Aside from what it’s like to date while traveling, which you can read more about here, I get a lot of questions around my general lifestyle choices – from my exercise and beauty regimen to how I manage my finances while on the road. As of today, I’ve been on the road for 199 days, and I can gladly say I’m not only surviving the travel lifestyle, I’m absolutely thriving. So how have I managed to not only get by but thrive? Below are a list of the top questions received and my answers.
Aren’t you exhausted after traveling so much?
In short, no. I’m motivated and inspired by it. I LOVE travel. I have always loved traveling, staring out of the window of an airplane (I’m a window seat kind of girl), and holding my breath in anticipation of what I will see and experience when I land. I learn and grow through each and every experience I have had encountering a new culture and land. By the end of September, I will have visited 48 countries total (in my lifetime) and hope to have visited 8-10 additional countries by the time my year of travel is up. And after that, there are so many more I want to visit that I will simply have to save for later – Japan, Bhutan, the Phillipines, Israel, Egypt, Mongolia, Montenegro, and the Seychelles to name just a few….Chances are that if you love to travel and like a change of scenery, you won’t get tired of traveling either.
The trick to keeping my energy level up is to have a home base for my travels within a region. My Remote Year city in each country has served as a home base from where I can travel and take side trips from. In each country that I am based in, I have had my own room and, in most cases, bathroom. I set up my room as if I’m moving in forever and typically within a few hours of landing. I unpack right away no matter how tired I am. I usually give myself a few days to explore the new city before taking off on a side trip, which can last anywhere from 3-5 days. In between side trips, I recharge at my home base and like to cook meals in my apartment, go for runs, and live in the city as if I’m living there full time. When living in Bangkok, I had a regular morning routine of running around a lake near my apartment and stopping at a local coffee juice stand for my morning pick me up. I’ve found similar running routes in Prague, Phnom Penh, and Lisbon.
What items do you put up in your room to remind you of home?
When I first left for my trip, I brought a number of photos and small decorations in my suitcase, which I talked about here. Those have all been shipped home in one package or another. If I’ve acquired a piece of artwork or memento in a city, I’ll put it up in my room for that month but typically ship a 5-10 kilo (10-20 pound) package home (aka Mom’s house) at the end of the month with the things I purchased that month. Shipping costs in each of the countries range between $20-$100 depending on the size of the package. It may sound like a lot of money, but it’s worth it to me if it’s something I’ve spent time picking out and will serve as a nice keepsake once I’m back in the U.S.
My current room decorations include two tiles I hand painted in Portugal, a few books I picked up at the OSHO Ashram in India, a purse I bought in Thailand, a linoleum cutting of a peacock that I created in Prague, and two handheld souvenir fans from Ibiza. All of these items will be shipped home at the end of the month to minimize baggage weight and clear space for new items. I’m learning how to minimize, minimize, minimize. It’s amazing what you think you ‘need’ at the beginning of the trip versus what I ‘need’ now – which is very little!
How do you pack everything?
When I started my travels in Asia, I had one 60 pound suitcase (a huge Samsonsite I purchased at Costco) where I packed all of my clothes as well as an Osprey Ariel 65 backpack for side trips. That was convenient and perfect for Asia, but when I arrived in Europe the max size of a checked back is 50 pounds so one of my fellow Remote Year travel buddies, Maxime, was kind enough to check my Osprey backpack as his checked luggage. My goal this month is to go back down to one bag and donate or send home anything I’m not using. I’m also going to fully transition to the Osprey backpack as I’ll be doing more, shorter side trips in South America. My mom, who I will be meeting in Iceland in a few weeks, has agreed to take home my Samsonite suitcase so I can be largely luggage free.
In addition to my two large ‘suitcases’, I also have a large black Longchamp XL travel bag, perfect for weekend getaways, as well as a gray Pacsafe backpack that I use to carry my laptop in. I’ve also picked up two canvas style tote bags in India and Thailand that I use for grocery shopping since most European countries charge for their grocery bags.
In terms of organization within the suitcase, I use a mix of packing cubes purchased on Amazon, these compression bags that don’t require a vacuum, this Mara Hoffman toiletry bag (which I have used as a going out clutch too!), jewelry case and shoe bags I picked up at Hyatt hotels. The only loose items within my bag are my extra bags and jacket.
How do you have so many outfits and accessories?
It’s no secret that I love to shop, and I have purchased a number of clothes on the trip. Nearly all of my clothes come from small markets within each of the countries we have visited and typically range in cost from $5-$20 max. While it seems like I’m buying a lot of clothes, I’m spending significantly less on clothing purchased during my travels versus what I typically spend at home. All of the outfits below cost $5 or $6 each and were purchased at Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok.
Before leaving for this trip, I vowed to only bring items that I was okay losing, having stolen, or getting worn out. I’ve stuck to that, for the most part. My biggest clothing splurge took place in Hoi An, Vietnam where I had a number of clothes made, including three evening gowns. I managed to wear all three evening gowns at one point or another before sending them back home in one of my monthly packages. (Thanks, Mom, for receiving and holding all of my packages for me) ). Aside from local markets, nearly every country we have visited has a Zara and/or H&M which carry my go-to staples. All of the outfits below are from Zara and cost between 13 and 20 euros each, on sale.
Remote Year also holds a monthly clothing swap, where you can drop off clothing you no longer wear or pick up new items. I got a few of these items from the clothes swaps in Asia.
Accessories are the one thing I have no problem buying. I tend to use my accessories, earrings, necklaces, belts, and rings daily so if I see something I like, I buy it. Since most of the countries we have visited are underdeveloped, accessories are, well, very accessible. Here are a number of accessories purchased at different markets or stores for next to nothing.
Once I start feeling like I have too many clothes on hand, I go through them and donate what I’m not using or ship home the items I want to keep but likely won’t wear for the rest of the trip. Items that I brought from home and still use are the three bikinis I brought with me, a black James Perse dress, a black JCrew jumpsuit, a few JCrew v-neck t-shirts in different colors, black workout pants, a black sweater, Northface rain jacket, Patagonia down sweater jacket, and a pair of JBrand jeans.
How many shoes do you have with you?
I currently have eight pairs of shoes, five of which are sandals or flip flops since I’m following summer around the world this year. My two pairs of Free People vegan leather sandals are still holding up – though I did have to have both repaired in India – for a total cost of $0.50. My Havaiana slim black flip-flops are my go-to beach shoe of choice. I love my Nike Free 5.0 black running shoes. Aside from that, I have one pair of black strappy heels, similar to these, from H&M that I’ve worn a handful of times. I had three pairs of sandals made in Hoi An, one pair which I sent home and another that I donated. I’ve barely worn a pair of espadrilles and sent home another pair of flats that I had not worn once.
Do you have an exercise routine?
I am committed to exercising but do not have one single routine. I like to mix up my exercise regimen but aim to get thirty minutes in, at least, per day. I refuse to pay for a gym membership though many people in the program do join the local gym. In Asia, most of our living accommodations had pools so I enjoyed doing laps most morning and lifting weights in the gym. In Thailand and Cambodia, I found running routes that I absolutely loved and tried to do 3-4 times per week. In India, I did circuit training using these exercise routines I found on Pinterest. In Europe, I’ve been walking everywhere and try to get in a bit of circuit training and running. Dancing the night away also counts as exercise, which I’ve been doing a bit more of while in the Europe. Finally, I downloaded the Gaiam Yoga Studio app, which has several yoga routines you can do in your living room. You can select a routine that works best for you based on your ability, focus, or duration. I also try to sign up for tours that include some sort of physical activity, whether it is kayaking, biking, or hiking to explore the cities I’m visiting.
What’s your beauty routine?
Pre-travel, I was on a pretty strict beauty routine – mani/pedi every 4 weeks, waxing every 6 weeks, haircut/color every 10 weeks, lashes every 6 weeks, spray tanning before beach vacations, massages every 6 weeks. What is one to do in a foreign country? I’ve mainly maintained my own mani/pedis using Essie gel couture polish (Rock the Runway Red). Every couple of months, I’ll go in for a maintenance mani/pedi which has cost between $15-30 in the countries I’ve been in, to clean up cuticles, calluses, etc. In San Francisco, I was spending $60/gel mani and pedi. I’ve essentially stopped waxing (except for in Thailand and recently in Ibiza when I knew I would be on the beach). Shaving and plucking it is! It’s not ideal but totally fine for a year and, again, I’m saving $75 from not getting my brows and bikini line waxed. I’ve gotten two cuts/colors – maintaining more of a 12 week schedule at this point. I had a phenomenal cut/color in Cambodia by an expat from Philadelphia for a total of $120. My next cut and color was done in Lisbon for 160Eur, which ended up being a total and complete nightmare. The cut was just okay but the color – well let’s just say I went from beach blond highlights to cheese blonde dyed hair – after 10 hours at the salon. I kid you not – I guess you live and you learn! Regardless, I was spending $350 in San Francisco for each cut/color so a huge savings in the long run.
As far as lashes go, I did maintain them in Asia mainly because it was so cheap! In the U.S., I was spending roughly $130 per lash session whereas it cost $45 in Malaysia and Cambodia. After India, however, I didn’t replace the lashes and have been going au natural for the past three months which is just fine by me! As far as massages go, I was getting one nearly every week or every two weeks in Asia. The spas there are phenomenal and incredibly affordable ($30 for a 90 minute massage or $80 for a deluxe spa day package). In addition, one of our fellow Remotes, Sutton Arabe is a trained massage therapist and does in-apartment sessions for clients. I’ve also spray tanned twice – once in Thailand and once in Prague before my beach vacations to get that bronzed look since I don’t tan naturally. I’m a Ginger, after all! The sessions were each around $30. In between, I use St. Tropez tanning products, which work great!
Aside from beauty services, I have moved almost exclusively to travel sized bottles of all of my daily products. Travel size toothpaste tubes and contact solution typically last for about a month and they’re easy to throw in my travel bag for the weekend. When I first came to Asia, I was using full sized bottles of certain products but the weight adds up, and they typically last a very long time. I didn’t think I could survive without certain products but I’ve managed to find new, fantastic products while on the road. I still love my Oribe humidity control spray and Gold Lustre oil but am using a different kind of shampoo and conditioner – shampoo from the COMO hotel I stayed in Thailand and Klorane conditioner – a French brand that my friend, Michelle, recommended and now love. Dry shampoo is also a total gamechanger. I don’t have a preferred brand as all have been good from Oribe, Klorane, and Batiste.
Aside from products, I have a handful of hair ties, pins, and clips with me. I love my Mason Pearson hairbrush, comb, and BaByliss Pro travel sized hairdryer/straightener.
How do you address medical concerns?
Knock on wood, the last time I was really sick was in Malaysia when I had giardiasis (which you can read about here). Aside from that, there are two practicing nurse practitioners in my program who have provided excellent advice. Medication is extremely easy to get in Asia and Europe – simply go to the pharmacy, describe your ailments, and they’ll prescribe something for you. I had also visited the Adult Immunization Clinic in San Francisco before leaving and stocked up on everything from Cipro and Azithromyacin to Benadryl, NyQuil, Dayquil, Advil and Malaria Pills. I could have gone without the Malaria pills and significantly cut down on the quantity of meds I brought in general – especially since most people on the program seem to be carrying a small pharmacy with them. That being said, it’s good to come a bit prepared with a first aid kit. I’ve used Cipro and Azithromyacin the most – primarily for stomach issues. Before I left, I had my doctors fill out a year long prescription for the things I needed to bring (contact lenses and BC) and simply had them call my insurance company to explain why I needed a 12 month supply. Having bandaids on hand is also good for foot blisters from all the walking you end up doing. I’ve also been pretty consistent about taking a multi-vitamin every day to make sure I’m getting the right vitamins.
What are you eating and do you always eat out?
I’m trying (key word ‘trying’) to eat healthier than as if I’m on vacation. It’s not always easy, but I typically eat muesli with almond milk and some sort of fruit or jam in the morning, a glass of oj, and coffee with almond or soy milk. Depending on where I am, I either make lunch at home or eat out. If making lunch at home, I usually make a sandwich with cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese and sometimes meat with a side salad, olives, or nuts. Outside of the US, you can find incredibly affordable ‘lunch menus’ which cost anywhere from $2-10. In Asia, the food stalls were incredibly delicious, fresh and affordable so most lunches were eaten out. My favorite meal in Asia was the Thai Papaya Salad – a spicy papaya salad with peanuts. Yum!! In Prague, I’ve been making my go to lunch sandwich. Dinner typically varies, and I have eaten most meals out. I’ve splurged and had a few $50-100 meals but most range from $5-10, including a glass or two of wine.
As for snacks, I’ve drastically cut down the amount of candy/sugar I consume and try to eat healthier snacks like cashews, almonds, or fruit instead of chips, pretzels or candy. One of my best friends on the program, Kara, is a nutrition and health coach, which has been tremendously valuable. Iv’e been making better food choices as a result, including working on limiting the amount of dairy in my diet. In Asia, I also went vegan (no dairy, eggs, or meat) for a month and largely vegetarian after that given most of the meat raising/handling in Asia is subpar. I couldn’t resist the jamón in Portugal, though, so went back to consuming some meat but eating cleaner has helped keep me significantly more energized in general. Waterwise, I ended up buying water in Asia but have been drinking tap water since arriving in Europe. The water is delicious and safe here, and I just refill my water bottles on the go.
As far as cooking goes, I do it sporadically. In Asia, we did not have ovens so you get used to making food on the stove top. I usually make a pasta with mushrooms and tomatoes or a salad.
How are you tracking expenses and managing your budget?
I budgeted roughly $50,000 for my year long trip, which I saved up for via paycheck earnings and a house sale. This is on the high end of a budget needed to travel around the world. You can do it for alot cheaper, but I didn’t want to change my lifestyle and have therefore set aside more funds than is needed. Roughly half that goes to Remote Year, who provides an apartment each month, workspace, programming, and airfare in between all of the countries.
Given I have one main bank account, I monitor spending each month to make sure I’m roughly pacing on track. To date, I’ve been doing quite well but Europe is definitely more expensive than Asia, and I chose to go to two of the most expensive European destinations in the next few weeks – Ibiza and Iceland. Once I get to South America, I will be scaling back spending and looking into cheaper travel options – including bus trips.
In order to pay for hotel rooms and flights, I’ve used a number of airline and credit card points. I signed up for Chase Sapphire Reserve, which provided a 100,000 point sign up bonus (they now only offer 50K points). Upon arrival in each country, I also always use ATMs to withdraw local currency. The ATMs always provide better exchange rates than the cash exchange windows. I also have a Charles Schwab ATM card, which reimburses me for all ATM fees at the end of each month. Hallelujah!
In terms of managing travel expenses among friends, I rely heavily on Splitwise which allows you to easily track expenditures on trips in different currencies. Once the trip is over, my friends and I use Venmo, PayPal, or Chase Quickpay to transfer funds over.
How do you figure out where you want to travel and what you want to do?
I’m a list keeper. I use Apple’s Reminders app on my iPhone to make lists for everything – To Do list, Countries I want to visit, Countries I’ve been to, Bars I want to check out, House items needed, Work ideas, etc. I also pin places I want to travel on my Pinterest account here. After checking out my list of places I want to visit, I start to research best time of year to visit, flight costs, deals, if any friends want to go and if there are any good hotel deals in the area. Once I’ve narrowed down my destination choice, I use a combination of research on Kayak, booking.com, and Airbnb to find a great place to stay near the city center. I’ll also check my Chase Sapphire Rewards points to see if it’s worth using them for that particular trip. Once a hotel is booked, I like to look into tour options for the cities on Viator and Airbnb Experiences. In Lisbon, I found the azulejo tile painting class through Airbnb Experiences.
How are you staying connected via mobile phone and other tech objects?
My MacBook Air, iPhone 7 Plus, Kindle Paperwhite, and JBL Bluetooth speaker are my favorite tech objects. I also have a set of Bose noisecancelling headphones and Apple headphones for plane rides and running. Apple’s international travel kit that I use also contains various plugs for different countries. I carry two travel adapters, one that converts power voltages and contains 2 usb plugs.
I chose not to keep my AT&T phone plan, which I was paying $90 a month for. Instead, I ported my US number to Google Voice for the year (for $20) so that when I return to the U.S. I will still have my U.S. number. From Google Voice, I forward any calls to a Skype number that allows me to pick up the call. In order to receive data and use my phone, I have been getting SIM cards in every country I go to. The SIM cards typically cost $15-30 for 5-10GBs of data – astoundingly cheap compared to the U.S. and are typically available in the airport. This allows me to make local phone calls and essentially get unlimited data on my phone throughout the month. If you plan on doing any extended international travel, I highly recommend going this route. Others in Remote Year who did not want to deal with the hassle of finding SIM cards in every country we visit opted to switch to T-Mobile, which offers unlimited international data with one of their plans. Everyone who uses it swears by it, and upon return to the U.S. I will be signing up with T-Mobile.
To see if your phone is unlocked, read this article. If it’s not unlocked, your carrier has to unlock it for you. It’s a bit of a pain but worth doing since every other country in the world sells unlocked phones. Also, wifi is essentially free and readily available all over Asia and Europe so whenever I go to a restaurant or cafe, I ask to connect to their free wifi.
How do you meet people outside of Remote Year?
I typically meet people through local seminars or classes I take, on Tinder, or simply the good old fashioned way – striking up a conversation with the person next to me. It is harder to meet people abroad but you get what you put into it. You can also read the blogpost I wrote earlier this year about meeting people while traveling here.
I hope this gave you a feel for how I’ve been managing my life as a full time traveler. Feel free to leave additional questions in the comments section!