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Dismantling Misconceptions || Colombia Edition

“You’re from Colombia? Where the drugs at?” This was how Paola, my Colombian friend, was greeted when we visited Nebraska together. With Pablo Escobar and Narcos purporting this image through the media, it’s not surprising that people react this way when the country is mentioned.

Medellín, Colombia

It’s disheartening to witness this negative perception manifest itself so often, because Colombia is the most selfless, non-materialistic, high-spirited, and genuinely radiant culture that I’ve experienced.

Here are a few takeaways that you should remember Colombia for: 

1. They’re the #2 Happiest Country in the World

According to Gallup’s 2018 Survey of Happiness, Hope, and Economic Optimism, Colombia is ranked the second happiest country in the world. As a country that has endured decades of violence and political instability, it’s incredible that its citizens are the most joyful, content people that I have ever met.

They thrive on their celebrations, fiercely love their families, and largely define their success based on their relationships and the time they get to spend with loved ones, rather than by their riches, societal status, or rung on the career ladder.

Hardship is faced with a conviction that things will always improve over time with time and with faith in God.

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Rio Bonda, Santa Marta, Colombia

2. Most Locals Don’t Do Any Drugs

The only real market for drugs comes from the tourists creating demand for it. While most people fail to admit it, drug use is remarkably widespread in the United States. It’s become normalized in the American culture for college students to do drugs – recreational use of them is ingrained in our culture and is glorified by the media.

In Colombia, on the other hand, I did not encounter one person in their twenties with any interest in drugs. There was a clear aversion to drugs from millennials; they knew that a path that included drugs would bring a whole slew of problems along with it.

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Taganga, Santa Marta, Colombia

3. Music, Dance, and Art Can Be Found With Every Turn

Colombia pulses with an organic energy. Having a good time is defined by music, dance, and fellowship with others, rather than by expensive venues and activities.

Artisans and street artists run rampant, and locals can be found consistently supporting one another’s crafts. I befriended dancers in Santa Marta, Medellín, and Cartagena, and heard incredible musicians on public transit in Bógota.

Even the cross-country buses blast reggaeton music and play music videos on their televisions, no matter the hour. In the three times that I rode cross-country transportation (20+ hours each time), the only break from music was to play comedy specials on their televisions, which had everyone on the bus roaring with laughter in the dead of night.

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Comuna 13, Medellín, Colombia

4. Safety Is As Much of an Issue As With Any Large City

The most common reaction I received after telling someone I was going to Colombia was a warning not to go alone. I was flooded with unsolicited advice about how I’d get kidnapped or robbed or mugged if I traveled there.

While it is important to stay aware of your surroundings, as long as you avoid certain areas, don’t walk alone late at night, and don’t flaunt yourself as a foreigner, there’s no reason to be targeted or to fear for your safety. As with all places, people would rather help you than hurt you.

Every time I was out in the evening, kind locals would offer to walk me home. There’s a culture of looking out for one another, and a solidarity among community members that I have not felt anywhere else.

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Fusagasugá, Colombia

5. Sharing Is Ingrained Into the Culture

Perhaps it has to do with being such a religious community, or perhaps it’s their family values that drive their generosity. Whatever the case may be, people don’t think twice before sharing what they have. If anyone has a snack or plastic bag filled with water, there’s no question whether it will be shared among everyone, no matter how small it may be.

Even the word sharing is used in Colombians’ vocabulary more than I’ve ever heard it used in the U.S. People talk about wanting to spend time with others to share, to go to the beach to dance and share, or to eat together and share.

When meeting someone for the first time, the person will make strong eye contact, and either take your hand or hug you and kiss you on the cheek.

These small gestures will fill you with a sense of belonging, community, and being authentically seen.         

Instead of the fear I was told to feel by society and the media, I felt safe, loved, and genuinely cared for by the people I met. People consistently went out of their way to help me and to help each other.

These are the qualities of the culture worth talking about. Despite a troubled past, the country has remained resilient and economically made a major comeback, now sporting one of the most stable economies in South America.

With several cities booming with digital nomads and tourism rates skyrocketing, I hope that more tourists will start to visit for more than just an inane desire to have nights they won’t remember clubbing and snorting coke.

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Motorbiking Vol. II: A Car Collision and a Lost Passport on the Vietnam-China Border

My hip throbbed as I writhed to free myself from underneath the bike. The windows of the mud-splattered mini-van slowly rolled down  to reveal four wide-eyed Vietnamese toddlers with dropped jaws. A miniature man hopped out from the front seat to help lift the bike off of my crumpled body.

Between the pouring rain, my tears, and the shock of the situation, I struggled to get my eyes to focus. He uttered something that sounded encouraging in his sing-song tonal language, picked up my motorbike, and gave me two thumbs up. I shakily returned the two thumbs up, and before I could even get up, he was back in his car and continuing on his journey up the mountain.

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I scrambled to get off the path and out of the way of other vehicles. I’d been riding the Ha Giang Extreme Motorbike Loop, a winding path up and down mountains and through valleys on the border of Vietnam and China.

It’d been a spontaneous decision to take the road trip alone. Since it was the last leg of my trip in Vietnam before heading over to Singapore, I didn’t have the flexibility to coordinate the trip with the other teachers at the school I’d been teaching at in Hai Phong.

Our head of school, Kim Anh Lu, advised that it would be a trip best taken with a strong man to protect me; she had taken the trip with the man who is now her husband (I’d actually been her bridesmaid just a couple of days prior). Her eyes gleamed, though, when she described the villages untouched by globalization and the exhilaration she felt riding through the peaks, valleys and waterfalls, so I knew I had to take the plunge.

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After taking an overnight bus north, I rented a semi-automatic bike from a shop in a small town at dawn and started teaching myself how to gear shift. A few fellow travelers from Canada, New Zealand, and Australia saw me struggling a bit, and offered to ride together and help each other navigate.

At the point of the crash, it was the last day of my road trip and I had already split ways with most of them. The one I was still riding with, Evan, was ahead of me, and didn’t see it happen. We were winding down a dirt road path on the side of a mountain, and had to beep our horns at each turn to signal drivers coming up; I’d forgotten to beep along a turn, and met the van head-on.

The path was narrow and didn’t exactly give me a place to recover, so I had no choice but to climb back onto my bike and continue. When Evan reached a fork in the road, he turned back to find me; prepared with antiseptic and gauze in his backpack, he helped me wrap my wounds in a valley at the bottom of the mountain.

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Our backpacks were strapped to the back of our bikes, and my biggest mistake was not re-tying my bag after the car crash. After riding for another hour or so, a village woman carrying crops down the road pointed to the back of my bike with concern. I looked back, and the rope that had once held down my bag was dragging along the ground.

My passport, money, and IDs were all in that bag, so I split ways with Evan and decided to turn back. I had to get on the overnight bus that night to return back to the capital for my flight to Singapore the next morning, so I knew I’d have to find my backpack quickly. After hours of fruitless searching, I decided to just finish out the loop and file a police report for the backpack.

Luckily, I had already booked my bus back to the capital, and had my phone safely in the compartment under the bike seat. After arriving back in Hanoi, I trudged four miles to the U.S. Embassy to try to get an emergency passport. I missed my flight to Singapore, and had no money to pay for the new passport. My godfather in Singapore offered to wire me money, but in order to get money wired, I needed to show a passport as identification.

I showed a scan of my old passport to the Embassy, and, after having me fill out some basic paperwork, they straight away printed me an emergency passport. When they rang it up for $130, I explained the situation, and, although a bit irked, they kindly walked me over to Western Union and showed my new passport to the representative there so that I could get the money to pay for the passport. I had to apply for a new visa and book another flight to Singapore, but the whole ordeal only took a few days to resolve.

Everything happens for a reason; in the days that I was stranded in the capital, I ran into a fellow traveler in my hostel that I’d met six months prior in Italy. He’d been my mentor who encouraged me to go to Asia, and seeing him again really brought the whole trip full circle. I got the time to reflect, re-energize, and even play double dutch with kids around the neighborhood.

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Society and the media tend to garner evidence to dissuade us from stepping outside the norm. Their stories purport to be authoritative, and make many feel as if it is unreasonable, illogical, and nearly impossible to live a life outside of our daily routines, 9-5 workdays, and few days of PTO.

Hiccups and all, the Ha Giang Province catalyzed an understanding that we as humans are much more capable, resilient, and self-sufficient than we’re given credit for.

What is something you’ve wanted to do, but have been told is impractical?

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Meditation, Myanmar, and Our Minds’ Mysteries: Getting Lifted to A Place Drugs Can Never Take You

Drugs fling us into the “now”. We see the crisp edges of leaves and appreciate the way they billow in the breeze. We observe the sun glinting off a piece of glass, creating a beautiful rainbow on the sidewalk. Our fast-paced lives can finally slow down. In the haze of drugs, we feel #enlightened and #woke. We feel…alive.

This synthetic shortcut can never match the mind’s natural capabilities. While many glorify drugs as possessing the power to expand the mind, drugs merely give us a fleeting glimpse of the untouched regions of our creative intellects. Even without drugs, the average human being lives in a whirling fog, trapped in the realms of the past and the future. Wake up! Why are you thinking about what just happened? Why are you focused on what may or may not occur? Stop dwelling. Stop worrying. Stop planning. Turn off the incessant flurry of thoughts that ravages your mind. The mind is a tool that you use; do not allow it to control you. What do you see right now? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you taste?

Sweat rolled down my cheek as I entered the fourth floor of “USA Hall” in the ThaBarWa Center of Thanlyin, Myanmar. Mosquitoes swarmed in hordes through the room, and I had run out of clean water in my bottle. The wild dogs shrieked without end, wailing as if they were being stabbed repeatedly. I grabbed a cushion and plopped down on the floor, helplessly trying to ignore my surroundings as I prepared for my first meditation.

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Rita, the Buddhist nun leading, announced that we would be practicing meta-fast breathing meditation. She instructed us to sit with our backs straight, close our eyes, and breathe strongly through our noses. With the noises of the dogs, the nibbles of the mosquitoes, and the taste of sweat on my lips, I could not help but swat and squirm from one position to another. I realized that it was only when I tried to clear my mind that I became hyper-aware of my surroundings.

I snapped back into focus as I heard Rita forcefully breathing right next to me. She advised me to imagine using a lasso to grab my wandering mind and to reel myself back into a meditative state.

Eventually, my surroundings began to disappear. The black I saw behind my eyelids turned to a deep-sea blue, and my senses numbed until all I could hear was the sound of the room’s synchronized breathing.

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The temperature of my body rapidly increased, and then subsequently cooled to the point where I shivered and shook. I spontaneously burst into tears, choking as I tried to maintain even breath. The blue behind my eyelids began to swirl with rich tones of red and yellow.

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Just when I felt as if my lungs were about to erupt, my body retreated into the utmost calm. I slowly opened my eyes, and Rita and I were the only ones remaining in the room.

She applauded me for allowing my body to go through its “natural changes” and told me that over two hours had passed since we had begun.

My body surged with overwhelming happiness. In a state of utmost calm, I could not focus on anything except the joy of the present moment. I felt the radiance of the streaming natural light, Rita’s spreading smile, and the natural rhythm of my body. I finally felt awake.

As I continued that month under Rita’s mentor-ship, I learned that meditation is not only an isolated practice, but rather, a way of life. I learned to listen to my senses in the present moment and to enable my mind’s hyper-awareness to do “good deeds” and make the most use of the “now”.

Meditation allows me to pry open the seal of the mind’s untapped potential. It unleashed the awareness of my infinite power. It aroused my curiosity for all the forces I interact with in this world. The mind can either act as a hindrance or an instrument in your life. While it may have taken a yank out of my environment to realize this, the way you utilize your mind is not a sum of your atmosphere, but rather, a choice you have to make.

 

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Stranded at 1 A.M. in Patras, Greece: My first CouchSurfing Experience

“You have really outdone yourself this time,” I muttered to myself. Gusts of freezing February air smacked me in the face, prickling the hair on my arms. I fumbled with my phone, weakly trying to look busy as absurdly drunk men hollered my way. Their loud whistles rang in my ears; I might not understand Greek, but I knew exactly what type of vulgarities they were howling.

The pungent odor of filth and perspiration flooded my nose as I frantically racked my brain for a solution. It was 1 o’clock in the morning, I’d just arrived in a foreign city, and I had no Wi-Fi or phone service. My CouchSurfing host was nowhere in sight and all of the hostels were booked solid.

“How did I even get here?” I pondered.

Two nights before the trip, I got in-boxed on CouchSurfing asking why I was going to Athens when this was the biggest weekend for Carnivali in Patras, a city I had never even heard of. The message claimed that Carnivali, a celebration similar to Mardi Gras, was the most amazing festival in all of Europe and I would be nuts not to go.

I took the advice and found a last-minute CouchSurfing host in Patras. He was 41- years old, had a blurry photo, and didn’t have much written on his profile. Regardless, he had plenty of references on CS so I decided to go for it. With such a massive influx of people coming for the festival, I was told that I’d be lucky to find anyone to host me at that point.

Upon my arrival in Athens, I walked straight from the airport to the bus station to buy a ticket to Patras, a city 3 hours away.There was no option to buy bus tickets online, so the masses of people crowding into the bus station felt like Black Friday on steroids.

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After 4 hours waiting in line and 3 hours on the bus, here I was. I’d had Wi-fi on the bus courtesy of Pavlos, the kind 19-year-old who turned on his Hotspot for me, but as soon as I got off, I was completely disconnected. The last message I received from Antonis, my host, said to walk several blocks and wait at a landmark because the traffic was too heavy for him to reach the bus station.

5 minutes passed by. Then 10. Antonis was nowhere to be found. 

As the clock ticked, I found myself wondering why I thought I could travel alone in the first place.

Pavlos was the only person I’d met so far that spoke English. He had offered to host me at his house with his family; perhaps I could walk back to the bus station and still track him down, I thought.

I felt a tap on my shoulder, and as I turned around, I was instantly enveloped in a bear hug. Antonis had finally arrived! Apparently he’d been on the street in his car before that, but since I didn’t notice him, he had to find a place to park before grabbing me.

We hopped into his car and started driving. I started to wonder whether the situation I was in now was any better than being stranded. I was in a strange 41-year-old man’s car at 1 A.M. driving to an undisclosed location where he supposedly lived.

As soon as we arrived at his home, however, all of my fears subsided. I was suddenly in a home teeming with music, smiles, and travelers in their 20’s from all over the world. There were 2 girls from Portugal, 2 guys from France, 1 girl from Canada, and 1 girl from Holland. Before I knew it, I was being fed, given drinks, and chatting about life with my new friends. Antonis had to work a night-shift, but gave us all sets of his keys and told us to have a fun night.

There’s a Greek Proverb that says “If a stranger knocks on your door, you let them in, let them sleep on your bed, sleep on the floor, and the next day, ask them what their name is.” This is the kind of hospitality I received in Greece; Antonis made sure we were all fed, always buying us or cooking us authentic Greek food. He took us to a costume shop to find funny outfits for Carnivali.

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When I got bit in the eye by a rare mosquito and my eye ballooned to the point where I couldn’t see out of it, Antonis went to the pharmacy and bought me medication that reduced the swelling in less than 24 hours. When Angelina, a fellow surfer from Portugal, sprained her ankle, Antonis made sure she was taken care of so that she could still safely have a good time.The next couple of days, he dressed as ‘Snapchat’ and came out to party with us as well.

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The floats in the parade were incredibly intricate and hand-made, and each one had its own story. 

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An homage to Donald Trump 😛

Our nights ended when the sun rose, all sprawling onto air mattresses and couches in exhaustion. We may not have had Wi-fi, but our days were instead filled with compelling conversations about our passions, our cultures, our dreams, and being the ‘Ryan-Air generation’, making waves in cultural understanding.

Intoxicating moments like these do not exist where you are comfortable. If I hadn’t made my CouchSurfing profile, I wouldn’t even know that this city or this festival even existed, let alone have met these beautiful souls. Traveling may not always be sunshine and rainbows, but it’s leaps of faith that electrify our spirits and remind us why we’re so grateful to be alive.

Motorbiking Vol I : A Crash-Course through a Thunderstorm

Upon my arrival in Hai Phong, Vietnam, the only major advice my father stressed was to avoid riding the motorbikes there at all costs. Motorbikes account for 95% of all vehicles in Vietnam, and the licensing laws are largely unenforced. With over 45 million bikes on the road, all you really need is a flimsy bicycle helmet in order to comfortably zoom past the police officers on the roads.

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With the sole purpose of teaching English in the city, I assured my father that I had no intention of attempting something so careless. With no experience motorbiking and no travel insurance, my well-being was not something I wanted to risk.

Fast forward two weeks — I’m settled into my house in Hai Phong and am eagerly hopping on the back of my friends’ motorbikes to get around. I realize it’s impractical to get places without one and get used to all the crazy things my Vietnamese friends do on their motorbikes (from transporting dogs to carrying washing machines!)

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On a weekend trip to Ninh Binh with 13 other teachers and a couple of locals, my friend Maria and I committed to learning to drive. Riding wide open roads through the mountains would by far easier than trying to learn in our huge congested home city. (Fun fact: Hai Phong is the 3rd largest city in the nation!)

After getting a run-down of the bike functions, we successfully drove a couple of loops around an empty parking lot. With boosted egos and adrenaline in our veins, Maria and I decided to rent a motorbike together to travel to the national park 2 hours away from our hostel. Maria would drive the way there, and I would drive the way back.

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Shoddy bikes and inexperienced foreigners are an awful combination; the journey to the park was a struggle to say the least. Fender benders, faulty bike parts, and getting keys locked into one of our bikes were just a few of the disaster moments we encountered. By the time it was my turn to drive the 2 hours back from the park, it was dark,I was exhausted, and my inner daredevil had mysteriously vanished. Regardless, I took a deep breath, mounted the motorbike, and headed on my way.

Within 10 minutes, it started pouring; the Vietnamese have an irrational fear of storms, so we we stopped on the side of the road and hunkered down together. The water level only got higher, given the fact that they don’t have drains to clear the rain out from the roads. We didn’t have a choice but to continue on our journey.

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Blurry-eyed from the rain and sliding on slippery roads, I really couldn’t fathom how I was going to survive the next two hours. Eventually, however, I got used to the lag in brake time. Although it was pitch black, my headlights illuminated a path in front of me. The wind and rain combined with the deafening cracks of thunder and lightning created a terrifying but exhilarating atmosphere. I’d never felt so free.

In the midst of my liberation, my motorbike gave out completely. The engine had stopped running and I was stranded in the middle of the storm; I’d been so enthralled by the intensity of it all that I lost track of my friends. Eager to get out of the rain, they’d zoomed off.

I hopelessly turned the engine off and on, begging it to rev again. After what felt like ages, a couple of my friends looped back and saved the day; it took one person running and pushing the motorbike from behind as the other repeatedly turned the key to get it to temporarily hum again. We managed to get it to the nearest gas station, and it turned out that I’d run out of gas; my fuel gauge was broken so I couldn’t keep track of this as I drove.

Even after refilling the tank, the bike continued to sputter and stop in the last leg of the trip; patience and coaxing eventually got it home.

The engine roaring over the sound of my voice, I belted ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ in the final stretch. While I never expected to have such a challenging first ride, I’ll never forget the thunder rolling and those jagged streaks of lightning lighting up the sky.

Diving headfirst into the unknown is the best way to get comfortable with the water. After a crash-course through a thunderstorm and an extreme motorbike road trip a few weeks later, I can honestly say I’m addicted to the rush.

 

 

Why Traveling Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

I woke up that crisp winter morning with my heart sinking deep into my stomach. It was 8:06 A.M., and it was finally hitting me that I wouldn’t have nearly enough money to last my semester abroad. I had saved $2000 from my previous summer job to cover my expenses for travel around Europe, but when comparing this with my peers, I seemed to have much less money and much more ambitious travel plans. The flight and hostel I’d booked for Paris weren’t cheap to say the least, and as expected, the weekend trip from Italy to France cost a small fortune.

Not only was it incredibly expensive, but I felt deeply dissatisfied with my experience there.

I’d done all the things I thought I was supposed to do; I visited the Louvre, walked up the Eiffel Tower, ate at high-quality restaurants, and I had plenty of picture-perfect photos for my Instagram account.

 

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What did I miss? I felt like an absolute brat; I couldn’t make sense of my negative emotions.

I knew there had to be a more enjoyable, more affordable way to enjoy my travels. I made a list of my expectations for travel and my subsequent list of disappointments, which led me to understand the root of my discontent; I hadn’t even scratched the surface of the city. I’d seen all the tourist attractions, but this wasn’t the experience that my soul craved.

In order to have an invigorating, cost-effective experience traveling, I knew I would have to try a radically different approach. After much contemplation, I realized that there were only three major expenses necessary for travel; accommodation, food, and transportation. By minimizing these costs, my lofty travel plans could become much more feasible. Here are some ways I found my travel style and saved money.

Accommodation/Food

  • CouchSurfing
    • If you’re low maintenance, up for adventure, and want to see what it’s really like to live in the country you’re traveling to, CouchSurfing may just be for you. It’s a travel community who believes in pure hospitality and deep connections. Using this app/website, you have the opportunity to stay with a local for free on their couch/extra mattress and hear an insider’s perspective on the place you’re visiting. Many hosts will cook at home for you (nearly eliminating all costs for food), and you leave each city with a unique companion to remember the experience by. After staying with over 10 different hosts, I am proud that I can now call these awe-inspiring individuals my friends.
  • Workaway.info
    • Definitely opt for this if you’re looking to spend a longer period of time in a country and don’t mind sacrificing a few hours. Through this website, you can look up “hosts,” who will exchange accommodation and food for your services. Whether it’s teaching English, working in a hostel, babysitting, farm work, or even just some help around the house, you’ll get the chance to live like a local and have plenty of time to explore the city. Most hosts ask for only a few hours of work/day for 4-5 days a week, and the rest of your time is left to explore/travel. My Workaway in Hai Phong, Vietnam was teaching English among 13 travelers from Europe, South America, and South Africa at an English Learning Center. Having the chance to travel around the country together on the weekends really bonded us together, and I even was able to be part of the bridal party for a Vietnamese wedding in my time there!
  • Street Food/Eating from grocery stores
    • Think like a local, not a tourist. If this was your home country, how would you be saving money for food? Eating cheap does not by any means imply that you’ll be eating less tasty or less authentic food, and the bit of money you save every meal adds up.

Transportation

  • Hitchhiking
    • While most people envision holding up a sign and putting one’s thumb out on the side of the road, this is not your only option for hitchhiking! In any country, the best spots to hitchhike from based on your route are just a quick Google search away. In many cases, it may be easier to start at a gas station next to the motorway and ask drivers who are filling gas for a lift in the direction that you already know they are heading in. This method of transportation is not only free, but it’s a huge skill builder; you learn how to be vulnerable enough to ask for help as well as establish a sense of trust with someone in a short period of time. In my experiences hitchhiking, I was able to visit a Buffalo Mozzarella farm along the route with one of my drivers and was even invited to spend a week at a driver’s home with his family on Isola di Dino, an island off of southern Italy!
  • BlaBlaCar
    • This car-sharing service is another great way to make some unlikely friendships and save some cash. Drivers will post where they’re going online, and if you’d like a ride to the same place, you can ride with them and split the gas among the members of the car! For some, this may be an easier and safer-seeming option than hitchhiking.
  • Skyscanner
    • A free website comparing millions of flights, Skyscanner is perfect for finding the most affordable option to get from point A to point B.  The best functions of this site are the “Everywhere” and “Whole Month” options. If you know you want to travel and are flexible about where to go and when, Skyscanner will show you the cheapest location, day, airline, and flight to take. If you’re in no rush to leave, you can even select the cheapest month and the cheapest day within that month to travel!

Although American passports grant access to travel nearly anywhere around the world, the average American has only been to 3 nations. On top of that, nearly 1/3 of residents have never been abroad. The most popular reason for people to postpone traveling is because they don’t have the money, but if you truly want to travel, it really does not have to be expensive at all. It may not necessarily be luxurious, but the wealth of traveling will come from those exhilarating moments that will make you wonder if you ever really need to return home.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Society places an oppressively heavy stigma on being alone. In a generation that tirelessly preaches self-love, autonomy, and freedom,we cannot bear to spend even 5 minutes with ourselves without the distractions of technology, namely social media. This constant connection to the media instills the fear that other parts of the world are just “too dangerous”: you’ll get robbed, raped, kidnapped or killed if you enter a strange unfamiliar place, especially outside the comforts of the Western world. Without having any personal knowledge, we blindly fear the world and even ourselves, allowing it take reign over our lives. Prospects of terrorism, crime, and the barriers of language begin to drive people away from travel, especially solo travel.

Not only is traveling alone “dangerous”, it’s “lonely” and “sad”. “How could you possibly enjoy yourself when you’re all alone?” One might ask.

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Climbing Vitosha mountain in Sofia, Bulgaria!

Here are a few well-kept secrets:

People would rather help you than hurt you.

Studies have shown that we live in the safest time in all of human history. The ability to instantly receive news, see photos, and play-back videos of horrible things that happen around the planet give so many of us a skewed perspective of the world. While the media chooses to focus on crime, traveling will wake you up to the sea of kindness that floods this planet.

Solo travelers have their own sub-culture. 

As you continue your travels, you’ll start bumping into like-minded people who’ve been traveling for months (or even years!) everywhere you go. While you may feel like a misfit when you embark on our journey alone, you”ll find community among other ‘misfit’ travelers. Your ideals that nobody in your hometown could understand will be much more easily grasped by your solo traveling peers.

You’ll never walk alone.

The only truly solo part about solo traveling is the decision aspect; deciding where to go and when. Everywhere you go, you’re destined to meet incredible individuals that you never would have met if you were distracted by the friend(s) you were traveling with; your senses are heightened. Yes, you’re more vulnerable, but this vulnerability opens your mind and your heart to other people to create genuine connections. You don’t have to worry about who you’re expected to be in the context of your home life; you can just be.

Stop forgetting that life itself is a personal journey. There will always be those who are happy to help you, and the positive energy of your confidence and optimism will inevitably attract the right people when you need them.