Win a £3,000 Plane Ticket from HostelBookers! Wednesday, Sep 29 2010 

Last year, 10,000 people entered to win a huge prize from HostelBookers in their annual travel survey.

One faithful fan won the grand prize — a RTW plane ticket.

This year, the stakes have risen.

The 2010 HostelBookers Travel Survey is filled with questions about your travel style — from travel planning to the types of destinations you prefer, as well as your number of travels per year and usual type of lodging.

And — yes, I’m getting there! — the prize, given to one of the respondents: a RTW plane ticket worth £3,000, plus £1,000 in spending money.

Seriously.

If I won, I would make sure I visit destinations that are both expensive to get to and expensive on the ground: Japan, Bhutan, Australia, New Zealand, Botswana.

But even more importantly, I’d party in hostels throughout Europe.  Many of the hostels London has include a fun bar, as you’ve read on this site before!  But nothing could top the parties in hostels Amsterdam is famous for.  I’ve never been to Spain, and I love sangria, so the youth hostels Barcelona is home to would definitely warrant a visit from me.  Either way, I know I’d get a great deal from HostelBookers, who kindly sponsored this post today.

What about you?

TAKE THE SURVEY! What do you have to lose?

And if you win, please let me hide in your suitcase!  I’m excellent at fitting into carry-on luggage…

RTW Itineraries for EVERY kind of traveler! Saturday, Oct 25 2008 

I’ve been playing with RTW (round the world) travel tickets at OneWorld.  I love putting together themed travel itineraries with fifteen destinations or less that span the whole world!

When I do go on my eventual trip around the world (it’s a few years away), I won’t book a RTW ticket — they lock you into an itinerary and force you to use it within a year, start to finish.  That’s a bit much for me.

That being said, here is the itinerary that I’ve been planning for years.  It’s fluctuated a bit, but it’s generally been the same layout.

Click the images to enlarge them.

Kate’s Future RTW Map

–Boston to Auckland
–(overland to Christchurch)
–Christchurch to Melbourne
–(overland to Cairns)
–Cairns to Denpasar, Bali
–Denpasar to Singapore
–(overland throughout Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia)
–Bangkok to Kathmandu
–(overland throughout India)
–Mumbai to Johannesburg
–(overland through Swaziland and Mozambique to Cape Town)
–Cape Town to Cairo
–(overland throughout Israel and Jordan)
–Amman to Istanbul
–(overland throughout Turkey and all over Europe)
–London to Boston

Now…for the crazy ones.

The Best of the Third World!

–start in Detroit (I couldn’t resist)
–Port-au-Prince, Haiti
–San Salvador, El Salvador
–Medellin, Colombia
–Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
–Dhaka, Bangladesh
–Khartoum, Sudan
–Kigali, Rwanda
–Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
–Freetown, Sierra Leone
–Naples, Italy (trust me)
–Chisinau, Moldova
–Kiev, Ukraine
–back to Detroit!

Cosmopolitan Cities and VIP Life

–Start in New York, NY
–Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
–Sydney, Australia
–Tokyo, Japan
–Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
–Bangkok, Thailand
–Cape Town, South Africa
–Dakar, Senegal
–Dubai, United Arab Emirates
–Istanbul, Turkey
–Rome, Italy
–Paris, France
–Barcelona, Spain
–back to New York!

Gay Gay Gay Gay Gay

–Start in fabulous New York
–South Beach (Miami)
–Key West
–Palm Springs
–San Francisco
–Sydney
–Bangkok
–Mykonos (Athens)
–Berlin
–Ibiza
–Paris
–London

If only I could jump on a plane right now.  I can’t wait for Buenos Aires.

Bluelistin’ 2008 Monday, Feb 25 2008 

I just bought the 2008 edition of Lonely Planet’s Bluelist.  This is one of the best travel books out there if you’re looking for the latest, trendiest and most outlandish in travel destinations.

This edition is much more unusual and outlandish than 2007’s.  Because of that, I’ve done hardly anything in the book!  (With stuff like space travel, jailhouse hotels and the most dangerous travel experiences, it’s tough to do any of them!)

I recently visited my first of the top travel destinations in 2007: New Mexico.

2008’s top destinations include Eritrea; Armenia; Australia’s Tiwi Islands; Damascus, Syria; the Raan region of Nicaragua; the Bolivian Amazon, and the Azores (where you can fly DIRECT FROM BOSTON now!).  The ones most likely to be done  by an American are Colorado and Miami, and I’ve visited neither.

So, without further ado, the destinations and travel ideas that I have experienced myself:

Destinations:
–Bologna, Italy (many times, but always briefly)

Countries with the Largest Islamic Populations:
–France (4.8 million, or 7.5% of the total population)
–United States (3 million, or 1.0% of the total population)

Bluelists:

Now you see them, now you…. (Disappearing Destinations)
–Venice

“I’ve been everywhere, man” (Travel Bragging Rights)
–Romancing

Best Brews
–Yuengling in USA
–Guinness in Ireland

Friendliest Countries
–Ireland
–USA

Like the Song? (Best Destination Songs)
–“Life on Mars” by David Bowie
–“Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto

Food Wonderlands of the World
–Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, USA
–Hershey’s Chocolate World, USA

Metropolis Mania (World’s Most Incredible Cities)
–New York, USA

Know Your Travel (Travel Type Trends)
–Armchair Tourism
–Pop Culture Tourism (white chocolate statue of Michael Jackson, aka the main reason why I went to Budapest!)

By the Seat of Your Pants….Literally (Strange Ways to Sit)
–Paragliding
–Gondola ride in Venice

Check out below for the dreamed-about destinations.

(more…)

Winning Money — and Travel Updates Monday, May 21 2007 

Sometimes I think that all I want to do all day is just laze around and barely move, but that always ends up being the worst thing. I had a pretty bad week emotionally, but actually pretty good, workwise, in productivity, and all I wanted to do was just go home and RELAX.

So I slept late — much longer than I usually do, from 11:30 PM to 10:41 AM! — and then just lazed around and read travel books like crazy. I tried to absorb information about Bangkok, about Australian bus routes, about Iceland.

Also!!!! Big news!!!! I won a $500 travel credit from STA travel! On Facebook, they’re giving out $500.00 to two people each week for several weeks, for giving the best travel tips. Now, most of the tips that I saw were pretty dumb and specific to location (“Go to this hotel in New York, it rocks!”), so I pulled out one of my best tips:

“Invest in a zippered pillowcase and put your money belt and valuables in it at night. Not only does that protect them from would-be robbers, it also offers you the chance to have the same pillowcase every night and avoid questionable hostel linens. Plus, they often come in soft fabrics like satin.”

And I won! I got a message on facebook from one of the admins. My tip isn’t posted yet (see “STA Travel: Cheap, Flexible and Easy”) but I think it will be posted next Friday. The claiming must be done by tomorrow, and I’ve already emailed in my claim.

I have to use the travel credit within a year, which means I can’t apply it to my RTW trip. If split between multiple people, they must be under 26. So now I’ve got to think of somewhere to go!

On the boards at Bootsnall, I mentioned that I was considering Las Vegas — while it doesn’t seem like a typical me place, epitomizing all that I hate about the way most people travel (ie spending a lot of money to stay at the hotel all day), especially since I don’t like to gamble and I’m not really drinking much these days, but it could be fun. I’d love to experience the shows, the glitz, and especially the restaurants, though. I book my clients at work for Vegas vacations so much that I feel like I know the restaurants backwards and forwards!

Then someone on the boards suggested, that since I love being a foodie and seeing shows, that I do a long weekend in London.

That would be GREAT, actually. I want the $500.00 to cover mainly the airfare, since I’ll likely be staying in hostels (depending on where I go), and London fares are, at their lowest, just above $500.00 from Boston. I could soak up the culture and eat lots of yummy ethnic food.

However, I’ve been to London before. I’d rather go somewhere new — preferably a new country.

Other ideas:

–I’ve never been to Amsterdam!! This could be that chance!! Flights there are a bit more expensive than elsewhere in Europe, though.

–I looked into San Fermin in Spain (the running of the bulls), but it’s booked solid, as expected.

–I looked at Iceland, but I may be able to fly there cheaper on IcelandAir, and it’s pretty expensive and not as much of a backpacker hub.

–I could fly into Frankfurt (cheap) and visit my German roommate Julia in Mannheim!!!

–I could do a long weekend somewhere in Central America — maybe Guatemala?

–I could hike the Inca Trail in Peru (the hike itself is 4 days) and arrange my guide in advance. That’s best done over the winter.

–Find a cheap flight to a random spot and just chill there for a few days.

–I mentioned to Alexa that maybe we could go to HAWAII!! Again, very expensive, and the flight would definitely cost way over $500, unless we found an amazing deal through STA.

I have to mention that I owe this all to Alexa. She was the one who mentioned that I join the STA group. I wasn’t that enthusiastic at first, thinking that I wouldn’t win, but we see how THAT worked out!! I’ve never been to Hawaii. It would be awesome.

Also, I’ve hit a saving milestone for my RTW: I’ve officially saved over $5,000.00. I’m really happy and proud about that.

However, I am freaking out about money!!! I’ve spent a lot of time today researching Perth, and although I want to go there so much, it seems like it’s so expensive that it wouldn’t be worth it.

So I’ll just be another Oz backpacker, Sydney to Cairns with the rest of them, spending my time on the beaches and drinking my nights away.

Oh God, I sound like a spoiled brat. I’m not going to delete that sentence, because I need to remind myself not to be like that.

I did read more about New Zealand today as well, and I’ve found a few more places to visit: Milford Sound and Franz Josef Glacier. I just have to be careful about not overspending on outdoor activities.

I found a bus system called Naked Bus, which is essentially the RyanAir of the bus world, some rides costing as little as NZ$1.00 (US$0.73). They keep the costs down by cutting out all unnecessary frills. I just hope the seats are more comfortable than those on RyanAir — when flying from London to Bologna, Sars and I slept on top of each other, taking turns being the bottom, resting on the tray.

I also read about some trips from Gap Adventures, a tour company that interested me a while back. Nowadays, I am not interested in tours, but I might consider one overlanding Africa tour. I wouldn’t be comfortable about arranging to overland through Africa on my own, even with a group of fellow travelers that I would meet on the road, so this might be a good idea. I particularly would love to visit Namibia. This tour goes from Cape Town to Victoria Falls, and it’s expensive, but lasts 21 days, and if I keep my other costs down, it might be worth it. Visiting the Okovango Delta in Botswana would be lovely.

I am up later than I usually am these days — it’s 12:16 — and I can’t wait to go to bed and sleep in again tomorrow. I absolutely ADORE having these two days off in a row. You never know how good it is until you miss it.

I’m Investing! Sunday, Apr 29 2007 

As you know, planning my extended trip around the world (not so sure if I should be calling it “a year around the world” because I’d love to go for much longer than that) is my absolute favorite thing to do right now. I’ve been saving my money since my first week at my job, my first post-college job, which I began at the end of July. At first I was saving $100.00 each week, even though I wasn’t making much money at all. I then became a permanent employee and promoted in November, which bumped up my salary considerably, and I’ve been saving more and more now saving $350.00 every two weeks. (I also invest 3% of my salary in my 401k.)

So far, I’ve only had to dip into my savings twice, back in March when I took the trips to Quebec and Texas within weeks of each other. I took out $300.00 at two different times. At this time, after starting at exactly $16.00 in my savings account (I went to Europe in June on reasons of celebrating graduation, being spontaneous, bonding with my sister, and visiting poor James, who had horrible roommates in Florence), I now, at this moment, have exactly $3,922.16 saved.

If I leave in fall 2009, like I had been planning to for a while, I will keep saving at the rate of $8,000.00 per year (a bit more, actually, but that allows for a few withdrawals if I need to do so). That will give me $24,000.00 by that time. Vagabonders (who, like me, travel light, eat street food and sleep in hostels) advise you to plan on spending $1,000.00 per month in most places, less in India and Southeast Asia, and more in Western Europe. It will altogether cost around $3,000.00 for most of the plane tickets, start-up costs and inoculations. I will also need to save a bundle for student loan payments while on the road.

But if I leave next fall, keeping my promise to myself to only stay in Massachusetts for one more winter, I’ll have about $16,000.00. I could also travel for a while that as well. Not for as long, but I could do it.

Now, I spend a lot of time on the boards at BootsnAll (check my profile out, I’m Adventurous Kate!), especially on the “Around the World and Vagabonding Travel” board. There’s also a board about money, which is definitely one of the hot topics.

People who love travel as much as me spend their time at home working multiple jobs and living miserly existences so they can get back on the road as soon as possible with as much money as possible. I understand why they do that, but I could never do that. I don’t want to be miserable for years for the sake of my travel. If I wanted to that, I would still live at home (grah).

I just try to be frugal — my rent is $500.00, which is the cheapest out of anyone I know in the T-accessible Boston area (except for my friend who had Russian roommates’ friends spying on her in the shower, but she only paid $450.00). I’ve been cutting back on alcohol. I’ve found it’s best just not to go out, period. That will sap you of your cash the fastest. And you know what? I think I’m actually a lot happier without alcohol in my life! That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my wine, but still….

Going off on a tangent here, but I just can’t believe how irresponsible so many people my age are. So many have a ton of credit card debt. Some of them ignored their student loan bills until they started coming in bright orange, reading OPEN NOW, and the interest has skyrocketed. Many ignore the 401k option. Still more don’t save ANYTHING whatsoever.

(Side note: remember that episode of Sex and the City when Carrie’s apartment went co-op and she had to buy it to stay there and she only had $500.00 in checking and $700.00 in savings? Yikes!!)

And the lifestyle — so many people my age spend a few nights a week at the bar. Generally, a girl my age/size would spend around $40.00 on an average night out. Can you imagine how that adds up? Concert tickets add up a lot, as well.

Again, so I live modestly. I buy fresh food and cook. I don’t get takeout at work. I try not to buy clothing too often (with exceptions, like my weakness, DSW shoes, and my new HOTT charcoal gray suit which I’ll wear for the next few years). I don’t have special cable. I don’t drive to work except when I can park for free. I buy food on sale.

I could cut down a bit on fighting the urges to get takeout food after work (like my beloved yes cheese-chicken-rice-NO BEANS-salsa, yes-guacamole-sour cream-hot sauce weekly burrito from Anna’s Taqueria, plus the occasional weekly Starbucks beverage). I also buy books more often than I should, and I have two coupons for Express to use by tomorrow, but I’m not going to use them!!!! THAT is resisting temptation — if I spend $100.00, I’ll save $40.00, but I don’t have $60.00 to spend and especially not put on my Express credit card.

Credit cards are EVIL. I’m trying to get in the habit of using my Amex for only groceries, gas, prescriptions and online purchases. The rest of the time it’s strictly my Visa debit card.

So, anyways, I want to save a lot.

A lot of the people on Bootsnall have savings accounts at ING or HSBC. These two banks are online-only, so without the expenses of operating local branches, they’re able to offer high interest rates. I’ve been researching and have found that both offer decently high rates, considering the state of the economy right now.

ING Savings: Orange Savings Account, 4.50% APY
ING CD (best rate): 9-month CD, 5.25% APY

HSBC Savings: 5.05% APY
ING CD (best rate): 6-month CD, 5.25% APY

Both have minimums of $1,000.00. I think I’d like to invest $2,000.00, leaving another $2,000.00 in my savings account (which will hopefully grow to $6,000.00 in those six months!) that I’ll be able to withdraw if I need to.

To compare that to my interest rate now, I did a little math. My last interest earned was $0.55 when my account was at $3569.82. Multiply that by 12 for an annual return of $6.60, and the percentage you have is:

0.18%.

VERY bad.

Why am I wasting my time with this savings account? Plus, there’s the danger that one of my friends at work made me paranoid about: if someone steals your debit card, they make off with ALL your cash, and you can’t get it back. At least you can get it back with a credit card.

That’s why I no longer use my debit card for online purchases.

All right, so it looks like it’s time to decide. I think I’m going to go with a CD from HSBC for now, worth $2,000.00, since the rates are the same as ING and the six month option will be a good first investment for me.

This is so exciting!!!!

Okay. I’m all applied. I just have to sign it and send it in. My printer’s currently full of papers half-printed and sticking out in various directions, so I’ll do the printing at work.

Money money money money….I’m well on my way to a trip around the world.

I was also looking into TEFL courses in Boston, since having the certificate would make it very easy to teach English as I travel around the world. Who knows — I could turn it into a career!

The thing is, the two most prominent programs (at the Boston Language Institute in Kenmore Square and at TEFL Boston in Downtown Crossing, which is the preferable location for me) are expensive, costing $2,000.00. That’s a big investment, and I’m not sure I want to spend that much at this time. Full-time classes take four weeks of 30 hours a week, and part-time is a full-day class on Saturdays for twelve weeks. I work Tuesday-Saturday — that wouldn’t work.

Plus, if I were to teach long-term, I would start in Korea (the salaries are the highest in the world, the jobs are plentiful, and the cost of living is low), and hagwons don’t require TEFL certificates. (Another thought is that if I had a master’s degree in ANYTHING, I could teach at the university level in Korea or Japan, making enough money to live in Japan, and that would be beyond awesome, especially since college in Japan is widely acknowledged as no work and a giant party before a lifetime of workaholism.)

Why is it that whenever I sit down, I end up writing the lengthiest entries? I’m going to get ready and go into Boston, hanging out at Borders and meeting Dad and Sars for dinner, possibly in Chinatown, where she’s moving very soon….

An Entry on the Coldest Day of the Year Thursday, Feb 15 2007 

It is absolutely freezing out, and yesterday, I had the worst two walks of my life. First of all, walking from my apartment to Davis, none of the sidewalks had been shoveled and none of the roads had been plowed, so I just walked through the tire tracks left by previous cars. And then cars going down the street started honking at me! Who does that?!

It wasn’t so bad getting to Davis, but getting to work from South Station — oh, my God. It was raining so hard by then, and it was so windy, so I had my umbrella up, but it literally pushed it all the way out (not a completely unheard-of occurance) but then I suddenly COULDN’T MOVE. I was standing against a building, but the wind was STILL so bad that I didn’t have the physical strength to turn my body around into the other direction. After that, I gave up on the umbrella.

And then I had the Summer Street Bridge.

Rain. Wind. It was like my sister’s rap alter-ego’s paradise. (She goes by Tha Noreastah, and her catchphrases are “High winds! Hailstorms! SNOW!” I’m Heavy K and my motto is “Y’all gon’ eat that?”)

Anyways, by the time I showed up, my boots were full of water (still wearing high heels, because that’s who I am), my hair was completely matted to my head, my suede coat was soaked through, and there was charcoal-gray eyeliner and black mascara all over my face.

I padded around the office in my socks for the rest of the day, and that was actually quite nice.

Enough of that, though. I’ve done absolutely nothing of value today except sleep late, watch TV, read, and continue to plan my RTW (round the world) trip. I can’t stop thinking about it for even one moment!!

I did finish The Drifters, by James A. Michener, which ended in a way that I really didn’t expect it to end. I’ve been reading it forever — ten pages at a time on each ride on the T from home to work, and it’s a 768-page book. My mom loves his books and gave it to me because it’s about a bunch of young people who travel the world in 1969 and 1970. There’s a Vietnam draft dodger, an adventurous Norwegian girl, an Israeli war hero, and more — and they’re all younger than me. It was a great read. They travel to Torremolinos, Spain; Algarve, Portugal; Pamplona, Spain; much of Mozambique, and Marrakech.

I can see myself doing a lot of work around the world, in the middle of my travels, to finance my journey so it can go on as long as possible.

Okay — quick interruption — I’m watching The Insider, and apparently there’s going to be a special about a very special nine-year-old girl named “Brave Jessica” — who is so fat she can’t get off the ground!!!! Ahahahahahahahaha….I’m going to hell….

Oh my God, Howard K. Fucking Stern did NOT sell them video coverage of him rocking the baby and crying and saying, “Mama’s not going to be here anymore….she loved you so much….” That man is a fuck.

He is so going to be found responsible for her death….it’s only a matter of time. Ugh. What a skeevy human being.

I’ve been thinking a lot more about Spain lately. I’ve really never had the desire to go there, but after reading The Drifters and learning about the Camino de Santiago, I don’t see how I can’t go.

Oh my God, I love shows about really, really fat people!! This is hilarious. There’s a thousand-pound man on Entertainment Tonight next!

I think I’m going to make myself some food now….I do miss cooking….but I really don’t feel like doing anything else….

In the meantime, I discovered a great new site, TravellersPoint, that lets you chart your travels through maps. I’ll be posting once I add most of my trips. So far I’ve done my semester abroad, my graduation trip and Gleetalia. There are plenty more to go, both in the US and Europe. Definitely check it out — it’s cool.

A Year Around the World — Today’s Itinerary Sunday, Feb 11 2007 

Every day — sometimes every few hours — I sketch out my route for my trip around the world, which I am aiming to begin a few years from now. When planning out ideas today, all of a sudden it seemed to fall into place — so I’m going to post it here before I forget!!

FLIGHT: Boston to Auckland

New Zealand: Start in Auckland, do the North Island (hopefully including some Maori areas like Whangarei), then down to Rotorua, then extreme sports in Queenstown, then Wellington.

FLIGHT: Wellington to Sydney

Australia: Start in Sydney, then I’m really not sure. Probably go up the coast to Brisbane, Surfer’s Paradise, all that great stuff. I would LOVE to see Perth, but it seems too far from everything, and so does Uluru.

FLIGHT: Brisbane (?) to Denpassar

Indonesia: Bali!! Spend time in that island paradise, then head across Java, visiting Yogyakarta and volcanoes, then stay outside of Jakarta, then fly out of there. (I want to visit Komodo Island, to see the dragons in their natural habitat, but it’s on Sumatra and seems too far out of the way.)

FLIGHT: Jakarta to Singapore

Singapore (briefly)

Malaysia: Head up to Kuala Lumpur, then the west coast, Georgetown, then into Thailand.

Thailand: The beaches and the south, trying to catch the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan. Then Bangkok, then up to Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle, which I hear is lovely as well as cheap. Chiang Mai has a great cooking school. Hopefully some isolated areas, too.

Laos: Vientiane, Luang Prabang, which is supposed to be awesome. The Mekong Delta. NOT Vang Vieng, because I hear there are a lot of drugs there. Worse than the Golden Triangle — drugs are EVERYTHING.

Vietnam: Hanoi, then Hue, and down the coast to Phu Quoc, then Ho Chi Minh City.

Cambodia: Phnom Penh

FLIGHT: Phnom Penh to Siem Riep

Cambodia: Angkor Wat, then the isolated villages of the northeast.

FLIGHT: Siem Riep to Phnom Penh

Then back to Bangkok.

FLIGHT: Bangkok to Yangon

Myanmar: Yangon, the stunning ruins of Bagan, and hopefully some extremely isolated areas — I do admit that I want to have one of those “I was in a village where they’d never seen a white person before” moments. And probably Inle Lake or Mandalay as well.

FLIGHT: Yangon to Kathmandu (I have no idea if this can be done. Can it?!?!)

Nepal: Kathmandu for a bit, then spending time in Pokhara and hopefully doing some trekking in the Himalayas, if the season permits.

India: Get to Varanasi from Kathmandu, watch funeral burnings on the river. Then over to Delhi: Rajasthan, the Taj Mahal in Agra, Jodhpur, etc. Then down to Mumbai and possibly Goa (AND I have a connection there). Try to get into the Bollywood scene.

FLIGHT: Mumbai to Beijing

China: Beijing, Great Wall.

TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILWAY: There is a package that stops in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia, and then Lake Baikal in Siberia. I hear it’s amazing. The package costs 675 Euro, which includes getting the difficult visa invitation/documentation, since it’s especially difficult to do so for Mongolia and Russia. It also does the paperwork for the stopovers, which is a difficult thing to do as well.

Russia: Moscow, see Lenin’s body, Kremlin, get lost on the Metro, then St. Petersburg and the Hermitage.

Estonia: Talinn, a major up and coming city, and then the gorgeous Estonian Islands.

Latvia: RIGA!! My family comes from that city!!

Lithuania: Vilnius, although briefly.

Poland: POSSIBLY Warsaw, if time permits. Then on to Krakow, which is an awesome city, and also taking time to visit Auschwitz and possibly Birkenau as well.

Czech Republic: Stopping in on my beloved Prague again! And maybe Cesky Krumlov as well, and the city (can’t remember the name, is it Plzen?) where Pilsner Urquell, my favorite beer in the world, is brewed.

Austria: Vienna and Salzburg, but only if money and budget permits.

Hungary: Back to my beloved Budapest, and the baths at Gellert! Maybe I could get another boob massage — though I’ll know what I’m getting into this time around!

Slovenia: Ljubliana, Skopje caves (which are supposed to be gargantuan), and possibly the coast.

Croatia: (Hopefully it won’t be too touristy by this time!) Split, beaches, Dubrovnik.

FERRY: to Italy.

Italy: This time, it’s all about the south. Apulia, Basilicata, and hopefully discovering more of my roots in Castanea delle Furie, Sicily, near Messina. I’ve got a great story about one of my relatives from way back.

FERRY: to Corfu.

Greece: Corfu, over to Athens, then a bunch of the islands: hopefully Santorini, Mykonos and Ios, at the very least.

FERRY: to Turkey.

Turkey: Istanbul, then overlanding as far as I can go! Possibly Butterfly Canyon.

Syria: Palmyra and Damascus, which should be really exciting.

Jordan: Amman and Petra, the red city!

Israel: Tel Aviv, and possibly part of Jerusalem, depending on how the situation is then. I’d like to see a lot of the holy sites as well.

Egypt: Dahab, and much of Sinai. Hopefully seeing more Biblical sites, then over to Cairo and doing the pyramids nearby (but not all the way down to Luxor or Aswan).

FLIGHT: Cairo to Madrid.

Spain: I hope I time this well, but arriving in Pamplona in time for San Fermin!! My favorite book, The Sun Also Rises, takes place there, as does an amazing book I’m almost done with, James A. Michener’s The Drifters. I must go to San Fermin. It’s vital. After that, I’ll be heading through Basque country (via San Sebastien) over the border to France, and then beginning the Camino de Santiago, the pilgramage across the top of Spain that has been done since Medieval times. I’ll be a pilgrim with a pilgrim’s passport, and I will literally walk across the entire top of Spain to Santiago de Compostela, which is north of Portugal! I would lose sooooo much weight, too! Hehehe. But what an experience — and what a way to end the trip.

FLIGHT: Santiago de Compostela to London. (RyanAir flies that route; it’s cheap.)

UK: London, baby. Yet again.

FLIGHT: London to Boston.

And that’s it.

Okay, I know I’m timing the seasons all wrong, and there’s no way that I’ll be able to do that perfectly. And yes, it will be expensive — but except for Italy, Greece and Spain, and Austria, I’ll be spending my time in universally cheap countries. And nobody’s around the world route ends up the way they planned it.

But at the moment, I am really, really loving this route.

Any thoughts?

On Irresponsibility….and more Friday, Jan 12 2007 

I’ve been responsible. If you look at the simplest details of my life, most specifically my life post-college, it adds up to conventional perfection.

I graduated from a great college, took two months off, got a job, got promoted, lived at home for a while to save up money, and moved out to a nice house in a neighborhood that was probably the safest choice, as well as the closest T-accessible neighborhood to my family. I pay my bills on time, I work hard, I barely drink, I wouldn’t even dream of touching drugs. I’m nice to old people, I’m polite, and I’m the antithesis of dysfunction.

And some part of me wants it to come crashing down.

It’s no secret that I’ve shunned convention in the name of wanting to live an exciting, adventurous, interesting life. But now it seems like I’m falling into the trap of being completely normal and unsurprising! And that makes me want to be unconventional to the point of being irresponsible.

Not in a boringly irresponsible way, though. If I decide to rebel, it won’t be by not paying my Amex bill on time, or by doing drugs or doing nothing at work.

I just want to get away more and more….I want to become a vagabond.

I want to travel with nothing more than a tiny pack on my back with my passport, sunscreen and an extra pair of undies!!

I’m definitely feeling the call more these days….I’m still saving up as much as I can afford to. As of tomorrow, when my big Chri$tmas check comes in, I’ll have around $2850.00 saved towards the trip. That’s a bit over 10% of the total amount I want to save.

(Is it bad that sometimes I think of blowing it all on a nose job?)

I’ve been reading The Drifters, by James Michener, and it’s a really great book so far….it’s about six young people around my age who all end up in Torremolinos, Spain, during the late 1960s, and they end up living as nomads, traveling, working, and living in a world devoted to hedonism.

If anything, it gives me the reassurance that if I want to travel for a long period of time, I can work in lots of different ways to keep the cash coming in. If only it weren’t for those pesky student loans I’ll be paying back until I’m 37….

But after everything, and ESPECIALLY after moving my bed, I know that I’m going to be here for a while. For years. And I’m happy. And I’m having a great time.

But I keep having the urges to throw everything away for the sake of an adventure…..

In other news, I saw Dreamgirls and The Departed today, continuing to work on seeing all the Oscar movies ahead of time. I loved Dreamgirls — more the beginning than any other part, and Jennifer Hudson has an AMAZING voice, and Eddie Murphy was great too — but then The Departed!! WOW!! I loved everything about it. The writing was excellent, the acting was excellent, and I loved those little Scorsesian touches of violence, like when Leonardo DiCaprio stabbed the guy in the face with that long fork, and the hand in the bag….I was surprised that only a few of the Boston accents were deplorably bad. Most were okay, but there was only one that made me cringe. One of the women.

And the scene at “344 Washington Street” in South Boston, that takes place RIGHT down the street from my office! I loved that, and was there a part that very briefly took place in Lynn? I think I saw a Lynn police cruiser very briefly, like blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, and there were two bodies that looked like they were by the reservoir.

I mean, Dreamgirls was really great, too. It was nice to see a musical that wasn’t too Broadway — most Broadway kind of gives me the creeps, but I love R&B, Soul, Motown, and the sixties and seventies. And the costumes were SENSATIONAL — I hope the designer wins the Oscar. There was one dress in particular that the Dreams wore that I loved — this long red poncho-type gown top with gold piping down the middle over these shiny gold pants. It sounds gaudy, but it was nothing short of GORGEOUS.

I’m going to be doing a little travel reading after I Love New York is over (GREAT show!!!! Love the guys!!!!), and then bed, then laundry and The View (I’m addicted) in the morning. I hope it continues to be a snow-free winter!

24 Things to Do Around the World Sunday, Nov 12 2006 

This list was taken from First-Time Around the World. I’ve done some of them already. Here is the list, along with the example given, what I’ve done, and what I want to do:

1) Find your own private, desolate beach. Example: Tasman National Park, Australia.

Have I done it? Not private and deserted, I haven’t.

Where would I do it? Thailand, unquestionably. Or maybe Australia, or even Vietnam. Or the Seychelles or the coast of Uruguary….

2) Pick up some local trends. Example: Henna in Jaipur, India.

Have I done it? Nothing that outlandish.

Where would I do it? I’d get henna, or maybe even a tattoo somewhere, something from a culture that I really identified with, if it turned out to be permanent.

3) Take a cooker course. Example: Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Have I done it? No.

Where would I do it? Chiang Mai. They’re the best for cooking courses, and Thailand has the best cuisine that I don’t know how to cook! Or maybe India.

4) Lose your guidebook and wander the backstreets of a city. Example: Dublin, Ireland.

Have I done it? Yes. For a bit in Venice when Sars got mad and started walking away from me and James, to an area in Cannaregio where there were absolutely NO tourists. I also walked around Kensington in London for a bit this summer….did a little walking around in Florence all the times I’ve been there….

Where would I do it? I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it anywhere that I felt unsafe, so I would probably be most likely to do it in the safest countries: New Zealand and anywhere in Scandinavia.

5) Meet locals who share your interests. Example: Beach volleyball in the USA.

Have I done it? Perhaps….the first time I was in Rome, I hung out on the Spanish Steps at night and sang with some guys who were all playing guitar — songs like Wonderwall, Hey Jude, Hotel California, stuff like that.

Where would I do it? I’d like to join some kind of volunteer group somewhere, or maybe work on a kibbutz in Israel. But mostly, I’d like to start playing piano somewhere, anywhere, and have everyone sing their favorite songs and I’d do requests and we’d play and sing EVERYTHING….God, it’s been forever since I’ve done that. Besides the party and playing and singing with Mark’s choir friends….I miss it.

6) Climb a mountain. Example: Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

Have I done it? No way.

Where would I do it? I’d love to climb Kili, but I know I’m not nearly physically fit enough to do it. I’d eventually like to do Everst base camp and trek Annapurna as well.

7) Raft the rapids. Example: Haruru Falls, New Zealand.

Have I done it? No, not yet.

Where would I do it? New Zealand, most definitely! And maybe the Zambezi in Zimbabwe, but those are pretty much the badassest rapids in the world, so it might be a bit much for me. Especially since the river is infested with crocodiles.

8) Check out a sporting event. Example: Soccer in Greece.

Have I done it? Somewhat. While I wasn’t at the game physically, watching the World Cup in Florence on huge screens with thousands of Florentines was exhilarating.

Where would I do it? I’d watch soccer anywhere in the world, especially in Europe. Maybe rugby somewhere. I don’t think I’d be able to take the slowness of cricket in the U.K.

9) Try the street food. Example: Scorpions in Thailand.

Have I done it? Nothing that outlandish! Mostly crepes in France.

Where would I do it? I’d go to the street markets in Malaysia and Singapore. Bring on the blood soup, ox eyeballs, live octopus….seriously! I’d try it. Anything but cow lips in Madagascar.

10) Go on a safari. Example: Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe.

Have I done it? No.

Where would I do it? Masai Mara in Kenya. It’s cheapest to go there. But I wouldn’t rule out the Serengeti in Tanzania, Chobe National Park in Botswana, or the gorilla jungles in Rwanda and Uganda if I had unlimited funds.

11) Try out a new sport. Example: Mountainboarding in the USA.

Have I done it? YES!! Paragliding and canyon jumping in Interlaken, Switzerland!

Where would I do it? I would go whitewater rafting or skydiving anywhere. I’d love to go across a canyon in a zip line. Duneboarding in Swakopmund, Namibia, most definitely! And I loved Interlaken so much, I definitely want to return and go canyoning. (It’s different from canyon jumping.)

12) Head underwater by scuba diving or snorkeling. Example: Fiji.

Have I done it? No.

Where would I do it? I wouldn’t go scuba diving, ever. I know of a few people who have died from scuba-related accidents, and I wouldn’t want to risk it. Besides, I wouldn’t want to go night diving. Darkness and water would be the worst. But I’d love to snorkel somewhere tropical, even though I’d be swimming amongst fish. I’m normally afraid of the fish in lakes, but maybe tropical fish would be different.

13) Wake up early to visit sights before the crowds come. Example: Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy.

Have I done it? Oh, yes! Castle Hill in Budapest! We were there by 7:30 AM and we were the first ones there! We outdid Frommer that day….

Where would I do it? The Taj Mahal or anywhere else strikingly beautiful and/or crowded, especially if it were full of ignorant American tourists.

14) Take a bath at a traditional hammam. Example: Istanbul, Turkey.

Have I done it? No.

Where would I do it? Turkey, of course! I’d love to go to Istanbul.

15) Go underground and explore the subterranean world. Example: Skocjan caves, Slovenia.

Have I done it? No.

Where would I do it? Anywhere! I have always wanted to go to Slovenia….I wanted to go into the Blue Grotto in Capri, but the waves were too high all weekend.

16) Spend the night somewhere unusual. Example: Ice Hotel, Sweden.

Have I done it? Does the airport count? Because I’ve slept on a bench in London Heathrow Airport and it was kind of fun!

Where would I do it? I’d love to stay in a Sassi in southern Italy, a home carved out of stone in the cliffs. And the ice hotel would be cool, but I’d probably go to the one in Quebec City instead.

17) Spend a few days in the jungle. Example: Coba, Mexico.

Have I done it? No.

Where would I do it? ANYWHERE. Probably Latin America.

18) Put your locks in the hands of a local barber. Example: China.

Have I done it? Yes — I got my hair cut in Florence during spring break. It was the best haircut I’ve ever had — and she didn’t use a single styling product on it.

Where would I do it? Maybe India. The women there have long hair, so people probably don’t cut it too short. Not Asia or Africa, because people wouldn’t be used to hair like mine.

19) Learn a language. Example: Spanish classes in Latin America.

Have I done it? Yes. Italian in Florence, French in Rouen, and I’ve tried to speak at least a few words of the local language wherever I’ve been, including German, Hungarian, Czech and Flemish!

Where would I do it? I’d love to improve my Spanish, learn Romanian and Portuguese (so I’ll have all the Romance languages) and learn at least one Asian language — so there are plenty of options. Indonesian is pretty easy to learn, too.

20) Bargain at the market. Example: Damascus, Syria.

Have I done it? Yes, in Florence, Budapest, Lucca and possibly other places. Not too hardcore, though.

Where would I do it? I’d have to do it in most places.

21) Ride a bicycle. Example: Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Have I done it? I haven’t ridden a bike in years! Sars and I were going to rent them in Bruges and bike to the North Sea, but that didn’t work out.

Where would I do it? The Netherlands, Austria, and anywhere that has them for rent.

22) Sample the local firewater. Example: Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany.

Have I done it? OH, yes. Jenever in Bruges!!! That is the classic example. It tastes like apple juice, but don’t let that fool you!! I’ve also sampled plenty of red wine in Italy, Pilsner Urquell beer in Czech Republic, and I’ve had absinthe in Rome.

Where would I do it? I would be extremely careful about it, since I’d be going alone, but I’d always be up for sampling the local beer or wine. I might draw the line at fermented cow’s milk in Mongolia.

23) Take a literary journey with your favorite book. Example: Charles Dickens in London, England.

Have I done it? I haven’t been specific to a book anywhere, though I’ve been many places where books took place.

Where would I do it? Pamplona and San Sebastian, Spain. The Sun Also Rises is my favorite book. And maybe Catania for 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed. That is one sexy book.

24) Participate in a festival. Example: La Tomatina, Bunol, Spain.

Have I done it? Not exactly….or at all.

Where would I do it? I think La Tomatina sounds awesome!! A day of throwing tomatoes at random people in the streets?! I’d love to do that! And also the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan in Thailand.

My Around-the-World Trip (reposted) Sunday, Nov 5 2006 

[This post was eaten by Blogger. Bastards. Thankfully, I had it saved. Here it is.]

I’ve been focused on planning my yearlong around-the-world trip. I’ve been doing intense research, reading and planning for weeks. I haven’t mentioned it much in this blog because first I wanted to write about Homer, and after that, I’ve been too tired to write much. (Though my schedule will be changing at work soon, so I’m probably going to be sleeping more.)

I’ve been talking with a lot of people about this, and I often get the same responses to everything I say. I’ll be italicizing the common responses.

I want to take an extended trip around the world. I want to travel extensively, circle the globe, and see as much of the world as possible.

Then you should join the Peace Corps!

No. When you’re in the Peace Corps, you live and work in one place, getting something like one to two days off per month. You can accumulate them, but that’s not a lot of vacation time. It’s nothing like traveling around the world. At this point, I’m not looking for living abroad for an extended period of a time, but I will probably consider it after my trip.

That’s going to be expensive. Yeah, it is. I’ve been saving since I started working. I’ve got a bit over $1300.00 so far (I save $100.00 toward it every week, plus my “keep the change” debit purchases, which has been about $16.00 over three months), and I plan to save a third of my bonuses, providing I get bonuses. (The other two thirds will be divided amongst money in my checking account and a payment toward my student loans.) Plus half of my tax refunds, monetary gifts, and most of my Noni-money that I got at graduation, things like that.

I know I’m not an investment banker, and I’m not making piles of cash. But I love my job. I’d rather have it take twice as long to save up than slave my life away in a job I can’t stand.

Loans are going to be a big part of my life for a while, though. That’s why I’ll need to save extra money ahead of time. Overall, I’ve estimated that I should save $25,000.00. That will cover trip expenses as well as travel insurance, pre-trip purchases like a backpack, and loan payments. When I go abroad, I plan on staying in primarily places where I can live and travel cheaply. I’ll talk about exactly where I want to go a little bit later.

So, who are you going to go with?

I’m going alone.

No way.

Yep.

Seriously?!

100%.

Why would you want to do that?!?!

Many reasons. Anyone who knows me, and especially those who have spent extended time with me, know that I’m very independent. I’m not one of those people who feels like they have to constantly be part of a group, either leading it or being part of it.

Plus, I enjoy my solitude. I like reading, writing, and I like having such a long commute because it gives me time alone with my thoughts.

There’s only one person that I can stand for an extended period of my time, and that’s my sister. She’s the one person I’d travel around with for that period of time. We’ve already spent two weeks glued to each other during our post-graduation European sojourn. But she’ll be just out of college by the time I go, and it’s not like she’ll be saving up. Besides, I want to do this alone.

When I went to have dinner alone in a restaurant by myself in Bayswater, London, I was so excited. I absolutely LOVED having dinner by myself, going to the bar in the hostel and meeting cool people from everywhere from Australia to Brazil to Texas, going to bed as the one girl in a room with seven guys sleeping in their underwear and money belts, and waking up and grabbing breakfast downstairs the next day before heading out for a morning of sightseeing alone.

It was wonderful.

When you go with a group, you have to make concessions to everyone. When you go with one person, you’re always having to compromise. I remember when we were planning our fall break in Florence. It took FOREVER to find something that everyone would like. I was pretty easygoing, but wanted something cheap. After itineraries of Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris-Barcelona, Amsterdam-Paris-Barcelona, Amsterdam-Paris-Bordeaux-Barcelona, Amsterdam-Paris-Prague, Munich-Paris-Barcelona-Marbella, we finally ended up with a Budapest-Paris-Prague itinerary that was WONDERFUL. But I didn’t like having to compromise for people.

I want to be responsible for nobody but myself.

I want to make spur-of-the-moment decisions.

I want to change my itinerary on a whim. I want the backpackers’ community to be my community.

I want this to be a solitary journey.

Who knows….maybe I could end up falling in love!

But it’s not safe for a woman to travel alone without a man with her.

I’m a very cautious person, and it’s paid off. After four months abroad in Florence, several trips to Europe, three months of working in a city and four years at Fairfield University (heh), I have yet to be robbed, mugged, attacked or sexually assaulted (and I thank God and knock on wood simultaneously). I’ve been reading up on staying safe abroad, and I’ve also been reading travelogues by women who have traveled alone.

That guarantees nothing. And I won’t pretend to be invincible. I’m particularly nervous about being a woman alone in India, Africa and Latin America. But all I can do is continue to exercise caution, to be an early riser and spend as little time out at night as possible, and to trust my intuition, which has served me so well so far. The very best thing I can do, however, is to continue to research. Little moves can put me in more safety, like dressing in what the locals wear, no matter how ridiculous I feel in a sari.

Yes. I’m nervous. But would I rather be on a completely-safe packaged tour on air-conditioned buses and three-star hotels? God, no. Absolutely not.

Where do you want to go?

Ah, yes. My favorite question. My mood changes all the time, and so do the destinations. I’m afraid of choosing too much to do in too little time, all in the name of seeing things to check off on my list. I really don’t want to end up like that, but I know myself, and I can’t resist having a map with little red dots all over the place, showing where I’ve been. I’ve always been a fan of quantity.

So right now, I have to determine which places I REALLY want to experience, rather than places I THINK I should experience. Take the Great Barrier Reef, for example — most people want to go there, and I think I should, but deep down inside, I don’t think I really want to that much.

So here are places that I really want to visit:

–Thailand’s beaches
–The Southeast Asian Circuit: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia
–India
–Nepal
–Greek islands
–Sicily (especially Castanea delle Furie, near Messina, the village where my family comes from)
–Inca Trail in Peru
–Amsterdam
–the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the pilgrimage walk across the country
–the running of the bulls in Pamplona (because you all know that my favorite book is The Sun Also Rises!)
–La Tomatina festival in Spain, when people throw tomatoes at each other in drunken revelry
–the Full Moon Party, once a month on Koh Pha Ngan in Thailand
–Southern Italy — maybe Apulia
–Croatia, especially the Dalmatian Coast
–Cyprus. I’ve always wanted to go there.

I don’t want to spend as much time in Europe, because it’s so expensive compared to the rest of the world. Plus, I feel like I’ve seen so much of it already.

I think a west-to-east itinerary would work best, especially if I start in Australia for the winter, which will help me avoid monsoon season in Asia.

Here’s a tentative itinerary:
–Start in Auckland. Work my way down both islands in New Zealand to Queenstown, then up to Christchurch.
–Fly to Sydney and work my way up the Australian coast, beach bumming. Spend Christmas there.
–Fly to Bali, then work my way across Java, stopping in Yogyakarta for an amount of time.
–Fly from Jakarta to Singapore, then work my way up to Kuala Lumpur, then Penang, in Malaysia.
–Thailand’s islands on the west coast will not be having monsoon season — spend time in Krabi or on other islands, then stop for the full moon party on the east coast in Koh Pha Ngan
–Up to Bangkok, then Chiang Mai
–From there, go to Luang Prabang, then Vientiane in Laos, then Hanoi in Vietnam and down the country, stopping in Hue and Nah Trang, then to HCMC. Over to Phnom Penh, then Angkor Wat by Siem Riep, then back to Bangkok.
–Up to Kathmandu, trekking the Himalayas at Annapurna. Not sure if I’m in top physical condition, but I’d really like to do that.
–Down to Varanasi in India, by the holy Ganges. Then over to Delhi, see the Taj Mahal at Agra, and possibly Jaipur, Jodhpur or more Rajasthan before going over to Mumbai. Then down to Goa.
–After that, I have no idea. Maybe Istanbul after that, or Egypt. Then working my way through Greece, then Croatia and Italy….

I’d also like to space the trip out with activities. Volunteering somewhere, definitely. Maybe doing a packaged tour for trekking Annapurna, since there’s no way I’m doing that alone, and I’m a bit wary about waiting until I get there to make plans. Working at a kibbutz in Israel really intrigues me, but you have to be there for at least two months. And I’d love to meet up with contacts around the world.

Speaking of that, I’m now searching for contacts. My family and I have contacts all over Normandy and Paris, plus ties to Valenica in Spain, New Zealand, Goa in India, Manchester in the U.K., Scotland, Iceland, and family members in Italy.

What about you? Do you guys have contacts? Perhaps, Kelly, you have some mates in Melbourne. Lisa, I know you have family in Italy and Ireland. And there are always friends of friends of friends.

I’m also a member of Couch Surfing, which allows you to stay for free with people worldwide. That would be fun. I might be meeting a guy from France and a guy from Israel in Boston soon.

Ah, I’m so exhausted now. But this is my passion. Nothing matters to me like this does.

For further reading, I highly recommend Rough Guides’ First-Time Around the World. It gives you plenty of ideas.