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Your Toolbox for International Travel

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How does being on a maintenance crew help you to travel?

To think that digging deeper into one stagnant place, sometimes literally to run electrical wiring or plant trees, would in turn help spread your wings. Yet, there are many things I learned as part of the maintenance crew at a camp facility. Paint will always make it’s way onto your clothing, coffee truly does boost morale, and leaf blowers are a source of power and unparalleled joy. Physical work is interestingly fulfilling, sometimes those who work the hardest earn the least, and time must be made for creation.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned in these two weeks: Don’t forget your tools.

So naturally, that’s what I did. Amidst the chill of a November morning, my coffee still waking up in waves of steam, I dragged my legs across the gravel road. Back towards the shed, where the day started and where our future progress rested. When I secured my grasp on the small, silver chunks of the ratchet set, I felt as though I was bringing the team to victory. My muscles turned slowly, I checked the volume of my podcast, and made my way back down the road.

As I prepare to fly to South America on November 28th, I have searched the high and low depths of the internet for answers to so many questions. I failed in finding the shed of hope or a shiny, metallic cluster of utensils for assistance. So, I have compiled the various tools from my research into the following list. Consider this to be our traveling toolbox, one that we can grab from our pockets for an easy fix or how-to.

With my steadfast belief in the power of travel to aid in our understandings of ourselves and others, I hope this toolbox helps you feel better equipped to buy that ticket! 

Dolla-Dolla Bills

-Spread it like Skippy!

Avoid traveling with a lump sum of cash. Spread your money throughout your belongings and your clothing to help you adapt in emergency situations.

-Travelers Checks or Prepaid Credit

Avoid a cash shortage by using variations of payment, such as a Travelers Check or Credit Card. Although somewhat archaic, Travelers Checks can only be cashed by you, can help with budgeting, and don’t rely on an ATM. However, they do rely on your ability to find local banks and may still have currency exchange charges.

Through VISA, TravelEx, and Mastercard, you can purchase prepaid credit cards offered at a nearby Rite-Aid, Wal-mart, or CVS. These cards can be used at accepting locations, as well as upon your return to your homeland. Fidelity is a great option that offers cards without foreign-transaction fees or minimum balance limits.

-Call your Bank

Make sure to update your bank account with your travel plans. It is a real burden to be abroad with a frozen credit card, especially when the suspected fraud is simply you trying to buy a souvenir in Paris .

-Cover the Real Bills

Automate your payments and postpone incoming mail prior to your departure. Review your insurance plans and commit to a travel insurance payment if necessary.

-RFID Wallet

Made by Pacsafe and sold by REI Co-Op, this wallet prevents electronic-scanning theft, prevents cut-and-run theft, and can hold multiple passports and cash.

Security and Health

-Make Copies of your Passport and Health Forms

Carry replications of your passport with you and leave a few copies with an emergency contact. This should also be done for prescription and immunization forms, a great side-effect of a routine check-up at your primary care before leaving.

-Register with the Designated Embassy

This will simplify the process of contacting the government for any needs of safety or assistance. When doing so, you can check for entry/exit fees or necessary vaccinations.

-Create an Itinerary

Make an outline of your expected plans, especially your purpose of entry and departure information, and the conversation with immigration officials will flow more smoothly. This will encourage you to organize your own plans, print any maps, and leave behind an itinerary with an emergency contact.

-First-Aid and Health Supplies

With an immune system that weakens with a sneeze, I have learned to always carry a Med-Kit. This page from the CDC helps to narrow down what will be worth having on-reserve.

-Osprey Backpack

I will be carrying such medicine in this pack, the Ariel AGTM 75L, throughout my upcoming trip and beyond. With a simple rain cover, it does an exceptional job fitting all of my needs, blocks any roaming hands, and it sits comfortably on my hips!

Ayo Technology

-Cellular Plan

Contact your provider, find the most logical international plan at a reasonable cost, and make sure to activate the global settings on your phone. It is possible to forgo your home plan and take advantage of the cellular data of the country you’re visiting by transferring your SIM-card, which should hold your saved contacts and numbers, into a phone purchased abroad. 

-Portable Power Bank

POM Power2Go helps me to stay charged, yet there are many options that will allow you to charge your devices on-the-go. These mobile batteries vary in terms of how many charge cycles they provide, the average charge time, and the number of devices that can be charged simultaneously.

-Plug Adapter

It’s electric! Really though, make sure you check the common plug type and voltage of the country or countries you are visiting. This Kikkerland adapter seems to be popular, while this Skross adapter will assist with both plug and voltage adaptation.

Other Knowledge Nuggets

-Can I have your Card?

Use this business pick-up-line and place the card in your wallet to avoid losing track of your hostel or favorite restaurant.

-Prevent Hanger

Save yourself (and others) and bring snacks everywhere.

-Transportation Apps

By downloading international maps, you can follow along with public transportation to confirm that you are taking the best route. Don’t forget about the screenshot! This allows you to save your route as an image, which you can zoom into and expand without using any data.

-Avoid Public Nudity

Or don’t, if that is your thing. But do pack some clothing in your carry-on and explore options for how to check your bag.

-Hydrate or Die-drate

Not all places boast the advantages of filtered tap water or fountains, so you will need to set aside a balance for purchasing water bottles. If you’re expecting low water accessibility, consider this gear for filtering and disinfecting your H2O.

As an LGBTQ+ Traveler

Do your research! It is well-known that the LGBTQ+ community faces specific political, economic, and social challenges around the world.

For anyone planning to travel alone and/or as an open member or ally to the LGBTQ+ community, here are the resources that I have found to be most helpful: GlobalGayz, GayTravel, and PurpleRoofs.


While this list may aid in travel preparation, it is certainly not all-inclusive. Please share this article and tell us at TravelPride what additional tools help you to travel more proudly! Thanks for reading, and be on the look-out for my first post from Peru!

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How Casual is Casual Diversity

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Diversity, in numerous ways, is becoming more and more commonplace. People who used to search for themselves in the media they consume are now the ones creating that media, and as such it is more commonplace to find representative characters. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community especially are inserting themselves into the media they create. From books to movies and TV shows to comics, more and more queer characters are popping up. As a result, the addition of these characters is becoming the norm, contributing to a sense of “casual diversity” in media. But just how casual is this casual diversity? 

For many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, they want characters that reflect their gender identity or sexuality to simply exist in the media they consume. We feel like we’ve moved away from a time that requires queer people to explicitly come out, both in real life and in books. We don’t owe a “coming out moment” to anyone, but creators are still trying to find a way to toe the line between making diverse characters and letting them simply exist and proclaiming their existence to readers.   

I recently read two young adult novels that had LGBTQIA+ characters, and they were introduced in several different ways. Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger is a fantasy novel set in Chicago, centered on a young girl working as a bartender who discovers that perfectly mixed cocktails can give you superpowers. She works at a gay bar owned by a blind gay man and works with a very tall punk rock Canadian named Bucket, who is a trans man. Readers are introduced to the bar’s owner before the main character begins working at his bar, and find out he is gay only when he casually mentions his boyfriend. Bucket, on the other hand, has a coming out moment when the protagonist asks him why he works at a gay bar when he is very clearly not gay. He is almost obligated to come out to her in order to explain himself and his job. Likewise, in Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, there is a pansexual character named Lucas who has a coming out moment with the reader. Not only does he have to explain pansexuality, but he also discusses how he cannot come out to his friends because of his status as the men’s swim team captain and the stigma surrounding that.

Though I’m sure these two authors had good intentions with their inclusion of these characters, they, unfortunately, send an underlying but powerful message to LGBTQIA+ and straight readers alike in regards to the necessity and potential danger of coming out. The way Krueger and Redgate set up Bucket and Lucas required them to come out in order to make the diversity visible, but this was not necessary. Krueger could have mirrored his simple mention of the bar owner’s boyfriend and describe Bucket wearing a binder, and Redgate could have mentioned Lucas’ previous crushes to people regardless of gender. Instead, they felt that they had to make their characters’ identities as obvious as possible, which only encourages the idea that LGBTQIA+ people need to come out in order to be acknowledged members of queer or straight communities. Lucas’ story especially highlights the general ignorance about pansexuality as well as the rampant homophobia present in men’s sports teams especially. This sends a strong warning to queer readers about the dangers of coming out and the potential harmful backlash for male athletes in particular.

It is important for characters like Bucket and Lucas to exist and be known and seen in books and other media, but creators are still finding an easy way to simply let these characters exist while also bringing them to the attention of readers and normalizing their existence. It’s a delicate balance between inclusion for the sake of inclusion and bringing too much attention to something that needs attention. It’s been a long journey already, but creators still have a ways to go to figure out just how “casual” casual diversity really is.

Originally posted 2017-09-06 14:20:41.

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Travel On A Budget

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It seems to me like people are taking shorter vacations or opting for trips closer to home, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you work a job that doesn’t pay as well as you’d hope, or maybe you’re a millennial (like me) who’s allegedly spent way too much on avocados and can’t afford a vacation (or a house).

Whatever the reason, this new trend of “I want to travel cheaply so I can buy groceries when I get back” is more popular than ever. But how does one manage this? Vacations seem to be expensive no matter what we do or where we go. And it’s true. Vacations always cost money, but there are ways to drastically reduce your expenses while away.

Off season for the win

Why get sucked into the tourist trap every single year when you can hit up the same spots a week before their tourist season begins? This can be tough depending on the area since some tourist seasons are dependent on weather. But you know what places don’t change much from week to week, whether it’s April or August? You guessed it: the beach. Most vacation spots will have dates for their busy season listed online. Once you have the dates, go a week (or two) early. Prices will be lower and hotels will be less packed.

Hostels and B&B’s

Speaking of hotels, don’t go near them. I’m serious. Go anywhere else. They’re expensive and boring, and bed-n-breakfasts are the hip new thing (unlike someone who still says “hip”). Not only are they cozier, they often have decent prices and are more laid back than hotels.

If you’re in Europe, hostels aren’t what the horror movies make them out to be. They’re actually quite comfortable, right in the middle of the city, and way more affordable than a hotel. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, youth hostels are an even better choice. They’re more youth-friendly and you’ll be surrounded by people closer to your own age. Make friends while you make great financial choices!

ATM vs. traveler’s check

Traveler’s checks were great when ATMs weren’t a thing, and they can still be useful if there’s no ATM in sight and you happen to know where the closest bank is. But more and more, ATMs are the best option on vacation. You don’t want to carry all of your spending money all at once at the start of the trip, so when you get low on cash, find an ATM. Because there might be fees, take out larger amounts at a time, to limit the number of withdrawals while away. To save money, set yourself a spending/withdrawal limit. It’s tempting to treat yo’self while vacationing, but remember that once you get home, bills and food are still a necessity.

Guidebooks!

You are a strong, independent woman/person/man who don’t need no help. If you’re traveling somewhere unfamiliar, skip the travel agency/service. They’re a rip-off. A good guidebook sells for about $20 and will have all the same information you’d get from a travel agent, without the hassle.

Blend in, eat local

If you ignored my hotel advice, then at least listen to this. If the front desk or concierge recommend a great restaurant right down the street, go anywhere else! Chances are they tell literally every guest to go to that one restaurant, and it will be packed (and not that great). You might end up having to go a little farther from your hotel for a bite, but finding local places are a far more interesting experience than the chain places. And are often cheaper, as they’re not targeting visitors and tourists.

Shop big

A couple of months ago I went to Hawaii with my sister and parents. Before leaving, we’d all promised various friends and family that we would return with souvenirs for everyone. A local in Kailua-Kona was kind enough to warn us away from the touristy “ABC Stores” that seem to be taking over the islands. He said that if we wanted good, cheap souvenirs, we should go to Walmart (I know, I was surprised too).

Local shops are nice, too, of course, and it’s good to support small businesses (and not evil Walmart) but for large quantities of souvenirs, going the cheaper route goes a long way in not breaking the bank.

Free activities will free you

This one is easy. Go to the beach and find free parking. Sit in the sand and catch some sun. Splash in the surf to your heart’s content. Go hiking and find hidden waterfalls and creeks to play in. Anything free is your best bet (and gets you some fresh air).

Vacations mean spending some money, but it doesn’t have to empty your wallet. If you follow these tips and stay aware of what you’re spending, you’ll still have money left over for when you get home (and can buy all the avocados you want, maybe).

Originally posted 2017-09-06 11:10:28.


Also published on Medium.

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Love It, Leave It: The Boston Edition

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This little firecracker of a city is one that gives me the warm and fuzzies. It’s known as the quintessential college town, with 35 packed into a city that clocks in with less than 675,000 residents. More specifically though, it’s my college town. This is where my exorbitant student loan checks go every month…heartwarming. Alas, it’s a city where I came into my own — I read a few books, made some friends, stumbled into love and played a little rugby (what a lesbian). Oh, and I ticked off tons of restaurants in the process; I strived for the sophomore, junior and senior 15.

With several visits on my calendar each year, I make a point to pop into long-standing favorites while leaving time to sample some new joints. P.S. I’ll confess something now that I’ll most likely deny later; even though I’m a diehard New York Yankees fan, catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park is a must-do…just don’t wear a jersey of the aforementioned team unless you enjoy some expletive-laden Bahston heckling.

Love It: The North End

Fuhgeddaboudit. I think there’s an actual official way people phonetically spell this out, but I went with my gut. If you’re a fan of Little Italy in New York City, you’re going to figuratively (not literally) lose your marbles — unless you have a shaky hand and typically travel with loose marbles — over the North End.

This was the OG neighborhood of Boston, settled by English Puritans in the 1600s. I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re gettin’ up there, North End. You can practically feel the rich history seeping through your Frye boots as you saunter down the intimate cobblestone streets; feel free to pause and give a quick shout out to that famous guy Paul Revere who once lived here. After you’ve eyed up some of that Freedom Trail everyone’s always going on about, it’s time for the main event. Head to one of the North End Italian institutions, kiss a large man named Tony (there will be a Tony, trust me) on both cheeks, tuck your napkin in your shirt, and start twirling some spaghetti. There are plenty of cozy, casual, and cash-only joints like Giacomo’s on Hanover Street (aka the main drag), where the menu is written on the wall, portions are anything but small, and you feel like you’re sitting in a Nonna’s dining room. Elevated dining experiences at high-end restaurants can also be found with little effort; spots like Mamma Maria exude elegance and romance with dimly lit, cozy nooks and plate riffs on typical Italian staples–rabbit pappardelle anyone?

Dessert is another hotly debated topic in the North End. You’re either a Mike’s Pastry or a Modern Pastry person (gasp, I’m into both). Grab a cannoli at either spot and maybe some napkins to wipe the powder off of your goofy, satisfied smile.

Leave It: Faneuil Hall’

Historically speaking, this is also a place you should swipe right to. Quincy Market has been in existence since 1826, slowly creeping up on its 200 year anniversary. The Mayor of Boston — Josiah, you guessed it, Quincy — thought the overflowing marketplace, full of wooden stalls hawking seafood and vegetables, in Faneuil Hall had become what we today would calleth a “hot mess.” Thus, the market was born. Today, the Faneuil Hall area is jam-packed with parents donning cheesy souvenir store t-shirts, with family in tow, heading to the kitschiest of chain restaurants; yes, including the likes of Cheers and Dick’s Last Resort. Plenty of smaller vendors like the Boston Chowda Co. line the market’s walls, but this is more for the 9-5 downtown work crowd that needs to pick up something for a fast bite. It’s not the place to head for memorable Boston grub. Pro tip: if you are looking for some quick eats, head to the Boston Public Market just a few minutes down the way; it showcases tons of local purveyors and has stands that sell everything from ramen to doughnuts.

Originally posted 2017-09-05 17:00:46.

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