Category Archives: Travel Blogging

7 Ways Women Get Paid to Travel the World

Of course you want to get paid to travel the world. Who doesn’t?

Okay okay, not everyone wants to make money traveling.  Some people actually prefer to work from a more stable home base. As someone who recently came home after 15 years of traveling and moving around the U.S and the world, I definitely get the appeal of having a car, a gym membership, and a regular chiropractor.

But if you’re not quite ready to settle down, or if you’ve been settled down and you’re itching to get out there and explore,  there are some seriously viable (read: lucrative) options for doing so.

No, you don’t need a trust fund. No, you don’t necessarily need to teach English abroad.

In fact, most of the ways to get paid to travel do not involve a “regular” job at all, regular meaning a stationary gig where you report to the same place everyday and are therefore stuck, just like you were stuck back home.

No, these jobs are truly mobile, in that they give you a way to make money and travel pretty much wherever you want, whenever you want.

If you think that sounds too good to be true, think again my friend! I personally did a combination of #2 and #3 for 13 months while backpacking through Asia.

Also, I haven’t included anything on this list unless I actually know someone who has a) done it, or b) is doing it as we speak.

Ready to get paid to travel? Here are 7 ways to do it in 2016:

#1: Coder/Programmer

If you can write code, develop websites, or know the language of CSS, you can work as a freelance web developer from just about anywhere with a Wifi connection.

Now before you protest that you don’t know how to code, relax: you can learn!

Organizations like Girls Who Code are dedicated to teaching the next generation of female engineers. You can also teach yourself to code on Udemy or teach yourself to code in 8 weeks or less.

Once you’ve learned a coding language, you can hop on websites like Upwork or Freelancer.com to find paying gigs as a coder, which you’ll complete from anywhere in the world you happen to be.

#2: Virtual Assistant

This is a GREAT way to get paid to travel while staying totally mobile. Plus, you don’t have to learn any special skills. If you’re organized and a good communicator, you can get a regular gig as someone’s Virtual Assistant (VA) or online business manager.

Here’s what a day in the life of a VA might look like while traveling:

  • Wake up in [insert foreign city of your choice here].
  • Have breakfast while checking emails from your client and making a to-do list for the day.
  • Work for 2-3 hours in your hotel room or guest house. “Work” could include anything from managing social media accounts to scheduling travel, responding to emails, conducting research, or doing data entry.
  • Spend the afternoon site-seeing in your destination!
  • Enjoy dinner out.
  • Return to your hotel for more work.
  • Lather, rinse, and repeat, adding travel days into the mix when you’re ready to move on to your next location.

Find VA gigs on UpworkFreelancer.com, or Virtual Assistant Jobs.

#3 Freelance writer

Get paid to travel by becoming a freelance writer. This could involve travel blogging, copywriting, journalism, creative writing, or a combination of all of the above.

Assuming you have some decent writing skills, the main question that needs answering is “Where do I find writing gigs?”.

For me, the answer was always through Elance, a website that was recently bought by Upwork. Upwork is the place to go if you want to write SEO copy for online businesses, small businesses, and entrepreneurs.

What do I mean by “SEO copy”? That could mean press releases, website copy, bios, blog posts, eBooks, and so on, all of which have been “optimized” for search engines using the right keywords. (If you want to learn how to do this, you can hire me to teach you for cheap).

For creative writing gigs and journalism, check out Writer’s Market. They post publishing opportunities from magazines, trade publications, publishing houses, and newspapers all over the world.

Freelance writing is a very in-depth topic, but suffice it to say that copywriting will bring you faster cash, while creative writing/journalism will bring more notoriety (and bigger bucks long-term).

While traveling, I loved being able to log on to Elance, bid for a job, work for a few hours from my hotel, and get paid within a few days.

#4 Professional Gambler

Here’s another online opportunity that allows you to get paid while traveling. I knew a girl who made an obscene amount of money as an online gambler. Obviously it helps to know a thing or two about gambling, playing cards, and the like, and to enjoy playing these kinds of games.

If that’s your bag, it’s an awesome way to make extra money while traveling without ever having to find a “real” job!

#5. Insurance Adjuster

My friend is an insurance claims adjuster and she seriously travels more than anyone else I know. Granted, she doesn’t always get to choose her destinations, but she makes enough money that she’s able to travel regularly throughout the year during her down time.

Besides, most of the places she seems to go for work are vacation destinations to most people: London, Thailand, Switzerland, Bermuda….

6. Day trader

Being a day trader is another skilled trade that can be easily learned so you can get paid to travel.

I used to date a guy who was a day trader by day (duh), and a film director by night. He worked from home and had total flexibility in terms of when, how often, and how much he worked.

Jobs like that make perfect travel jobs – just ask this top travel blogger who funds his adventures with day trading.

I personally know zilch about the stock market, but if I wanted to build real wealth while traveling (as opposed to simply make enough to fund my travels), I’d choose this option.

7. Extreme Athlete (or extreme anything)

Don’t laugh! I’m serious! And I promised I wouldn’t include anything on this list unless I knew someone who was making it work…

Well, our contributing writer Shirine Taylor is cycling around the world. That’s pretty extreme, wouldn’t you say? When Shirine began her trip, she was living on savings. Now, after starting a successful blog to document her adventures, she’s gained sponsors, donations, and global recognition.

Shirine isn’t a professional athlete – she’s just a girl who loves to cycle! If you’re passionate about a sport, dancing, heck, even bagpiping, there are people who will pay to watch you do it.

Another travel blogger I know of is bagpiping her way around the world. People who also love bagpipes sponsor her to do it, just like people who love Wandering Earl sponsor him to keep on a-wandering!

If you choose this option, be sure to go big. Choose a niche sport or hobby that people are fanatical about, then start with a crowdfunding campaign to get the word out about your journey.

Are you ready to get paid to travel? Which option do you think would be the best fit for you?

Luxury Travel on a Backpacker’s Budget

“The best things in life are free. The second-best things are very, very expensive.” ~ Coco Chanel

You can experience the wonders of luxury travel on a backpacker’s budget.

How do I know?

Because the most luxurious time in my life was spent traipsing through Asia for 13 months with nothing but a backpack and a laptop.

Let me explain.

By luxury travel, I’m talking about the energized, eye-opening kind of travel that makes your heart burst out of your chest and your soul dive headlong into the present moment.

Sure, there might be a fancy hotel room involved, or a tropical drink sweating in the palm of your hand, but those things aren’t the point. Those things aren’t what makes travel luxurious.

luxury-travel-1

True luxury can’t be bought. Oh sure, you can spring for a stay at an all-inclusive resort, guiltily tip your dedicated waitstaff as they tidy your 16-bedroom beachfront bungalow, or enjoy wine tastings on a yacht made of diamonds.

All of that’s well and good, but none of it is enough to make you feel luxurious in your mind and your heart.

True luxury is time. True luxury is freedom. True luxury is a break from stress, responsibility, and the cares of the world.

luxury-travel-2

There’s nothing more luxurious than freedom.

 

While traveling long-term in Asia, I experienced true luxury travel even though I was more “flashpacker” than luxe traveler.

By working as I traveled and carefully choosing midrange hotels, I experienced the luxury of having money for the first time in my life.

  • I ate out every single meal
  • I stayed in high-rise beachfront hotels
  • I stayed in riverfront bungalows
  • I had my laundry sent out
  • I even splurged on the occasional massage or mani/pedi!

…and all of this on a budget of about $15-$25/day.

But the perks of being an American traveling in South and Southeast Asia had little to do with the threadcount of my sheets or the view from my hotel room.

Simply having the free time to travel and the money to see, eat, and do whatever I wanted was easily the most luxurious experience of my life.

luxury-travel-4

True luxury is being able to afford meals and restaurants you never could at home.

 

Now, in order to experience this kind of luxury travel, choosing the right destination is key. I could probably have never gotten away with this in Europe, or North America, or even in pricier Asian cities like Shanghai or Ho Chi Minh City.

But by choosing destinations that were more affordable, I was able to live as luxury traveler on a budget of about $15/day.

Da Nang: The most luxurious budget travel destination in Southeast Asia

Da Nang is as beautiful as Vancouver BC except sunnier and cheaper.

Da Nang is as beautiful as Vancouver BC except sunnier and cheaper.

Da Nang, Vietnam is one of the best luxury travel destinations on the planet, regardless of your definition of luxury.

There are scores of resorts that line the coast between China Beach and Hoi An, and they run the gamut from $200/night hotels to $10,000/night luxury villas.

But Da Nang is truly decadent because of the possibilities for backpackers and midrange travelers.

  • The beautiful beaches lining China Beach are free and open to the public. If you’d like to drink or dine somewhere posh right on the water, you can enjoy happy hour for less than $10 USD.
  • There are amazing outdoor seafood restaurants everywhere in Da Nang. They offer fresh-caught, live seafood in all shapes and sizes. Customers get to point to their lunch and enjoy ice-cold cans of Bia La Rue while their lobster is being boiled to perfection. You can have a seafood bonanza for two for less than $15 USD.
  • Monkey Mountain commands a skyline that overlooks a glistening city of bridges and sparkling architecture. It’s free to explore the mountain and there’s only a nominal cost to gain entrance to the Lady Buddha statue (Vietnam’s tallest!), which guards the East Sea like an angelic Madonna.
True luxury travel: feeling free on a Vietnamese beach in a weird outfit.

True luxury travel: feeling free on a Vietnamese beach in a weird outfit.

Luxury abounds throughout the world, but it’s possible to experience luxury travel without breaking the bank.

For me, the true mark of luxury lies in the freedom of low-cost living. Being able to truly relax and enjoy each destination is infinitely more luxurious than any yacht or swanky resort could ever be.

What does luxury travel mean to you?

 

 

Currywurst and Sportscars: Endless Summer in Dresden, Germany

Would you jump into a car with a stranger in Dresden Germany without knowing anything about him? I bet you might do just that after reading this story.

Back in the summer of 2011 I decided to go travelling in Europe for five weeks. To be honest, I was completely broke at the time thanks to my previous travels, but the travelbug wouldn’t let me be.

“So low budget it is”, I thought to myself. I packed my bags and headed to Germany.

My Slovenian friend decided to join me for two weeks, and with our limited budgets we wanted to try Couchsurfing for the first time ever.

This was a choice dictated not only by shortage of capital but also by the desire to meet new people and find a whole new way of travelling.

To continue with the new policy of hanging out with strangers, we decided to use carpooling instead of trains and buses. There is a great website in Germany (Mitfahrgelegenheit.de) where you can find rides from people who are looking to share the fuel expenses. People are very well organised in Germany when it comes to most things, ridesharing included.

dresden-germany (1)

 

So basically we decided to jump into cars with strangers and spend our nights with people we didn’t know in their houses.

Needless to say this plan was exactly what all girls are always warned not to do!

After staying in Berlin and Leipzig, we decided to go to Dresden Germany. The only problem was we hadn’t been able to find accommodation in Dresden – we were also about to get on the road and wouldn’t be able to use the internet on the way there.

We did not want to relapse into hostel accommodation, so we posted an emergency message on Couchsurfing saying that we were looking for a place to stay for two nights in Dresden and that we were already on our way. We took care to include our phone number on the post.

We arrived in Dresden with no place to stay, and decided to enjoy some Currywurst at the Dresden train station. All of a sudden my phone beeped, practically making me choke on my not-so-great wurst!

We got a message from an unknown party saying they’d pick us up from the station.

We didn’t have internet access to check out who was texting us, so it was going to be totally blind Couchsurfing.

Were we scared to see who would show up? Absolutely we were! We had no pictures, no references, and still we were about to spend two nights at this person’s house.

Picture this: two twenty-something girls standing by the train station in Germany staring at every car anxiously.

Then suddenly, an expensive-looking, shiny black Batmobile-style sportscar pulls over right next to us. We look at each other and then we look at the car. The door opens and out comes a gorgeous twenty-something German guy with a big smile on his face.

“Hi girls, did you send a message on Couchsurfing?”

“Well yes, we certainly did – if you’re here to pick us up with that face and that car!”

Okay, so I didn’t say that out loud, but I did say it in my head. I shared another look with my friend, the kind of look two single girls share when they see a handsome guy.

If he’s handsome he can’t be a murderer, right? To the Batmobile!

dresden-germany (2)

We got into the car and started chatting with our new host. Within two minutes all three of us were laughing as if we’d known each other for years.

Soon we arrived at his place and my jaw dropped. There was a big black iron gate in front of us with a huge house and a beautiful yard behind it. Yes, a gate! Who has a gate? Who is this guy? Bruce Wayne?

The gate opened slowly and I started to get suspicious. How could this young guy have a car like that and a place like that?

As it turned out, he couldn’t. The house and the car belonged to his parents. We found out we were about to stay with his family. This information shouldn’t have been a total surprise considering the car and the gate, but still I was a bit nervous to hang out with a strange German family.

We got into the house and our host led us upstairs to a private room filled with fresh linens, towels, the whole nine yards. I couldn’t help wondering how his parents felt about hosting random foreign girls at their pretty house.

We got a tour of the house and on the tour we ran into his parents. We found out they were both doctors and the other building on the yard was their private clinic. For a moment I felt out of place. I’m not very comfortable in very fancy places. If I have to choose between an expensive, top-notch club or a scrubby corner pub, you’ll definitely find me at the pub.

But as we talked with his parents we noticed what wonderful, welcoming people they were. They didn’t speak much English but luckily we knew some German and they knew some English, so it all worked out. At least I like to think they could understand my constant grinning, thumbs up signs, and frequent bursts of  “Kuchenschemckt gut!” (supposedly: cake tastes good). Maybe praising their desserts with my mouth full of cake wasn’t the classiest move.

dresden-germany (3)

In the morning we were invited to join the family for breakfast. Two low budget travellers in dirty shirts, sitting at a really fancy breakfast table with a German family. It was a bit absurd.

The table was set beautifully with white porcelain dishes. On the table was everything you could imagine – from fresh fruit to piping hot bread just out of the oven. The family was so warm and welcoming that I didn’t feel out of place despite the fancy settings.

The weather during our stay in Dresden was just dreadful.

It was windy, rainy, cold and foggy and there were sharks flying in the air. Okay not sharks, but it was bad!

But thanks to  our host, the lack of sunshine wasn’t too bad to deal with. He took as around the town in the Batmobile and the three of us just laughed and laughed until my stomach hurt! There’s no need to do situps when you’re laughing nonstop for days on end!

We visited the Königstein Fortress (one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe), and the Zwinger Palace among other Dresden sights.

Those two days in rainy Dresden ended up being so special that I’ll never forget them: the laughter, the hospitality, my poor attempt to speak German with the parents, seeing amazing sights, and the piece de resistance – peeing in the middle of a park (well, in the bushes) because we couldn’t find a toilet, and asking Bruce Wayne to yell out if he saw anyone coming… I bet he won’t forget us either!

dresden-germany (4)This post was written by Sanna Tolmunen, a Finnish communications professional and travel blogger currently doing an internship in Hancock, Michigan. Travelling, films and good stories in all forms are Sanna’s great passions in life. In a way it could be said that good stories are her one passion, as to her, life is a story. This is exactly why she hopes to share great stories around the world through her writing and her blog, Adventures Of A Finn.

Connect with Sanna on Social: 

https://www.facebook.com/adventuresofafinn

https://twitter.com/Sanna_Tolmunen

http://www.pinterest.com/sannatolmunen/

Superman Sprains His Wrist

A few weeks ago, after a particularly interesting night in Pai Thailand, I received the following email.

Dear Michael,

This is ____ the girl you helped a lot last night in Pai. my friend ____ now is transferring to Chiangmai lam hospital to have an operation. he got two parts of bone break of his left leg. i haven’t deal with the motorcycle problem yet by now. how is your wrist now ? i’m really sorry that you got hurt your wrist. sorry…

You appeared like a super man to me last night! you followed my friend to the hospital after the accident, you found me, you helped me to push my motorcycle for 3 km, you took me to the hospital and also took me back to the hotel.you did so much! like i said you are the best american i ever known. you are so helpful and nice! thanks for everything you did for me.

thank you Michael !

_____ from China

Now, I don’t think I’m a hero for the events described above. I mean, I’m far from being Martin Luther King Jr. (or even, say, Kirk Cameron).

All I am is a guy who was riding his scooter in the rain, after midnight, on a dark stretch of road leading out of a small town in northern Thailand, against all common sense and to the horror of my mother is she ever found out (which she now will, I suppose).

I saw an opportunity to help an injured stranger, which then turned into an opportunity to help a different stranger in need, and I took it. I don’t believe in karma, I was not looking for a reward.

So why then, you might ask, did I spend four hours after the stroke of the witching hour helping people I didn’t know? I’d like to think of it as common decency; just showing concern for my fellow man.

And frankly, it was exciting.

The setting? Pai, Thailand: a small town north of Chiang Mai filled with friendly locals, laid back expats , and tourists; a town embraced by natural beauty in every direction.

With its rice fields, rolling green hills, tranquil muddy rivers, and big open sky sporting puffy white clouds, Pai is a little bit like what Eden might have been, had it existed.

The people are generally very friendly, quick to smile, quick to help. In fact, by the time I came across the injured stranger (let’s call him German Bob for funsies), he was already being carried into the back of a white pick up truck owned by two Thai men and a local woman who had pulled over to help him.

I gave his crashed motorbike a cursory once over, asked the German if he wanted me to go to the hospital with him (silly question apparently), and followed the truck there on my scooter.

At the hospital, once it became obvious that German Bob was in no great mortal danger, we got to talking a little bit (him through gritted teeth, rolling eyeballs, and in between moans, that is).

pai-thailand-just-a-pack-2

Turns out the crashed bike was not his – he’d borrowed it from a girl he met and was speeding into town to buy a lighter, hoping to return to her hotel as quickly as possible.

He crashed his motorbike on the way to buy a fucking lighter! Smoking really IS bad for your health, ya’ll.

The girls’ hotel was located some ways out of town, and Bob didn’t recall its name. It had two lemons on its sign, however, that much he knew for certain. Bob produced a key to room 202 and told me that the girl was eagerly awaiting his return.

A bit of detective work at 1am sounded like fun, so I grabbed the key and promised I’d find the mystery girl and bring her to German Bob’s bedside.

I drove back to the scene of the accident to make sure Bob’s crunched motorbike was still there.

Crunched motorbike, check.

I then proceeded further down the road into the mysterious night, the single beam of my scooter’s headlamp keeping the darkness at bay as I searched in for two lemons in vain.

Bob’s memory was relatively sound, however, and I eventually came across a fruit-filled hotel sign some 5 clicks out of town. They weren’t lemons at all (passion fruit actually), but we’ll give poor Bob the benefit of the doubt.

Pulling into the parking lot on my hardy little scooter, I mentally prepared myself to knock on a stranger’s door to deliver some bad news.

I took a few deeps breaths outside of room 202, my heart beating a little too quickly, and knocked on the door.

A few moments later it flew open and a  short Asian girl (let’s call her Sue) stood before me in an equally short night gown.

I was obviously not who Sue was expecting as evidenced by the look on her face, which transitioned from puzzlement to alarm and back again within three heartbeats. We stood there looking at one another for a few seconds before I remembered I had to speak.

“I’m sorry to alarm you but your friend was in an accident. He is in the hospital now. Your bike is on the side of the road a few kilometers from here “, I blurted, all while trying to make what I hoped to be cross-cultural calming motions with my hands.

It took her some time to accept the news, but I guess my stammering sincerity made the harsh truth easier to stomach.  We stopped by the hotel owner’s bungalow so she could (much to her confusion) take my photograph (y’know, just in case German Bob didn’t exist and I was actually a deranged lunatic who’d come to kidnap Sue and drag her back to my den of unspeakable horrors).

Photos snapped, our next task was to check up on German Bob’s – er, Sue’s – crashed motorbike.

The bike appeared to be in better shape than Bob was, just some minor scratches on the body. But the keys were missing from the ignition, and there was a shirtless (and mostly toothless) old Thai man standing nearby in the dark, looking at the bike (and us) with some obvious consternation.

We decided that leaving Sue’s bike there was probably not a great idea, so I pushed the fucking thing three kilometers back to her hotel.

pai-thailand-just-a-pack

That sweaty task completed, we set off on my scooter to the hospital. German Bob was medicated and sleeping when we got there, but woke up long enough to chat Sue up through his drugged-out haze.

They’d placed Bob in a room with 5 elderly female patients who were not super happy about our late night visit, so we kept it short. Sue told Bob she’d visit him in the morning, asked him if he had the key to the scooter (he did not), and off we went.

While dropping Sue off at her hotel at 3:30 in the morning, I nearly caused the second motorbike accident of the evening when I dropped the damned scooter and wrenched my wrist trying to keep it from falling. Apparently scooters do no like standing sideways on steep hills, kick stand or no kickstand.

Sue offered to nurse my new injury but I begged off, not wanting my travel partner to freak out due to my long, unexplained absence in the middle of the night.

Saying goodbye to ol’ Sue,  I braced myself against fresh rain as I drove back to my hotel. Stumbling into my room half a hour later I fell into bed, exhausted but content.

I never saw or heard from German Bob again after that night. Sue, on the other hand, sent me about 18 emails in gratitude, bought my travel partner and I dinner and drinks one night, and was pretty much consumed with expressing her thanks for a few days. We still keep in touch, and she still calls me “her superman” in her emails.

I never told Sue, but I think Superman is a dick. I much prefer Batman, but if she keeps it up I just might start wearing really tight spandex pants as my ego swells to unchecked heights.

Michael-Miszczk-pai-thailand

Michael Miszczak is a nomadic Brooklynite and the co-creator of www.justapack.com. He started backpacking five years ago and has thought of doing little else since. He’s spent months in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. One day he hopes to explore Saturn…but only if he can bring his backpack.

Follow Michael here: 

www.facebook.com/justapack

www.twitter.com/justapack

http://instagram.com/justapack1

www.pintrest.com/justapack

Top Tips for Instagram Travel Photography

 

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to create some seriously amazing travel photography.

Heck, you don’t even need a fancy DSLR camera!

I stumbled upon this infographic and love how it de-mystifies travel photography (and de-snobifies it, too. Yes, that’s a word).

Here are 5 easy ways to shoot like a pro without spending a fortune on gear or glass.

travel-photography

 

How to take amazing travel photos is a graphic produced by DealChecker.co.uk

Top 10 Travel Photography Tips for Aspiring Shutterbugs

Your visa is secured, the flight is booked, and you’ve been willingly injected with a cocktail of vaccinations to protect you from diseases you can’t even pronounce.

In short, you’re finally off to see the world!

In addition to scribbling wildly in a wine-stained journal and blogging about your adventures, you’re probably going to want to take some photos of your trip.

The problem? You have no clue how to take a great photo, and the last thing you want is to have your pictures of such a life-changing period in your life turn out like a fourth grade art project.

Before you resign yourself to applying 37 Instagram filters to each and every lackluster snapshot, check out these top 10 travel photography tips from professional travel photographer Etienne Bossot.

Based in Hoi An, Vietnam, Etienne spends his days helping newbie and established photographers capture the beauty of their travel dreams on camera and in living color.

Travel photography tips from an actual travel photographer

1. Get some gear

travel-photography-tips-2

And by gear I don’t mean big, expensive gear. I mean something from this century. Technology is evolving so quickly that just about any kind of camera you buy today is going to be light years better than a used camera from five years ago.

Look at the latest trends, like the new lightweight DSLR cameras. They’re as small and compact as a cheap digital camera but take photos comparable to their bulkier counterparts.

2. Learn about settings

travel-photography-tips-3

Spend a little time learning about your camera’s settings.  Nowadays the auto mode of most cameras is more intelligent than ever, but why let your camera have all the fun?

Adjusting your settings as you shoot gives you far more control over your photos than simply leaving your camera in auto mode. Besides, there are only 3 things you need to know to be in total control of your camera, anyway.

3. Do your homework

travel-photography-tips-4

If you only want to capture tourist snapshots for Grandma to see, then stop reading this instant.

We’ll wait for you to leave.

Phew, not that she’s gone, let’s dive in to the juicy stuff – creative inspiration. I want you to do some research on the place you’re traveling to by searching for relevant photographs. You can use Google search, Flickr or 500px to find high quality images.

Find photographs that inspire you and save them somewhere you can see them. These will serve as a jumping off point for the photographs you’ll be taking in the very near future!

4. Stalk someone you like

travel-photograph-tips-5

…on social media, that is.

In step #3 above, you probably found at least a few photographers whose work you love. Connect with them via social and check out their blogs.

In addition to examples of great photography, you will most likely find a huge amount of information on the craft of photography.

If you’re following a travel photographer, you’ll score travel photography tips in the form of top secret shooting locations, cultural idiosyncrasies, and so on.

5. pho·tog·ra·phy (or, the immense importance of light)

travel-photography-tips-6

How can you begin to master a craft if you don’t even know what it means?

In case you skipped out on all of your Ancient Greek classes at school, the word “photography” literally means “writing with light.”

Yes, it is that simple. You camera is your pen. The light is…well, the light!

Once you understand that, you’ll understand that beautiful light gives you beautiful photos.

And when is the light most beautiful?

Before 8am and after 4pm, so don’t forget to pack your alarm clock!

6. Get to know your subject

travel-photography-tips-7

If you are keen on landscape photography, go back and re-read tip #5, because it’s all about the right lighting.

travel-photography-tips-11

If you want to photograph people, learn about the customs of the place you’re visiting. For example, you will probably have a much easier time approaching people in SE Asia than you would in, say, Saudi Arabia.

7. Get lost

travel-photography-tips-8

I’ll go ahead and assume that since you’re a solo female traveler you’re not traveling in a country that’s particularly dangerous.

If that’s the case, I give you permission to get lost!

If you stay where all the other tourists are, and only visit sites all the other tourists are visiting, chances are you’ll be taking the exact same photos Aunt Jane took when she visited Thailand 10 years ago.

Get lost, get away from the tourist areas, find some local villages and walk through them. People will be surprised and happy to see you there, and that will make your experience – and your photos – that much more captivating.

8. Get close

travel-photography-tips-8

If I could only give you one tip it would be this one – get close to your subject.

There are many reasons why this is important, but getting close will greatly improve the overall quality of your photos (not to mention help you immerse yourself in the culture and make friends with locals).

Disclaimer: this tip does not apply to African safaris!

9. Lose the badittude

travel-photography-tips-9

Remember that you are a guest visiting another country and culture – smile! Your attitude and approach will have a huge impact on both your subjects and the photos you take of them.

10. Shoot!

travel-photography-tips-10

You’ll most likely be using a digital camera, so start shooting! Don’t be shy, and remember that the best shots almost never happen within the first few clicks. Work your subject and shoot as much as you can.

What questions do you have for Etienne about his travel photography tips? Post them below!

Etienne Bossot is a French photographer who’s been based in Hoi An, Vietnam for the past 7 years. In addition to shooting commercial and travel assignments for local publications and huge corporations, Etienne runs a variety of photography tours and workshops throughout Southeast Asia. For more information on his photography and photo tours, visit http://www.picsofasia.com/photo-tours/

All photos © 2014 Etienne Bossot

SUBSCRIBE now for solo female travel tips and get your FREE copy of 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY! Enter your email address below to download your copy of the book now. 

 

 

 

 

5 Travel Apps for Staying Organized and Saving Money

I’m not really an “app person” (those people exist, right?) but for some reason when I started traveling abroad, I became addicted to travel apps.

This is probably because I actually need and use the apps I have, most of them on a daily basis.

These travel apps turn my iPhone into a compass, a receipt scanner, a translator, a currency converter, and a travel agent – and every single one of them was free.

1. GlobeConvert Free (my currency converter)

I still use this app all the time, even though I’ve been back in Vietnam for over 6 weeks and have a pretty solid handle on the conversion rate.

If a taxi driver quotes you 2 million dong for  a 3-km cab ride, you can whip out your phone and remind yourself that 2 million dong is about $100, and inform him that you’ll be using another taxi driver thankyouverymuch.

This app has just about every currency imaginable, and it’s easy to toggle back and forth between them.

2. Shoeboxed (my receipt scanner)

Here’s how my lazy butt “manages my finances” back home: I swipe my debit card, then I check my bank account online. That’s pretty much it.

The problem with traveling abroad in Asia is that the entire continent seems to operate on a cash-only basis, which means I need to get receipts, which means I need to keep those receipts organized.

I stay at a lot of different hotels, so I’m constantly collecting scraps of paper. The problem is that my backpack is already stuffed to the brim without adding an ever-growing pile of paper receipts into the mix!

Shoeboxed has been the answer to my prayers. With this travel app I simply snap a picture of the receipt in question, then toss said receipt in the recycling bin. All of the info from the receipt – including the date, amount spent, the vendor, and the location – is magically beamed to my Shoeboxed account.

Shoeboxed can even detect which tax category my receipt falls under. If I scan a receipt from a hotel I stayed at, it will be automatically labeled as a “travel and transport” write off.

This made doing my taxes so easy this year, that when I was finished, I had a big “I finished my taxes really fast!” party in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

If you like the sound of Shoeboxed, you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking here.

3. Compass by Tim O’s Studios (my – duh – compass)

This app has saved me a ton of money and has saved me from getting lost time and time again.

For some reason the Google maps app on my phone doesn’t always come through. Also, sometimes I don’t buy a local SIM card if I’m not going to be in a country for a long period of time.

In those moments – no cellular data and/or cranky Google gods – I’m flying blind and rely on this app to get me where I’m going. You may not know exactly how to find a place, but you can at least get yourself in the general vicinity.

It’s also great when you’re riding in taxis.

Make sure you know which direction you’re supposed to be headed by checking a map before you get in the cab. Then, whip out your compass app and make sure you’re heading the right way.

If your driver is happily soaring due east when the temple you want to see is most definitely to the west, you can speak up (before the meter runs up!)

4. Skyscanner (my airfare agent)

This is one of my favorite travel apps for booking airfare and checking airline prices, especially in SE Asia. Skyscanner shows you all of the available flights for your desired dates and makes it simple to filter by price.

It also shows you every airline that flies between your destinations, and lets you book airfare right from your phone.

5. Hostelworld (my accommodation agent)

Hostelworld’s app is a great research tool, even if you don’t end up booking through their site. A lot of the time, I only prebook a single night at a hotel or guest house in case I end up hating the place.

This travel app lets you see how much you can expect to pay for a private room at various hostels in various parts of the city.

Let’s say you look up hostel prices in Hanoi and see that a private room in the Old Quarter is around $12/night, while a private room in the West Lake area of town is closer to $30/night.

Armed with this information, you’re ready to negotiate a great deal on a room (and ready to laugh out loud when a $12 hotel tries to charge $30, knowing that you can walk next door and find a much better price).

Conclusion (starring Ryan Gosling)

I’ve heard some people recommend leaving the smartphone at home and buying a cheap cell once you arrive in country.

For me, having a smartphone and using awesome travel apps saves me money, keeps me safe, and even makes me feel a lot more organized than I typically do at home. I really couldn’t survive without it.

I also couldn’t survive without the hope that someday, somehow, Ryan Gosling will realize that we were destined to be together, will dump whichever gorgeous actress he’s married to at the moment, and will fly to Paris to sweep me up and start making a baker’s dozen of Little Goslings. (see how I’m in Paris in this fantasy? That’s what separates the dreamers from the deranged. I might even add a pet monkey into the scenario if the mood strikes.)

Yep, just struck.

travel-apps-2

Which travel apps can’t you live without?

YE OLDE DISCLAIMER: If you sign up for a Shoeboxed account (which you should totally do, btw), the good people at Shoeboxed just might find it in their hearts to throw some scratch my way. But don’t get the wrong idea – I am a loyal Shoeboxed customer and would never recommend the service to you if it sucked. It sucketh not! Go get your free trial already!

SUBSCRIBE now for solo female travel tips and get your FREE copy of 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY! Enter your email address below to download your copy of the book now. 

Quick+Dirty Takeaway

I can't live without....

1. GlobeConvert Free for currency conversion

2. Shoeboxed for receipt scanning

3. Compass by Tim O for my compass

4. Skyscanner for checking and booking airfare

5. Hostelworld for researching accommodation prices

6. Eating great spring rolls with Ryan Gosling in Paris while my pet monkey sits on my shoulder and Ryan and I discuss whether or not we'll have to get rid of the monkey when the twins are born.

Want to dig deeper? Go for it!

Liebster Madness!

You may have noticed that I have a lot of fake awards and phony testimonials on the homepage of this website.

Well, it seems that I’ve been nominated for a real award, and the inner conflict that has resulted has kept me up nights for – well, for like one night. Ok, for 45 minutes. But those are 45 precious minutes of sleep that I will never get back!

Who nominated The Happy Passport?

I’m thrilled to announce that The Happy Passport has been nominated for a Liebster Award by travel gourmet Dave Cole, the eyes, ears, and nose behind the food-wine-travel triumvirate Cook Sip Go.

Cook Sip Go takes all of things you love about traveling – the sights, the sounds, the delicate clinking of fresh ice cubes entering your cocktail glass – and packages them together in a way that is purely delectable.

Bring you appetite for adventure (and your penchant for a spicy Malbec) and check out Cook Sip Go.

No really. Stop reading and go there now.

Here’s how the Liebster Award nomination works – since Dave nominated me, I have to answer 10 questions of his choosing. Then, I get to nominate 5 outstanding travel blogs and ask the creators of those blogs to answer 10 questions of my choosing.

It’s sort of like getting a chain letter in the mail when you were 12, except instead of throwing it in the trash, your mom puts it up on the fridge.

Without further ado, Dave’s questions, and my answers!

Cook Sip Go asked, and I answered…

1. What is the first travel experience you remember?

My first plane ride when I was 10 years old. My parents surprised us and took my brother and I to Disney World.

Everything about Florida felt so different from my home in Wisconsin – the air smelled different, the trees were different, there were lizards everywhere. It was pure magic to me and I spent the next two years planning to run away and live on the streets of Orlando as a vagrant gymnast.

2. Which destination is at the top of your travel bucket list?

I feel really drawn to Norway and the other Scandinavian countries. I’d love to spend time in Iceland, Sweden, Denmark.

India is absolutely on my bucket list, as is Ireland, Italy, Turkey, Greece…and then there’s the entire continent of Africa calling to me. Wait, was I supposed to pick one place?

3. Where did you experience your most memorable meal on the road and what was it?

It’s May of 1995, I’m 13 years old and sitting in a restaurant in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood.

It’s my first time visiting the city and I’m there to perform in Carnegie Hall with a children’s choir.

I order minestrone soup as a starter, and practically die of happiness the second I taste the first spoonful – my taste buds stand at attention, jump for joy, and proceed to perform choreographed acrobatics for the remainder of the meal.

I remember thinking “Ohhhh, so this is what real Italian food is supposed to taste like.” And that was in the States –  just imagine what will happen when I make it to Italy! (mouthgasm).

4. Who is your favorite travel writer/blogger?

Matthew Karsten of The Expert Vagabond. Reading his posts feels like having lunch with that one friend who always makes you laugh until you squirt beer out your nose. (Yes I drink beer at lunch. Stop judging me.)

If I could write one blog post that was 1/10 as funny and entertaining as his posts, I’d retire from blogging forever and go live in the mountains in Nepal.

5. Even though new destinations are fun, what is one place you could return to again and again?

Cat Ba, Vietnam (and I have returned again and again!)

Hoi An, Vietnam

Pokhara, Nepal

Vancouver, B.C.

San Francisco

6. What’s the most interesting wildlife experience you’ve had on your travels?

First of all, this is the most creative question anyone has every asked anyone.

And I was amazed to discover that I actually had an answer to it, even though I’m not what I’d call particularly “outdoorsy.”

I was trekking in the mountains just outside of Luang Prabang, Laos, and our group came upon a man with a rooster on a leash. Through our guide we learned that this rooster had been trained to call wild chickens out of the forest so that the man could shoot them.

He was an informant chicken. A traitor to his own kind. I still don’t know what’s worse – the fact that the hunter put this poor rooster up to this dastardly deed, or that the rooster failed to organize a proper mutiny against such an inter-species atrocity.

7. What’s one place you’ve traveled to and have no desire to return? Why?

Luang Prabang, Laos. It’s a lovely town, the rivers are beautiful, the night market is dazzling and the wats are gorgeous.

But everything else about the city feels like it belongs in the West – the old town caters to tourists in such a way that there doesn’t seem to be a scrap of Lao culture left to be seen. It’s all wine bars, retired French couples and Australian college kids walking around like they’re in Daytona Beach.

The famous almsgiving ceremony has become a caricature of itself – I hated seeing insensitive tourists up in the monks’ faces with flashbulbs.

Take Luang Prabang and plop it down in, say, San Diego, and you’d catch me at one of the (67) wine bars for happy hour every night of the week.

But when I was in Laos, I wanted to learn something about Laos, and the only thing I learned was that the tourists have taken over and the Lao people have done the best they can to cater to them, perhaps at the expense of their own way of life.

Then again, maybe the locals in Luang Prabang are making great money off the tourists and are perfectly happy having 67 wine bars and I should just shut my trap.

8. What is your favorite restaurant in your hometown?

Raffi’s Place in Glendale when I’m in Los Angeles. It’s the freshest, most delectable, most melt-in-your-mouth Persian food imaginable. I’d ask for their chicken kebabs, homemade hummus and cucumber yogurt as my last meal.

A very, very close second is Boneyard Bistro on Ventura Blvd in Studio City (also Los Angeles). I’ll just say this – there is macaroni and cheese involved, as well as fried dates, aged whiskey, and bourbon BBQ sauce. Insert Homer Simpson donuuuuut noise here.

9. What is the most athletic feat you’ve accomplished while traveling?

Climbing to the top of Marble Mountain in Da Nang, Vietnam with my ginormous laptop case in tow because I didn’t want to leave it with the shady-looking parking attendant.

At one point I even jumped from one rock to another, scaling a four-foot wide divide. If I had fallen, I would’ve fallen about 500 meters to the (very distant) earth below. All while carrying this bulky bag that contained my laptop, my camera, and all my valuables.

And I never would’ve done any of it if it weren’t for this guy.

10. Have you ever attempted to cook at home a dish you first tried while traveling? If so, what was the result? 

The only thing sexier than a woman who can cook is a woman who can eat like a linebacker and not gain weight.

Fortunately I never claimed to be sexy.

The answer, I’m afraid, is no. I love to cook sauces, but I’m dreadful at cooking anything that one might drizzle a sauce upon.

If I could learn how to cook one dish I’ve enjoyed while traveling, it’d be Southern Vietnamese pho tom. (noodle soup with shrimp).

I cut my teeth on Southern pho, not realizing that the soup would be so drastically different in the North. If I could learn how to get the broth just right, I’d make it every day for the rest of my life (except on the day when I get my last meal, because then I’m going to Raffi’s Place.)

Who I’m Nominating

Banker in the Sun – only Rashad (AKA The Banker) can get me interested in money and budget stuff when it comes to travel (everyone else who writes on this topic tends to make me yawn). I love the stories, the tales of romance, the wanderlust and the great cost of living articles on this site. The financial advice truly is unconventional as promised, and it’s nice knowing that it’s coming from an actual vagabond banker!

A Wandering Photo – Shirine is a regular contributor to this site and I’m lucky to have her. She is just 20 years old and is currently on a round-the-world cycling trip with her sweetheart. Shirine is a brave minimalist who writing is poetic, stark, and always thought-provoking.

Adriana Kupresek – Adriana is an author, inspirationalist, and nomadic feminist who’s created an artistic online community for female travelers. Her work is fearless, unabashed, and I love how she’s not afraid to say exactly what she thinks. I also really like how she blends travel tales with life lessons and deeply personal epiphanies.

Anna’s Friends – a great blog and networking site for women traveling and/or moving abroad. Anna is building a worldwide network of women helping women, and she truly practices what she preaches. When I first started travel blogging, she was one of the first people to reach out via social media and make me feel welcome.

Vivienne Egan – Vivienne is true digital nomad working her way around the world. I love following her blog because she covers everything you need to start traveling and to keep traveling by working for yourself online. I also hit up Vivienne’s site for budget travel tips, online marketing ideas, and inspiration to keep traveling long-term.

10 Questions for the Nominees

1. What is the single best part about living, working and traveling in a country other than your own?

2. You’re given a large chunk of money from a mysterious donor. You’re told that the amount is somewhere between $25,000 and $1 million. The amount you’re to receive won’t be revealed until you specify your dream destination, where you’ll have to spend the next 3 years of your life. You will not be allowed to work or make any money during this period of time. Where do you go?

3. Do you consider yourself a backpacker, flashpacker, midrange or luxe traveler? Is it by choice or circumstance? Would you “change teams” if you could? Why?

4. Do you prefer to travel solo, travel with a partner or travel in a group? Why?

5. Which 3 places you’ve visited so far have felt the most like home?

6. A proclamation is handed down from the Universe that states you may no longer travel, and you may no longer write about traveling (or anything related to travel). Where do you settle and what do you do with your life?

7. What is a single, unifying factor that you’ve observed in every single country you’ve visited?

8. Can cross-cultural romances ever work?

9. Name 3 things you do NOT miss about living in your home country (or staying in your home country 24/7/365)

10. 2014 will be a total bust for you unless you _________________.

I can’t wait to read your answers! Thanks again to Dave and the fine folks at Cook, Sip, Go for the nomination!

SUBSCRIBE now for solo female travel tips and get your FREE copy of 175 WAYS TO TRAVEL TODAY! Enter your email address below to download your copy of the book now.