How to Stay Fit While on the Road


Have you ever noticed how many guys tend to lose weight while traveling long term, while girls incessantly complain about putting on the extra pounds? 

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After talking to hundreds of travelers about staying fit while on the road, the majority of the girls mentioned that they tend to gain at least 2-5 extra pounds during a long term trip, while their male friends or significant other has a totally opposite experience.

For many people, traveling is about pure relaxation and indulging in all of their cravings for alcohol, sweets, and carbohydrates. A normal person has on average one to three weeks of vacation per year and their intention, in many cases, is to not hold anything back during that time.
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.Isn’t that what vacation is about anyways?
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While this is the case for most vacationers, this is not my story

As a full-time digital nomad, I strive every minute of the day to form good habits, just the same as if I were living back home. Sure, traveling is a blast and full of wild adventures, but if you are like me, and strive to maintain this exciting nomadic lifestyle for a long period of time, then you must be intentional in your daily decisions making.….

I will openly admit that it can be a very difficult task to stay balanced, organized, and in check while traveling full time, especially in the beginning. 


Most ordinary people have a challenging time staying organized in their normal lives back home, so just imagine how hard it must be at times for a full-time nomad to keep a healthy balance, while constantly facing the dramatic changes that go along with traveling abroad: new language, currency, culture, lifestyle, time zone changes and absolutely NO sense of familiarity.

It’s normal to want to stay active, enjoy every moment of sunshine, and live all of your travel experiences to the fullest. Traveling internationally will open your eyes to a whole new world of opportunities, and once you start, it’s very difficult to stop.
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In my opinion, there is no better way to enrich your life and knowledge than exploring and living new worldly experiences for yourself.
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With all of that said, it’s important to also note that it’s easy to get on the road and totally lose track of all of the important habits that you have implemented into your life over the years, such as daily exercise, a healthy diet, meditation, journaling, fasting, etc.

It will be even more tempting to fall off course if you are traveling with others that don’t have the same lifestyle standards as you do. I am NOT saying that getting out of your habits/routine from time to time is a bad thing, but you must be careful if you want to make travel your long term lifestyle.
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From my personal experience, I can tell you that staying healthy and balanced while on the road is not always the easiest task, but it IS possible.

If you are one of those people that are convinced that you must have a gym nearby to stay in shape, then you are simply making excuses for yourself. I have proven to myself over the years that it is possible to stay in the best shape of my life, maintain a healthy balance, travel the world, and live my wildest dreams...

Is it easy? NO WAY!

In this article, I am going to talk briefly about 6 ways you can stay fit while on the road, without your monthly gym membership. 

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There ARE NO excuses!

Forest workout in Estonia

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1. WALKING & RUNNING

Walking is one of my favorite forms of exercise. In my opinion, there is nothing more peaceful than walking or jogging around sunset or sunrise time, while listening to my favorite inspirational or educational podcast.

Even if it’s just 20 minutes a day, any sort of movement will be beneficial to your health and mental state. One way that I stay extra motivated in reaching at least 10,000 or more steps a day is by using the application PACER. This is a free app that will track the paths that you run and count every single step that you walk while carrying your phone or wearing your smartwatch.

I have my daily goal set at 10.000 steps daily and this app motivates me to reach that goal. Implementing this daily ritual has given me such a sense of freedom and has helped me in more ways than I can count to deal with any sort of anxiety that I feel throughout the day. It also gives me the chance to release any built-up energy that I have accumulated from sitting and working on my computer throughout the day.

I have literally transformed my life by using this application to monitor my daily progress. If you have an injury that disables you from running, do not push yourself through the pain.

Set a daily goal to walk 20 minutes and built up from there. As I mentioned, any form of movement will help you in all aspects of your life, so STOP making excuses today on why you’re not able to take control of your health and wellness.

2. YOUTUBE VIDEOS

No gym, no problem!

While on the road, I have found SO many amazing Youtube videos that have helped keep me accountable in maintaining excellent health. Maybe you are one of those complainers that say,

“Yeah, well I have tried so many different types of workout videos and they are boring to me.”

If you fall into that trap, you are just filling your head with more and more excuses. There are thousands of videos available online, ranging from 5 minutes to 2+ hours. The best thing about using work out videos is the fact that you have the opportunity at any given moment to choose from different styles of workouts, depending on how you feel on that given day.

I try to change it up daily and get a good mixture of yoga, cardio, and abdominal strengthening, combined with the daily cardio I do outside using the PACER application.

Staying fit with Youtube videos is an incredible alternative because you’re able to do it anywhere in the world, regardless of the coverage that you have. Nowadays, there are websites that you can use to download Youtube videos on your phone or computer in order to watch them in another moment in which you may not have service.

I highly recommend downloading your favorite exercise videos and keeping them on hand for when you are totally disconnected and desiring to get a good workout in.

A couple of my favorite abdominal exercise videos, which are short and sweet are listed below:

 3. SELF MADE EXERCISES

While I find videos Youtube videos to be incredibly helpful for improving my overall health, I will admit that at times I prefer to ditch them and create my own, customized workout, with incredibly powerful and motivating music.

My self workouts consist of:

  • Lunges/squats
  • Yoga
  • Pushups
  • Planks
  • Burpees
  • Wall sits
  • Crunches
  • Weights (milk jugs or heavy objects around the house)
  • Running, sprints, stair climbing

One of the best things about creating your own self made workout is the fact that you don’t need to have any sort of video or instructions on what you need to do, or how long you must do it. All you need is a good workout music mix for the time in which you desire to workout and the willingness to leave all the excuses behind and get your body moving.

I love to do my creative workouts in the park, which will give me access to running trails and areas in which I can lay in the grass and do abdominal and body strength training. I will normally set my clock for about 1 hour and move my body as much as humanly possible during that hour, followed by light stretching and a peaceful walk.

Get creative during this time! This is an excellent way to discover more about your body and how to release built-up energy at the same time!

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4. SWIMMING.

If you are traveling in the summer, swimming is an excellent and cheap way to get an incredible workout in!

Lakes, oceans, and rivers are easily accessible in many countries around the world in the warmer months. Swimming is an exercise that works your entire body and is excellent for people that suffer any sort of knee or bone injury.

It’s said that just a 30-minute workout can burn up to 200 calories, which is an excellent and refreshing option on a hot summer day. If you are traveling during the cold winter months, you can search online for local indoor swimming pools.

Many hotels and gyms offer day passes, giving you full access to their facilities at a very decent price.

 

5. HOTEL GYM

One of the best aspects of searching for a hotel through a search engine, such as booking.com, is the fact that you are able to search for a hotel based on the different amenities that you are looking for. If you are absolutely certain that the only way you will stay in good shape is by working out inside of a gym, then search online for a hotel that offers an indoor gym...

The price will most likely be a bit more when adding this extra amenity, but there is no price tag on the incredible sensation that you will feel when you put your health as your number one, nonnegotiable priority.

If you stay in a place that does not have a gym, it is possible in many cases to get daily passes to another hotel’s gym at an additional fee.

6. GYM GUEST PASS

If you are traveling to a city for a few days, many gyms will allow you to enter in on a guest pass, ranging from one day to a week. I have done this in many countries while traveling and it’s an excellent option if you are used to working out in a gym with specialized equipment.

I will say, as much as I love working out at home, there are many machines in the gym that do absolute wonders for your body, which will accelerate the time it takes to transform your body quickly.  Home exercises are nice, but the machines make a huge difference!

Search online for local gyms and you should be able to find plenty of options!

How do you stay healthy while on the road?

Connect with me on social media and let me know:

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Don’t forget to also read:..

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comHow to Stay Fit While on the Road
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My Experience Getting a Student Visa to Live in Spain

Living abroad has always been a life long dream of mine.
Honestly, I look at my family and wonder where in the world I actually came from. My desires and ambitions are so much different than theirs and not a SINGLE person in my family has ever ventured abroad or even had the slightest desire or courage to do so…
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So, just imagine the conversation and looks I got when I looked at my family and said,
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“I just bought a one way ticket and I am leaving my job as a nurse and moving to across the world to Spain, completely alone!”
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I had all the excitement in the world, but not a single person could understand and connect with me on why I wanted to leave my steady, well paid job in order to chase after my dream.
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I was quickly discouraged by others by listening to conversations about how dangerous the world is and how I should go back and rewatch the movie “Taken,” where the beautiful blonde was taken out of her accommodation by scary men while traveling with her best friend in Europe.
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To be honest, until that point, I had watched that movie multiple times.
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Did I fear the thought of moving abroad or stay wide awake at night thinking about the worse case scenarios?

ABSOLUTELY!

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I had NO experience traveling abroad, nor had I ever traveled extensively in the USA.
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However, that fear slowly started to turn into excitement and I made a promise that no matter what happened, I would not allow anyone or anything to talk me out this once in a life time opportunity. 
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My life kicked into fast gear when I made a set decision about leaving America. Changing cities or moving houses is difficult, but imagine moving your whole entire life over seas!
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To be honest, when I first decided to move, I thought it was going to be simple.

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In my naive mind, I just thought that I would buy a one way ticket, pack up my pink luggage and move there. I quickly realized that there would be many obstacles in my path, starting with:
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“How in the WORLD am I going to obtain a visa?”
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I did not even know what a visa was before applying. The ONLY visa that I had ever heard of before that moment was a credit card. I had to do a google search to find out what I was even going to apply for and why I actually needed it.
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PREPARING TO MOVE TO SPAIN
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If you plan on moving to Spain under 90 days, then you are in luck. You are able to travel anywhere in Europe as an American with just your passport. However, you will need to go through a long visa process if you plan on staying in Spain longer than that.

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Many of you might be thinking, “I will move to Spain and just stay past the 90 days without a visa.”
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There are lots of articles on the internet that will give you tips and tricks on how to do this, but I do not recommend it.
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Yes, it is possible that you can get away with it, but there is also a higher change that you will get caught with hefty fines. I have seen this with my own personal experience, so just be careful!

My visa process was a bit long and complex….

This will NOT be the case for everyone and each consulate throughout the USA will have different requirements of what they need, so do your own research about your consulate and do not think that everything I write in this article applies to everyone.

When I applied for a visa, I was a resident of Arkansas. I was required to visit IN PERSON the embassy in Houston, Texas, which is over 12 hours one way from my house!

You must visit the consulate of the area in which you are a resident. You are not able to show just up to just any consulate and apply (at least this is what was true when I applied).

Important: It took me over a month to get an appointment to submit my papers, so keep that in mind when planning your travel or work arrangements. 

Before you even thinking about making an appointment for a future date, you must look online for an updated list of what your consulate requires.

The 3 things that took the most time for me to obtain were:

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  • Federal Background Check: It took 7 weeks from the time I sent my request in, until I received it. I was required to have it translated to Spanish as well.
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  • Apostille from my state capital: this is a document that is attached to your paperwork to prove its authenticity. I had to drive all the way to the other side of Arkansas to pick this up in person.
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  • Full Health Check Up: You will need a full health check up and a note from a doctor saying that you are acceptable for work and study in a foreign country.

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Apart from these three things, everything else was pretty straight forward: 

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  • Money order (no checks or credit/debit cards) to the consulate: $175 total (160 euros)
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  • Updated official bank statements showing sufficient funds during the time you plan on staying in Spain. I only had to show a few thousands dollars, but you need to contact the embassy and find out how much they expect. You are able to show your parent’s bank account if you do not have enough money.
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  • 2 passport sized photos with white background.
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  • Copy of your driver’s license or some sort of ID that shows your permanent residence.
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  • Copy of official birth certificate and social security card.
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  • 2 Application forms printed from online and filled out in blue or black ink, with your passport photos glued in the corner.
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  • Original letter showing full international health insurance with at a minimum of 30.000 euros and repatriation coverage (coverage if you die and they have to send your body back to the USA).
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  • IF applying for a student visa: an official letter of acceptance and receipt of payment from the university or official language school for at least 20 hours/week of classes. You will not be able to take classes at an official language school in order to obtain a visa.
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  • If studying and working as an Au Pair: letter of invitation from the family you will be staying with, working conditions, hours and a family picture.
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  • Small prepaid UPS package: Luckily you are not expected to pick up your visa in person. If you give them prepaid package they will send it back to your home address. If you do not pay for the shipping, they will not send you anything and will expect you to pick it up yourself.
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I submitted all the documents over a 3 day time frame—- Unfortunately I made many mistakes and had to return more than once because I was missing something or had to redo my papers.  Instead of them letting me fix the problem in the moment, they told me to come back the next day—UGGG!

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All in all, it took me 45 days in order to obtain my visa in the mail.
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This was a photo of when I was 23 when I first received my visa from Houston.

This was also my first passport ever! 

 

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This is not a standard time, although they do tell you to wait AT LEAST 1 month. If you have anything suspicious on your background check it could take much longer. You just never know how long it will take, which is why it is so important to NOT book your flights before you get your visa.

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It was a long process, but it was SO worth every minute.

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In June 2013 I set off on a new adventure that totally changed my life forever. Spain is truly incredible and I HIGHLY recommend moving there to anyone!

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Don’t forget to check out: 

SUAN MOKKH: 10 DAY SILENT & MEDITATION RETREAT IN THAILAND

DISCOVERING THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND OF SAO TOME & PRINCIPE, AFRICA

THE PERFECT DAY GONE WRONG: MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT IN KO SAMUI, THAILAND

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Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comMy Experience Getting a Student Visa to Live in Spain
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Ways to Save On Accommodation While Traveling

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How in the world do you afford to travel the world full time?

This is a question that I get daily while on the road. While traveling can get expensive, especially the more high maintenance you are, there are many ways in which you can save while you are on the go.

If you break down the spending of a typical traveller, you will find that accommodation can easily be one of the highest costs. Even if you find a cheap hostel for $15 dollars a night, that is still $450 a month, which would be $5,400 for a year of travel.

There is an obvious amount of planning that you must do before going on your first long term trip, especially in regards working and saving.

Sorry to say it, but travel does not come for free (well, I guess some people find the way—where is my rich boyfriend?!—haha (joke)!

But seriously, many people look at my life on the road and see the amazing adventure that it is, but miss the story behind this exciting journey—the hard work, weekend shifts and gruelling overtime hours that I put in to make this dream become a reality.

If you make sacrifices while working and save, save, save, you can actually make it pretty far around the world on your savings if you just use your money wisely and try to save as much as you can on transportation, accommodation and entertainment.

And no, that does not mean sacrificing so much that you limit the amount of fun that you have…

Actually, it is the COMPLETE opposite… 

In this article I am going to share different ways of saving on accommodation, based on my own experience traveling extensively across more than half of the world (and still going).

Just a disclaimer: I have not tried out everything on this list (most, yes). However, I do have useful information from other travellers, which can be helpful for you if you decide to try them out.

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COUCHSURFING

 

Traveling the world and staying in the house of a complete stranger?

COUNT ME OUT!

Those were my own words when I heard about Couch Surfing back in 2013 when I first moved to Europe for the first time.

The concept seemed absolutely absurd and unsafe, but the more I looked into it, the more I realized that it was much more reliable and secure than what I had imagined.

Couch Surfing, Saudi Arabia

Couch Surfing, Saudi Arabia

If you are looking for a way to have a complete cultural immersion while traveling across the globe, and are willing to (at times) sacrifice a comfortable bed and your own personal space, then look no further than Couch Surfing.

I have been hosted by more than 250+ hosts over my years of traveling and I can tell you from first hand experience, it can be life changing!

Couch Surfing is a website with millions of users from all over the world that connects local people with travellers. As a traveler, you are able to send out a request to meet up or stay in the home of a local person or family, with no cost.

I can already hear you saying—but that sounds WAY too risky!

Everything in life comes with a risk, but the good thing is that Couch Surfing gives the options of users to go through a verification process, and you can choose a host based on if they have gone through this process or not. It is very similar to the concept of staying in a shared space on Airbnb, but the difference is that there is no cost.

Having the option to choose hosts based on their references has been so helpful and it is the main way in which I go about choosing who I stay with. I can honestly say that with all of the safety measures that I have taken with Couch Surfing over the years, I have never had any dangerous situation happen to me while using it (and I am always alone).

Couch Surfing has truly changed the way in which I see the world and has introduced me to some of the most incredible and hospitable people.

AIRBNB

 

As an earlier traveler, I mostly used Couch Surfing, but that has gradually changed over the years and now my #1 pick is AIRNB.

While Couch Surfing is AMAZING, there is still an underlying obligation to hang out with your host and to organize yourself around his or her schedule.

My travels around the world have completely changed over the years. When I started I was living off my savings, doing some random odd jobs in between trips, but nothing while I was actually traveling. However, travel is now my lifestyle and I am doing everything that I would normally do at home, (like work full time) on the road from my computer.

View from my Airbnb in Colombia

View from my Airbnb in Colombia

Airbnb gives me that option of a cultural immersion and contact with local people, but obviously with a price. While it is nice to hang out with my host, I do not have those guilty feelings that I tend to have with my Couch Surfing host when I am not able to hang out.

There are many options with Airbnb, from renting a private room in a house (which is what I do most of the time in order to meet locals) or renting a full apartment or house.

There are some INCREDIBLE options available, from very affordable to extremely expensive.

Get up to $37 off your first AIRNNB experience if you are a new user by clicking here.

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HOSTELS

 

Hostels are most young backpackers first option. Many popular hostels are generally centrally located, in areas in which hotels would be triple the price and it is an easy environment to meet other like minded travellers.

I must admit, I have not stayed in many hostels, although some of them that I have stayed in were quite neat.

The reason that I do not stay in hostels is because I work full time on the road and I absolutely need my space and privacy. I do not like sharing a space with a large amount of people and will stay wide awake at night to even the slightest sound of snoring.

Hostels are a great option for solo travellers, but if you need privacy like I do, then there are still options out there to meet people.

After comparing the prices, I have found in many places that a centrally located private room in a house with Airbnb is often the same price as a bed in a shared 8 person room in a hostel.

Yeah, that is nice, but I travel alone and I want to meet other people, I hear you saying….

If you decide to stay in a private room near a popular hostel, you still have the option of visiting there. Many established hostels have a small restaurant or area where you can have a coffee, which is a great option if you want to want to pay a visit and socialize, without actually staying there.

In many hostels they have the option to buy a private room for a higher price, which can be very useful, especially if you are traveling with your romantic partner. The price for one person will be much higher than some hotels or Airbnb options, but if you are traveling with another person, it will come out much more affordable.

BED & BREAKFAST

 

I really enjoy a nice bed & breakfast, especially when I travel to more rural places. From time to time, I like to look for a place that is a bit more cozy and traditional, further away from the city, with a nice chimney and views of the nature.

I love the idea of supporting the local community and the great part about this option is that they are private family homes. Some of them can be very nice and at a fraction of the price of a hotel.

This is a shared environment, so it is a good and friendly place to meet other people. You typically have a shared home made breakfasts with other travellers. It can be a very unique experience!

Highly recommended!

HOTELS

 

My favorite website to search for hotels is booking.com

I love the way in which I can filter exactly what I am looking for and organize it according to my budget and needs.

There are countless options available out there for reasonably priced hotels, ranging from very basic to higher end.

Staying in hotels gives you the complete flexibility to come and go as you want and the convenience of 24/7 front desk assistance to help you in case of an emergency.

 

HOUSE OR PET SITTING

 

How could a stranger ever trust a random stranger to watch over their home or pet while gone?

Many seasoned travellers like to leave their homes and go to another part of the world, especially during colder months, but often have no one to take care of their house, water their plants, feed the fish or take care of the yard. Others would love to travel with their animal, but the place they are visiting does not allow them.

In these situations, people are desperate to find someone to stay in their house and watch over things while they are gone.  It would give you that once in a life time opportunity to live and travel to a cool place, rent free!

Some websites that allow you to search for this kind of opportunity: 

https://www.trustedhousesitters.com ($60 annual fee)
https://www.housecarers.com ($55 annual fee)
https://www.mindmyhouse.com ($20 annual fee)

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FRIENDS OR FRIENDS OF FRIENDS

 

Have you ever became good friends with a foreigner that came to visit or live for a period of time in your city? Or do you know a friend from school or college that has family or friends in another country?

Maybe you have no direct connection to people abroad, but if you look around, I am sure you can find someone that does.

Do not be afraid to ask others for their connections.

I am so grateful for all of the amazing people, especially through social media, that have connected me over the years with their friends and family around the world, which were obviously complete strangers to me at first.

You just never know what kind of connections people have.

There are so many eager people all around the world that would love to have you as a guest during a summer stay, or might even know of a job that you could do for a few months, giving you the opportunity to see a new culture and get some international work experience.

Facebook has SO many active groups and even by reaching out on there, you can find people that would love to help you out. When I travel to a country, I like to join different Facebook groups beforehand and connect with people living in that country in order to make new friends, get travel information and see the latest that everyone is saying in reference to news and updates there.

WORK AWAY / HELPX

 

This is an excellent option if you are looking to live abroad and stay and work in one set place. This option typically provides you with accommodation and food in exchange to working a certain amount of hours a day. However, I have met many people that have found paid jobs or a free job eventually turned into something paid. There are many opportunities available out there, so it is just a matter of doing some research.

Understand that not everything you find advertised is as good as it seems and like everything else, there are some obvious dangers.

Read the reviews people who have worked there, communicate by video before hand with the owners and share your plan, work address and any detail possible with your family members and friends.

Remember, you are going to do work in exchange for a place to stay and some food.

That DOES NOT mean that you are their slave and that you should be working all day, without free time. Before going, make an agreement (written if you can) on your working conditions, hours and what is included, so that there is no confusion when you arrive!

Some helpful websites: 

https://www.helpx.net
https://www.workaway.info

WOOFING

 

Woofing is an organization that helps to connect anyone who is interested in learning about organic farming and are not afraid to get their hands dirty.

They offer free accommodation and food in order to stay and work on a farm and learn all there is to learn about organic farming from first hand experience. Although I have never done (or plan to) do this, I have heard from other travellers in my path that it is a neat experience that allows you to learn a new skill, sometime a language and gives you the opportunity to live in a new country.

Just like I mentioned on Workaway, you must be careful and selective with who you work for, have an agreement, check the references and understand that you have the right to your own free time after your set working hours are done.

WOOFING is available in all of the continents around the world, (well, except Antartica).

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AU PAIR

 

This was my first gig when I moved abroad in 2013 to live in Spain. I had no idea what being an Au pair was when I first discovered it, but I quickly realized it was a job that suited me and was a perfect way to get my foot in the door to getting a visa and finally living my dream of moving to Europe.

If you are wondering what an Au pair is, it is basically like a really cool foreign babysitter (female or male) that typically teaches a foreign language.

When I moved to Spain, I moved in the home with a family with a 5 year old daughter named Laura in Zaragoza, Spain. I took her to and from school, played games with her, went on their family vacation and was basically like a big sister to her. The family wanted her to get get a culturally enriching experience as a young girl and also to have the opportunity to learn and practice English on a daily basis.

Every situation is different, but typically you will get an allowance ($300-600) a month, along with free food and accommodation.

Obviously, not every family will be a match for you, which is why it is important to talk and video call them as many times as possible before making a big move across the world.

However, if the situation ends up being a total disaster, you are not stuck (which is a fear that holds many people back from doing it).

If you find out after a period of time that the family is NOT a match, you can easily find something new once you are there, through word of mouth, local Facebook groups etc.

I mention this due to my own personal experience. I left my original family after 3 months to do something different. Sometimes things do not go the way you had originally planned and that is OK!

I highly recommend checking out reputable websites and reviewing all the different profiles available.

There are so many options to choose from.

Click here to visit the website that I used to find my first family in Spain: Au Pair World 

CAMPING

 

I will admit, I am not a traveler that tends to camp, especially if I am alone (well, unless it is in the desert or in an absolutely beautiful place).

The more I travel, the more I meet travellers that only camp on a daily basis. If you are traveling during warm months of the year and you love the outdoors, then camping is a great and affordable option.

Camping in the Desert in Oman

Camping in the Desert in Oman

Not only will you save money, but you will get the opportunity to have a unique experience outside of the busy, populated cities.

It is important to check the restrictions in each place because it is actually prohibited in many places around the world.

If you get caught, there are very hefty fines!

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OVERNIGHT TRANSPORTATION

 

Over night transportation is quite amazing, especially in places like South East Asia. If you are trying to see as much as possible in a short amount of time, without waisting a minute, this is your option.

In Asia, for example, many busses have beds with curtains, plug ins and blankets/pillows.

I was first introduced to this while traveling to Sapa in the north of Vietnam. It was unbelievably comfortable and I slept just as good there as I would in regular bed.

Over night trains are also an excellent option (and super comfortable). I did my first over night train in Thailand and it only cost me around $10!

Again, you have a full bed with a complementary blanket and a pillow.

Any chance I get to travel by night I do so. I love the feeling of arriving in a place and not losing a single hour time of day time.

RENTING A CAR OR VAN

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If you will be traveling in one country for a long period of time, then renting a van or RV could be a good option. This will give you the flexibility to freely visit places and not have to deal with spending time looking for accommodation.

Keep in mind, if you cross the border into another country in a rental vehicle, there is often times an additional charge. If you forget to mention it to the company, they might charge you an additional $1.000 penalty- no exaggeration! 

If you are traveling for a short time and have a small budget, you could rent a bigger car and convert it into a place to sleep. I have met many travellers, especially in Europe, that are camping in their cars in order to save money.

This gives them the flexibility to sleep for a few hours and then keep driving, so they do not lose any of their precious time.

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SILENT RETREATS

 

Can you believe that I spent 20 days of my life in complete silence, without any electronics or social media?!

Well, neither can I!

If you are looking for an option that will give you a break from the chaotic and loud world,  then a silent retreat is an option worth looking into.

I did my first 10 day Vipassana silent retreat back in 2016 in India.

You must register in advance because the spaces fill up FAST in most places. The retreat is free of charge (with food and accommodation included).

You are served the whole 10 days by volunteers that give up their lives in order to help you have a life changing experience. With that said, you SHOULD tip at the end. The amount you leave is up to you, but considering that you do not pay to be there, the least you can do is give a good tip.

I also did another 10 day silent retreat in Thailand, called Suan Mokkh.

It was very similar to Vipassana, but involves daily yoga, chanting and group meditation.

I highly recommend both of them, especially Suan Mokkh.

You must keep in mind that this is NOT for the weak of heart. It is very difficult and it will push you way past your limits.

Did I mention that there was no eating after 12 in the afternoon?

Yeah….

You might want to consider the living conditions before you commit.

  • No talking
  • No eye contact with others
  • No caffeine
  • Separation from males (obviously no sex)
  • No smoking or drugs
  • No electronics
  • No reading
  • No exercise (Vipassana)

It is a difficult experience, but if I can sit in silence for 20 days of my life with the active mind that I have, then anyone can!

MONASTERY STAYS

 

If you want a very unique experience, with direct communication and quality time with the nuns, then try staying at a monastery!

I truly enjoyed my experience staying with them. It was unlike any experience that I have had until now!

In each place that I stayed, the nuns did a nightly biblical lesson and sang songs. It is far from a luxurious stay, but the memories you will take away have no price tag.

Typically the accommodation comes with just a hard bed and desk, with simple meals prepared by the nuns.

The location depends on how much you will spend per night, but you can find anything from $5-50 in most places.

Helpful website: www.monasterystays.com

 

HOUSE SWAPPING

..

This may be WAY outside of your comfort zone, but this type of experience DOES exist (it is not just in the movies!)

While I have never done it, I think it is a fantastic opportunity!

It will give you the chance to share your life, home and resources with someone else, as well as give you a mutual experience in a distinct place around the world.

You just NEVER know, maybe you will find a new lifestyle that fits you better than your own in another place.

Useful website: www.homeexchange.com

….

BUS STATIONS OR AIRPORTS

I mention this as an option only for a one night stay if you arrive late to a destination or you have a very early morning flight the next day and it does not make much financial sense to get a room for just a few hours.

Many places (especially airports) have security and even free wifi. Bus stations can be a bit dangerous depending where you are, so do not let your guard down.

I have stayed in many airports (few bus stations) in my trips. This ensures me that I do not miss my flight or have to take a late night taxi to arrive to a 0400 am flight.

 

What ways do you save on accommodation?

Connect with me on Instagram: 1nomadicdreamer and share!

 

 

Don’t forget to also check out: 

5 IMPORTANT THINGS I HAVE LEARNED DURING SELF QUARANTINE

IS SOLO TRAVELING WEST AFRICA WORTH THE EXPERIENCE?

SURVIVING MALARIA COMPLETELY ALONE IN LIBERIA

 

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Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comWays to Save On Accommodation While Traveling
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Surviving Malaria COMPLETELY Alone in Liberia

If you ask most people out there, the thought of traveling alone is NOT exactly the most appealing idea. Many like the idea of exploring the world, but with the comfort of a friend, family or significant other by their side.

However, COMPLETELY ALONE…..that raises too many fears and doubts, right? 

The talk about fears as a solo traveler comes up ALL the time in my conversations, especially when people find out how much I actually travel.

Just to get the perspective from other women, I like return the question and get their personal opinion of travel, especially in regards to going alone, and find out what holds many of them back.

When I ask non-traveling women, or ones that have the desire to venture out on their own (but are too nervous to make that decision, I typically hear three main fears:

    1. Getting abducted by some crazy stranger
    2. Being stuck abroad, completely alone, with sickness, disease, or hospitalized.
    3. Feeling overly lonely.

I hear these three common fears ALL of the time. They are very normal and most women travelers have had at least one of these fears at some point or another while on the road, whether it was before they started, or during the time that they are gone. I have had all three of these fears many times throughout my time abroad.

Unfortunately, in April 2019, one of these three fears actually happened to me.

Without a doubt, I can say this one experience (until now) has been one the scariest things that has ever happened to me as a traveler…

 

So, let me start off with how it all started……

In early 2019, I was looking for a new kind of experience. I was going through a stage where I was completely bored with European travel. I had finished a long trip through Southeast Asia about 6 months prior and was saving South America and the Caribbean for another moment.

My adventurous side was calling out my name. I searched endlessly for a wild experience that I had never had before and something most solo female travelers would never think about doing. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I just knew that there had to be some sort of exciting adventure that I could have that was totally off the beaten path.

I looked up routes all over the world and FINALLY ended up finding my next adventure: Overlanding West Africa.

Traveling West Africa has its own share of challenges. When I made this plan, I had just finished 6 months of physical rehabilitation, due to a bad motorcycle accident I had over the previous summer in Thailand. The doctor had just given me the approval to get on the road and the pain was finally under control to the point that I could carry a backpack again on my newly healed collar bone.

I bought a one-way ticket to Nouakchott, Mauritania and started making my way south by public transportation. All I wanted during this time was pure adventure: staying with local families in their homes, public transportation (some hitchhiking) and an authentic immersion into the African culture, that would place me WAY outside of my comfort zone.

During this time, it was was just me, myself, and I.

No plan.

No expectations.

No time frame.

No travel partner

Everything was truly going PERFECT….

I was having a genuinely great experience, meeting incredible people, and visiting places that I did not even know existed on the map.

I continued on with my positive experience into Liberia, visiting a beautiful Eco Lodge right outside of Monrovia, called Libassa. The location of the lodge was perfect. My cozy eco cabin was located on in the middle of the woods, only a short walk from the white sandy beach. I literally had the best of both worlds!

I quickly unpacked my bags and anxiously walked around to get familiar with the area, which would be my home for the next three days.

Out of nowhere, the first symptom hit hard: an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion.

I had just traveled hours to get to the lodge, in the hottest part of the day, so I blew it off and took a small nap. I woke up shortly after feeling unrested, so I took a brief walk and decided to call it a night.

I woke up feeling better the next day, just knowing that all I needed was a good night’s rest in order to feel myself again.

During the day, I relaxed and then visited their private animal sanctuary. I was able to see the rescued animals and learn about all the positive work they are doing to save and protect wild animals in Liberia. I felt completely normal!

As the evening crept in, the new symptoms appeared: bursting headache, a thirst that felt like not even 100 bottles of water could quench, and absolutely no appetite (which is not normal for me).

I laid down in the bed and felt anxious and restless. I tossed and turned and continued to drink water, telling myself it was ONLY dehydration. On the second night I was unable to sleep. I felt all of the muscles in my back aching and no matter which way I turned, I could not get comfortable. I went through moments where I felt like I was on fire, followed by uncontrollable shivering and chills.

On day three, I woke up so weak that I could barely walk. I knew something was seriously wrong at that point and it was WAY more than just dehydration.

After days of ignoring the signs and thinking I would just get better on my own, I decided I couldn’t go on any further.

I could literally hold myself up to get to the reception of the hotel.

Everything from that point was an absolute blur. My knees were weak and shaky and I urgently called a taxi to take me to the international hospital. Honestly, I barely remember that long ride there. All I remember is stepping foot in the hospital and collapsing on the floor the moment I walked in.

The doctor gave me one look up and down and said,  “WOW, you look terrible!”

He took my blood, gave me some tests and within minutes told me that I tested positive for a bad case of malaria. Without even asking, he told me that I would be instantly admitted into the hospital.

The local doctor looked at me in shock and asked me over and over, “Why did you wait to come in? Miss, did you know that this could’ve EASILY killed you. You are so lucky.”

At that point, his words did not really sink in. I felt worse than I had ever felt in my entire life.

The symptoms only grew worse and I honestly felt like I was out of my mind. The doctor put an IV in my arm and told me to not panic and a few minutes I found out why he had given me that warning.

A strong sense shock took over my body. The medicine started to kick in all at once and it was simply too much for my small body to handle. Frightened, I called the doctor and told him that I was having an adverse reaction. I could not think or see straight and I felt so much anxiety that I thought I was going to rip off the IV and jump out the window. He assured me that all of the feelings that I was having were completely normal.

I sat up in the hospital bed, shaking profusely, while frantically looking at the clock and waiting for time to pass.

The more I let my mind roam, the more anxious I felt. I was there all alone, with no family, friends or contacts, and honestly doubtful if I was going to make it out alive from this living nightmare.

Those were some of the worst hours and thoughts that I have ever had in my life, but in the end, I made it.

I was released from the hospital and agreed with the doctor that I would finish my medications by mouth over the next three days. Keep in mind that most people that get malaria can get rid of it by just taking medication at home by mouth during three days.  My situation was more serious and I needed a double dosage, which is why I had to continue taking the medications after being released from the hospital.

My Couchsurfing host was traveling outside of Liberia at the time, but he allowed me to stay at his house while he was gone so that I could continue on with my recovery.

I just assumed that I was going to get better from that point on, but I was COMPLETELY wrong….

In the middle of the night, after arriving at the apartment, my fever spiked again out of control. I did everything the doctor told me to lower a high fever, but no matter what I did, I could not seem to get it down.

I admit, I panicked.

All I could do was cry hysterically. I was in pain and I was so terrified that I would not wake up the next morning. No one was around to check on me, which only made that fear grow stronger by the minute.

During those long weeks getting over malaria, I lost all my strength and looked like a bag of bones. In a given day, I was lucky enough to force down a mango or avocado.

Despite it all, I continued to look forward and stay positive.

The day finally came that I woke up feeling better, but it was a long process towards a fully recovery.

I had to reevaluate my plan and quickly decided to end my West African trip shortly after. All of the malaria medications destroyed my body, messed up all my blood levels and left me with very bad anemia.

The road to recovery was VERY slow. Even after 6 months, I did not feel my normal self…

Traveling the world can be such a beautiful and rewarding experience, but there are some serious dangers out there, especially regarding health safety.

I’m writing and sharing my story with you the midst of a national health emergency with Coronavirus. I am trapped inside my Airbnb in Ecuador, unable to walk the streets (unless I have a good reason) and with a strict curfew of 9 pm-5 am.

The world is in a state of panic right now and this time being quarantined inside has given me time to reflect on my life experience and this awful health scare that I had just 11 months ago.

I want to urge you to NEVER ignore any odd symptoms that your body may be having, ESPECIALLY while traveling to a country where disease and infection are common.

When you notice a change in your body, go to the doctor and get checked, especially if you are traveling in a country with malaria.

There are more than 195 million cases of malaria each year and over 500,000 deaths.

What I learned from this horrible experience is that strange, out of the ordinary symptoms are NOT something to play around with.

The moment you these symptoms, you should immediately visit the doctor to get checked:

  1. High fever
  2. Shaking/chills/sweating
  3. Headache
  4. Unusual muscle pain
  5. Nausea/Vomiting

Unfortunately, if you have malaria and wait too long to get tested, it might just be too late.

Malaria DOES and WILL kill you…..

 

Don’t forget to also check out:

IS SOLO TRAVELING WEST AFRICA WORTH THE EXPERIENCE?

OVERLAND TRAVEL TO LIBERIA, AFRICA: A COUNTRY OF LONG STANDING RESILIENCE

THE ONE THING THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT

 

PaquiSurviving Malaria COMPLETELY Alone in Liberia
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Is Solo Traveling West Africa Worth the Experience?

While other people see traveling alone as an act of courage, I now consider it normal. That could not be further from the person that I was in my late teens, that frequently mentioned, 

“I would NEVER consider traveling all alone. That would be too dangerous and scary!” 

Just the single thought of traveling alone years back, without the comfort of a friend or boyfriend by my side, brought me severe anxiety and an over whelming feeling that I could not even think about facing. 

Sure, traveling across Europe and North America is not so scary, right? 

While there are dangers to be found in any part of the world, for the most part, many European countries tend to be safer than other locations, with easy transportation and up to date infrastructure, allowing for trouble free travel between the countries.    

Let’s face it…there is an obvious sense of comfort to be found while traveling to more organized and developed countries. You still get that sense of adventure, but it’s less risky.

HOWEVER, that comfort easily diminishes the further you travel off the normal path, especially to parts of the world where most travellers do not step foot, like West Africa. 

West Africa is known as one of the most difficult areas of the world to travel to overland. Lack of infrastructure, unpaved roads, unsuitable conditions for the public transportation (I have no idea how there are not more wrecks with how old and run down the taxis and mini busses are) and a lack of connection between countries, which makes it very difficult to travel with ease across borders. 

After many years of traveling, I became addicted to this lifestyle. After becoming a “true addict,” I decided that I wanted to travel to every single country, and from that point I set off to make that goal become a reality.

In 2019, the time came to plan my next adventure. I was contemplating many places close to Europe and the thought came to my mind to organize an independent overland adventure across West Africa (no tour), something that you cannot find much credible information on while searching online. 

I honestly had NO idea what I was getting myself into.

All that I had in mind was the time in which I wanted to go, the countries that I wanted to visit, and I told myself I would plan the rest along the way. I bought a one way ticket to Nouakchott, Mauritania from Spain and my plan was literally unplanned and up in the air the rest of the way. 

The lack of information online can cause even the most experienced traveler a bit of discomfort, ESPECIALLY for a solo female. 

I decided to face a huge fear of mine and try to make the long journey from Mauritania all the way to Angola (I will save that dramatic story of why I didn’t make it all the way there in another article). 

This overland path would entail crossing by foot across some of the most corrupt borders in West Africa, such as Rosso, Mauritania to Senegal. Other borders that I was planning to cross did not even have a single piece of information online to direct me and in many cases I eventually found out that some of the plans I originally had in my head of how I was going to get from one point to another, was completely ridiculous and unsafe. 

I often had to change my plan, especially the further south that I got, towards Guinea Bissau–Guinea–Sierra Leone—Liberia. 

Given that there is such little information available, I felt like the majority of my trip was trial and error and that I was literally planning each border crossing and experience day by day, depending on the advice I got from local people that I asked along the way. Obviously, I listened to the locals advice in many situations, but it was very common to hear,

“Ohh, it is SO safe here- do NOT worry. The people here are really nice and never hurt anyone.” 

Sure, maybe they would not hurt or rob their own people, but a solo American female, with a nice back pack (people tend to think of $$$), could possibly be another story. I am not out to think that people are out to get me, but I do understand that a locals experience is sometimes a bit biased. 

I have to admit, the unknown kept me up at night (especially on days when I was exhausted, alone for countless days without an interaction with another person or traveler or had a bad travel day), wondering and reflecting on all the possibilities.

What if someone kidnaps me at gunpoint?

With all of the ridiculous drivers, what if I get in the hands of the wrong person?

What will I do if someone tries to violate me?

What happens if I am in the wrong place at the wrong time? 

When people see my travels across the world on social media, they often think that I am some kind of fearless traveler because I do unordinary things. The truth is that I fear on a daily basis, especially when I allow my mind to take control.

However, one truth that I stand behind is that:

No matter how much fear that I have, I will never allow it to hold me back and be a barrier between me and my dreams. I have taken on the motto for my life, “Feel the fear and do it anyways!” 

Regarding my route across West Africa, it consisted of this: 

Mauritania — Senegal — Gambia — Guinea Bissau — Guinea —- Sierra Leone — Liberia — Ivory Coast — Ghana — Togo — Benin

When major hardship took over my travel and I realized that I was not going to make it all the way to Angola, I decided to turn around in Benin and return to Togo and back to Ghana, before flying to the island of São Tomé and Principe. 

During this wild four month journey, I decided to do everything by public transportation. When we talk about public transportation, we’re not thinking about these big elegant, coach buses that you see in in western countries.

 

NOOOO WAY!! 

What I’m talking about is traveling in awful, run down cars/vans, which are prone to break down every few hours, crammed full of sweaty strangers/animals, in the boiling heat, stacked one on top of the other.

In some countries the transportation was better than others. Strangely enough, if you risk your life and ride on the top of the SUV in some places, you can actually get half off your ticket price. 

Hmmmm…….

While the West African countries are quite small, especially in comparison to other countries in the world, it does not take away the fact that the distances are extremely long, especially in the old, broken car. I can’t tell you how many days I spent 13 + hours crammed on top of an old lady or man (or vice versa), in 95 degree heat (obviously, with no air) and crammed to the point that I thought I was going to explode.

It brings you quite a big of anxiety just reading this no? (I feel anxious just writing and thinking back on this myself) 

Most recommend that you should avoid overland travel at all costs, due to the fact that accidents occur on a regular basis from the crazy drivers (lots of drunks on the road).

In fact, it is a known belief within the locals that you are more likely to die from traveling by car than you are in disease in this part of the world ( and there are A LOT of disease) —  I am not sure if this is actually true, but this is what the locals swear by. 

Looking back on all of this (and lucky to be alive), the experience was one that changed me from the inside out and took my ability to travel as a solo traveler to the next level.  It gave me a new sense of confidence in myself that I never knew that I had and literally pushed me outside my human limits.

It was NOT easy.

In fact, it was quite exhausting, but it was hands down one of the most rewarding journeys that I have ever taken. 

So, was it really worth the risk, you might be asking? 

 

To be honest, I left the experience feeling completely empowered, knowing that I faced a huge fear and did something that most people would never dare to do. It’s easy to have an idea in your mind of what you want, but quickly get discouraged and convince yourself of all of the things that could possibly go wrong, like I did in the beginning of my trip through West Africa. 

But that’s what life is about: RISK

It´s about daring to do something outside of the box and going down paths that the majority of people wouldn’t even think about going down (this is applicable for life, not just travel). 

There is a sense of empowerment in these types of experiences and honestly this feeling helped me to power through on those difficult days of traveling throughout West Africa, when my body and mind were both screaming,

JUST GIVE UP!!!

 

Over those four months of traveling,  I wanted to throw in the towel and give up on many days. I was tired, exhausted, lonely, fearful, frustrated and anxious in so many different occasions. But, I tried to keep in mind that those were JUST moments, like the passing of a big storm in the night. This helped me to realize that if I just stuck to my goal, then this uncomfort would die down soon enough. 

So the question you are probably asking yourself is, “Why in the world would you EVER put yourself through that? Where is the fun?

Still to this day I have not been able to find a good answer to this question.

In a twisted way, there was something so beautiful about being outside of my comfort zone and completely terrified to the point that I thought I literally could not go forward.

There was some sort of twisted beauty as well about being crammed in the back of a small shared taxi in the torturing heat, with children and chickens sitting on my lap and a sense of dirtiness that seemed like not even 100 showers could clean off me. 

Despite the difficult moments that I had in this adventure, I truly felt more connected to humanity than I had ever felt in my entire life.

Sleeping on hard floors/beds every night, using a small hole in the floor to go to the bathroom, having a small cold bucket for showering daily and traveling thousands of miles in terrible public transportation humbled me as a person and genuinely put me in my place.

Those late nights eating from a big shared bowl on the floor, in the pitch dark, with a family of Africans, were unique experiences that connected me more with others and gave me a deep sense of pleasure, realizing that happiness is truly something that you can find in the most simple and ordinary things. 

My thought for anyone reading this: The next time you think about taking an adventure across the world, don’t always go for the most comfortable and touristic destinations.

 

Dare to do something different.

Dare to step outside of your comfort zone and see where life takes you.

Dare to live an experience that greatly challenges you.

Dare to directly feel the sensation of uncomfort and fear. 

,

If you open your heart and mind to new experiences and chances, each and everyone of us has the possibility to be transformed and completely alter the lens in which you see the world and humankind.

Would I return to West Africa? Absolutely

Would I do the whole thing by land again? NO WAY! 

Do I recommend this experience and this route to other travellers? Without a doubt

 

Get outside of your comfort zone and take the road less traveled. 

 

……

Don’t forget to also check out:

10 MOST COMMON QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ON TRAVELING ALONE TO SAUDI ARABIA

WHAT TRAVEL ELECTRONICS & ACCESSORIES DO I USE?

OVERLAND TRAVEL TO LIBERIA, AFRICA: A COUNTRY OF LONG STANDING RESILIENCE

 

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