, I have learned to find beauty and something special not just in the highs, but also in the lowest and loneliest moments.

 

 

 5. An adjustment in focus and perspective

Although I have always liked to think that I am a generous person, my life has always been more or less focused on myself, or my family/friends. After traveling abroad, I saw for the first time a glimpse of how big the world really is.

Everyday that I travel and see new things, my focus in life shifts more away from myself and more on the big picture. Travel has helped me to see that in life there are real and bigger problems, rather than the little ones that I used to focus all of my time and energy on.

 

6. Improved ability to connect, communicate and relate to others

I had not the slightest idea of communicating across cultures before moving abroad. I moved to Spain with a very little idea of the world and the norms that many different cultures have. In addition, I didn’t know a single word of Spanish and the beginning was a constant struggle for me. I not only struggled with the language, but I struggled with the ability to connect and really relate to others due to my limited and judgemental mindset.

The more time I spent abroad and travel, the more I have learned how to properly communicate and relate to different types of people. I have had the opportunity to travel and connect with thousands of people and one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that:

While words are a powerful tool in our communication, 93% of our communication really does come from our nonverbal behavior.

 

Bali, Indonesia

 

7. A Better Ability to Balance

Traveling for the sake of traveling and seeing new places is one thing, but trying to travel, study full time and work online is another. I started my travels in the beginning because I wanted to see and experience new places, but I eventually found that traveling for my own pleasure and fun was not so fulfilling after more than a year of nonstop travel.

I put my heart and soul to it, started the Nomadic Dreamer website and started learning how to make my hobby into my profession. I traveled in 2016 to over 20 countries, while working as a motivational speaker, studying full time in the university in a distance learning program, preparing a TEDx talk for the largest conference in Spain and full time blogging.

This experience has truly helped me to better balance my time and energy in order to do all that I want to do. It has always taught me that it IS possible to travel the world, work and study, but you can’t do it until you first have a clear idea in your mind of what it is that you want to do.

 

8. A new sense of confidence

Every single experience that I have had since 2013 to where I put faith and action together, I have become empowered and have gained a new sense of confidence in myself and my ability.

It’s one thing to step out and face fears when we have the comfort of someone by our side, but it requires you to dig deep within yourself when you step out and do it completely alone.

 

 

9. Ability to be present

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” – Henry David Thoreau

Travel and living abroad has inspired me never settle for a life of mediocrity and to always dream big. It has helped me to really to be present and to enjoy every experience to the fullest, because we are not promised tomorrow.

 

Don’t forget to also check out: 

7 FEARS TO CONFRONT AS A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER

ICELANDIC WATERFALLS

PHILIPPINES: CREATE YOUR LOVE STORY

 

 

  • What ways has your experience living abroad or traveling changed your life?

  • Share your stories and thoughts below!

 

 

 

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.com9 Powerful Ways Travel and Intercultural Experience Has Changed My Life
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My First TEDx Talk: How to Become a Speaker

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Background

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TED (technology, entertainment and design), is a non profit organization that started in 1984, which is dedicated to spreading ideas in 18 minutes or less. While it’s much more challenging to get an invitation to be a TED speaker, there is the opportunity for you to share your idea by giving a TEDx talk.

TEDx are independently-organized, TED-like conferences that are located throughout the whole world. If you are wanting to get your new idea out, this is a great starting place for someone who wants to reach a large audience of people. TEDx has the same idea as the TED on sharing ideas, but this allows independent organizers the opportunity to plan and organize an event in their own community.

Note: if you want to plan your own TEDx event, you must go through an extensive application process and they do not accept all requests. 

 

I will never forget the first moment I watched my first TEDx talk years back. I spent that whole evening watching talk after talk and it’s as if a light switch went off in my head for the first time and I said to myself,

“Now THAT is what I want to do!”

From that cold winter day in Arkansas, I was hooked. Watching these videos became the moment of the day that I was most excited about, and thanks to many of these talks, I have learned many amazing new ideas that I have implemented into my everyday life.

However, I was not just content watching good ideas. I had an eagerness and passion to share my own ideas, so I went off on my own personal search to see how I could make dream become a reality.

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The Process

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There are many different ways to go about finding an opportunity to become a TEDx speaker, but I am only going to speak from my own personal experience and explain exactly what I did to get myself on the TEDx stage in November 2016.

In the process, the first thing I want to point out is: TALK IS CHEAP…

It’s one thing to do what I did for months and say “I would love to give a TEDx talk one day…” I would mention this desire on multiple occasions, but without a clear action plan, they were just empty words and wishes.

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If you desire to be a TEDx speaker or any kind of public speaker for that matter, the most important thing is to before anything is:

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1.  Identify your Area and General Message

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What makes you different from other speakers?
  • What experience do you have that can set you apart?
  • What is the main message that you want send out into the world?
  • If you could sum your mission statement up into one sentence, what would it be?

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IMPORTANT: TED is about ideas, not individuals. Anyone who appears to use the platform for self-promotion will be denied. 

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You can’t possible start contacting others about your interesting TEDx idea if you have not decided on what it is, so do a little brainstorming and get your ideas a bit more organized before contacting others. The more organized you appear when making your first call or email, the more likely your chance for success.

When I first did my brainstorming, I identified my mission statement: Spreading a message of friendship and connection between cultures and countries through travel and to inspire others to face fears and live the life they have always imagined.  

It’s not a magical formula where you figure out your mission statement and all the sudden your TEDx idea becomes clear as day. No, however having a clear mission statement and focus can help guide and direct you.

2. Why You?

 

If you are wanting to give a mind-blowing TEDx talk, keep in mind that you won’t be alone. That is not to discourage you, but rather to press upon you the importance doing everything in your power to sell your idea.

Depending on where you plan to apply for the TEDx event, there will be more requests and referrals than spots available to speak. With that in mind, you need to do all you can to show WHY the organizer should choose you out of all of the other people.

Creating a website showing your personal portfolio is a great place to start.

 

This website could include, but is not limited to:

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  • Past video presentations: If you lack a professional video, I highly suggest showing a video of some type, even if it’s just you recording yourself talking about an interesting talk.
  • Blog entries: Give the organizer an idea of your personal thoughts on topics that you are passionate about via articles.
  • Links to social media: This is a powerful tool to give the organizer a feel for who you are.
  • Resume: Include your experience and past experience speaking if you have some.
  • Photos

There are people that skip this process and still get the opportunity to give a TEDx talk, however if you are not being referred, the event is large, or the organizer does not personally know you, then you will drastically reduce your probability without some sort of content to show.

Remember, in large events there may be hundreds, or even thousands that want to speak as well. It will take time to do this step, but I highly suggest not skipping it. If you plan on public speaking aside from the TEDx talk in the future, its most likely that the next event will also want this as well.

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3. Get Busy

 

As I mentioned before, words are cheap. You can have the best idea in the world, with an incredible website, but if you don’t take action, then you have missed the most important step.

After you have all your ideas and information together, it’s time to send emails and connect. If you plan on applying in your community, start by asking mutual friends if they have any personal contacts to connect you, but if not, it’s okay as well.

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Visit the website: www.ted.com/tedx/events and you find exactly what you need to get started.

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You can explore the TEDx events by location, name or type and the specific time of year you want. Once you find an event that you think is interesting, click on it and it will take you to the event details. From there you can decide if that event is in line with your idea, and if its not, then simply move onto another one.

Each TEDx conference will have a different theme, so make sure to not waste your time, nor the organizers, with an email on your idea to an event that has absolutely nothing to do with the theme of the conference.

 

 

After the event information, you will be able to find the information of the organizer. Many will have links to their contact information, however it many cases there is none available. If it’s an event you are really interested in, don’t give up just because you don’t see the email. There is ALWAYS a way.

You can call this stalky behavior, I put each organizer in Facebook or LinkedIn and sent them a private message from there. I simply mentioned that I got their name off the TED website and I wanted to introduce myself and connect with an idea that I think would be excellent for their TEDx conference.

 

 

I sent out multiple Facebook messages with many replies. Some of the organizers did not need speakers at the time, but the best part of getting a reply is the fact that even if they don´t need a speaker for the current year, there is always the option for the future. Having direct communication with the organizer can enhance your chances for the following year, or as a referral to another event.

When you are finally in contact with the organizer, he will she will be able to look over your information and see if you might be a good fit. From there is when you might set up a phone or Skype call and talk more about the specifics of your idea.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have success at first. There are thousands of TEDx events all around the world that might be better for you, so stay focused. Giving my first TEDx talk was such an amazing overall experience that I hope to have again in the future.

 

Don’t forget to also check out: 

7 FEARS TO CONFRONT AS A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER

VIPASSANA 10 DAY SILENT MEDITATION RETREAT FREQUENT Q & A

INDIA: VOLUNTEERING AT CHILDREN’S CANCER HOSPITAL

 

  • Have you ever given a TEDx talk? If so, what advice do you have for others?

  • Share your stories and questions below!

 

 

 

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comMy First TEDx Talk: How to Become a Speaker
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