Travel Tips 101

While I have not been traveling for very long (my first time on a jet plane was a year ago), I have traveled very far. Last March I spent over two weeks in Shenzen, China and last summer I spent three months roaming Europe and Britain (spending extensive time in Kosovo and England). I backpacked around alone for a good deal of that time.

During these trips I have experienced everything from fourteen-hour flights, to fourty-eight hour jaunts with little to no sleep (so I could save money on cheap flights), to midnight train rides. All of this has taught me a couple of things about travel.

  • You need less clothing than you think you need.
    • seriously – only two pairs of jeans
  • That being said…pack a lot of underwear and tank tops.
    • You can snuggle them into the empty places in your baggage and if you don’t have time to bathe/change a whole outfit this will cut down on BO…
  • Peppermint oil is a lifesaver.
    • Perfect for a musty/stinky hostel room, freshening up in an airport bathroom (cuts through body odor), and for sprinkling in baggage so clothes don’t smell stale. I bought the cheap kind from a healthfood store because I wasn’t ingesting it. Young Living sells high-quality if you want to use it more extensively (my friend is a distributor here).
  • Put some dry shampoo in a small, empty spice bottle.
    • No one wants to feel like a greasy preteen when hopping off a plane.
  • Dark chocolate
    • Harry Potter uses it as a dementor remedy, I use it as a pick-me-up for jet lag. There will be long periods you have nothing to eat, you are bone tired, or you feel like you are about to break down in a Turkish airport…dark chocolate fixes all of these things.
  • Workaway is your friend for inexpensive lodging worldwide.
    • Check out my post about it here.
  • Wizz air is a wonderful site for finding cheap European flights.
    • These are not ritzy flights, fyi. Also, I would recommend checking in online.
  • Skyscanner is another way to look for cheap flights.
    • There is a feature on here where they send alerts to your email for low-priced flights. Research the airlines, though, as not all airlines are safe to fly with.
  • Eastern Europe is way less expensive than Western Europe.
    • While not as glamorous as touring Italy or France, the countries in Eastern Europe (think Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia, etc) are wonderful areas. They can be a trifle sketchy (this was a war-torn area for many years, and in some places is still dangerous) but it’s honestly not bad if you research your location slightly to know the dos and don’ts. Also, the people in these areas are incredibly hospitable, and the prices simply cannot be beat. In Kosovo my cost of groceries for six weeks was lower than the cost of my plane ticket from England. Also, as a treat for a couple nights, I stayed in two hotels and spent only 30 euro a night…the price of a hostel bed in Venice…

So there you have it, a couple of quick tips. Comment with your own travel tips or questions!

Mural Work in Kosovo

As mentioned before in my post on Workaway, I spent six weeks volunteering at a hostel in Kosovo. I’ll post more on the actual city on a later date, but I want to dedicate this post to one of my tasks while I was there – painting a mural on the outdoor bar.

Buffalo Backpackers, is a hostel run by a Texan and an Albanian. The two, Chelsea and Xili, have a network of friends in the area and encourage immersion into the unique culture of Pristina, Kosovo — a city primarily composed of young adults. They also encourage artists to come to their hostel and paint murals on empty walls, or in this case, empty bars.

I was painting a structure that is in the back garden – a fun, bohemian area with a fire pit and many hammocks. The bar originally looked like this:

img_2303

It was built by a previous volunteer and was a really fun little structure, but obviously lacked aesthetic appeal. After looking at the structure I started out with some simple sketches:

I showed these to Chelsea and we fleshed out the idea to a full-blown plan. Luckily, her and I shared a similar penchant for bohemian cowgirl artwork.

The extent of my experience with acrylics was primarily bound to sets I had painted in high school under the supervision of a professional artist, Alisa Lincoln, so I did some research before putting brush to wall. After much googling and even more sanding on the part of myself and other hostel volunteers, I dove in.

Armed with a spray bottle, a brush, a washcloth and some sweatpants, I started in on the sky:

In this picture I blocked out where my cowgirl, stars, cacti, and moon will be. It was an incredibly fun and fast-paced part of the painting because, between the heat and the fast-drying properties of the acrylic paint, I had to move fast to get the look I wanted.

Next, I filled in the cacti with a very dark green and blended the stars to give them a more dreamy, hazy look.

Then came more googling. Because of our limited budget, the majority of paints I had were primary colors, so I had to mix everything. This provided some trouble when I wanted to do skin tones. After some research, I was able to get a believable light skin color:

img_4147

(as you can see, I snapped this one)

This also involved a lot of quick work, as to achieve the proper texture I needed to blend the paint while wet. My spray bottle was a lifesaver here.

After finishing her face, I filled in her hat and her shirt, and did a bit more detailing on her eye to really draw attention to it. Then came the most lengthy process: the hair.

I wanted to do the hair in rainbow colors to add a lot of color and pop to this corner of the garden. As mentioned before, though, I was mixing almost everything from primary colors. I really wanted a large variety of shades and hues, but this is sometimes difficult to achieve with a limited amount of mixable paint tubes. After many episodes of Gilmore Girls (listened to the show on my phone while I worked), I finally finished the hair:

img_6529

I was almost done. I added gold and silver to the stars, painted the moon, and did some details on the front of the bar. I spent another couple hours putting mandala-style artwork on the top of the bar:

And then I was done!

cowgirl-1

If you’re looking to do some acrylic painting yourself, here are some websites that helped me:

https://www.art-is-fun.com/mixing-colors

http://painting.about.com/od/paintingforbeginners/fl/Top-Acrylic-Painting-Tips-for-Beginners.htm

Links to info on Alisa Lincoln:

www.wildpoppystudios.com

www.facebook.com/alisa.lincoln.art

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Cool Thing O’ the Week: Workaway

Sadly many of us assume we are too poor to live up to the glory of our travel Pinterest boards.

However, lucky for the broke drifters of the world, there are many ways to cut out travel expenses. One of the best ways to do this is to work in a hostel. The benefits are two-fold: not only do most of these opportunities offer free lodging, they also offer incredible opportunities to connect with people.

There are bunches of websites devoted to telling the stories of people who worked in hostels, but not a lot dedicated to actually finding work. To make matters more complicated, many European hostels only accept people with a European passport or work permit. Because of this, the months before leaving for Europe I spent hours in front of my computer, trying to find somewhere to stay for two months.

I had stumbled across Workaway a couple of times but didn’t want to pay for the initial fee. My fiance finally signed me up and footed the twenty bucks while I was bumming with friends in England. It was totally worth it, in a short time I had a place to work in Kosovo (Buffalo Backpackers).

Workaway has an incredible setup, you choose where you want to go and can look at reviews left by other workers. The opportunities offered vary beyond just working at hostels, you can teach English to children or help out in gardens. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants an adventure but doesn’t have any money. The website is www.workaway.info

(in speaking of travel blogs, check out my European travel Pinterest board with photos taken by yours truly)

Lingerie Shopping in China

Traveling to China? My main tip: hit up the lingerie shops.

If you’re a woman, hit them up for yourself. If you’re a man, be a true gentleman and go for the women in your life.

The first draw to lingerie in China is its price. I was in Shenzen, China (a city on the mainland by Hong Kong) and buying bras was about the equivalent of 20 U.S. dollars. As any American woman can tell you, this is a phenomenal deal. The panties came to about five dollars.

The second draw is the quality. The bras are actually made to support women. The straps are thick, not the thin spaghetti-like pieces of fabric Americans expect to hold up their breasts, and the straps on the back have three to four hooks. When I returned to America and bragged about my bras to my friends they were so excited they scoured the internet for access to bras like this – honestly, us ladies just want proper support! Get with it, Victoria’s Secret.

The third draw is how beautiful the bras are! Look at these:

Buying any number of fancy bras like this in America is likely to break the bank, but in China they were incredibly affordable, and there was a large variety; the walls are literally lined floor-to ceiling with beautiful brassieres (I still regret that the electric green bras didn’t come in my size).

The fourth draw is the beautiful non-thong panties. Don’t get me wrong, I see the appeal of a pretty G-string, but for just regular everyday wear I want something comfortable that doesn’t make me feel like a granny. Almost every bra in this store came with a matching set of panties. They had lacey panties, see-through panties, panties with netting, and nary a G-string in sight. It was wonderful and freeing, particularly as pretty American underthings seem to be shrinking by the day.

The one drawback to the lingerie in China is its size. Women in China, as a rule, are smaller than American women, so not everyone can find their size in these shops. However, if you are an especially slender woman, these shops will be a boon to you. I am a teeny woman, and my ribcage is too small to fit American bras, which is incredibly frustrating. I need at least a 30inch around for a bra and the smallest most American stores go to is a 32inch.

(please forgive the low-quality photos, I only had my iphone 4s with me and I took quick pics…)

img_1815-1

Our haul at the end of the day…stocking up on lingerie that’s made for real women!

img_1812

My cousin doesn’t know what to do with that particular pocket…

img_1808

Huge variety of underthings! See the racks of panties underneath too?

Notre Dame Paris

notredame

Halfway through May 2016, a homesick girl landed in the Paris after an eight-hour overseas flight from Detroit. That girl spent her first few hours in Paris on the top of a boat cruising the river Seine. That Paris was the city of light was immediately apparent, as was that it was the city of love, marked by the couples dotting the banks of the river in the twilight.

The only picture that turned out as I froze in the chilly evening air was this shot of the back of Notre Dame. I ended up getting a cold from jet lag and the exposure to the wind and chill of an unseasonably cold Parisian May, but this picture forever documents the first night of my European adventure.

Side note: for all of you traveling to Paris I highly recommend the Generator Hostel. I spent two whole days holed up in one of their rooms watching Friends as I nursed myself back to health and was astounded by their clean, affordable establishment. The food in the cafe is expensive, but also yummy and convenient. Also, there’s a Franprix (a French grocery-type store) across the Place du Colonel Fabien, which is the square the hostel is located in. Also on the Place is a metro station…and don’t even get me started on the wonders of the Parisian metro…my biggest disappointment in America is our lack of cheap, safe metro travel that features the notes of trumpet players and jazz singers echoing through the underground hallways.

Bayeux

After the rush and bustle of Paris, my school group took a break in small, picaresque town of Bayeux. The people here were incredibly kind, and took life at a more leisurely pace than their Parisian counterparts.

Bayeux’s main claim to fame is that it is home to the Bayeux Tapestry. This ancient relic depicts William the Conqueror’s conquest of England. We got to go see it, and even though I’m not a history person, I was quite impressed. The tapestry is over a thousand years old, but is still incredibly clear and the storyline is easily followed.

Bayeux was the favorite town of many in our group. The weather, mild with a bite of chill, afforded perfect walking among sedentary streets, quaint buildings shadowing the sidewalks and welcoming passerbys with banners and displays.

Strasbourg

Of all the cities in France, my favorite was Strasbourg. Right on the border of France and Germany, Strasbourg is an incredible hub for travelers. People sleeping in backpacks on the edge of the river, dread-locked backpackers with dogs, obvious Euro-drifters…it was definitely my kind of place.

My favorite aspect to Strasbourg was probably the streets, which were all cobbled. The fascinating thing about this city is its German influence. I actually spent twenty minutes in Germany, crossing the bridge long enough to get some rocks for my worldwide rock collection (Eastern Europe, Western Europe, China, and America so far!) The city has drifted back and forth between the two countries as the boundaries changed.

Notable things that happened in this city: I went to church in the crypt of the Notre Dame of Strasbourg, I won a stuffed Alsace stork in a scavenger hunt, and I got caught in a hail storm.