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When I took my first-round-the-world trip back in the eighties, my backpack was ridiculous. And by that, I mean enormous. Looking back, I am not sure what it contained, but whatever it was, not only was it huge, but it had too much in it. I recall waiting for a boat to take me from a Malaysian island back to the mainland when my pack split open at the seams, pouring the contents onto the dock.

On reflection, I can’t believe I hauled so much stuff around. Surely the object of travel is to free ourselves of the material objects that we surround ourselves with at home. Nowadays, whether I am traveling for a weekend or six months, I only carry a thirty-five-litre backpack and I never check luggage.

The (very minimal) disadvantages….

I admit that there are one or two disadvantages to traveling light, but the advantages outweigh them by far.

First the cons. Having a daypack means that you are limited to buying only very small souvenirs. This could either be a good thing or not, depending on your viewpoint. If you are a hard-core backpacker, you won’t be purchasing too many souvenirs anyway.

If camping forms a substantial part of your trip, it’s going to be difficult to get away with carrying a daypack. I have got around this by borrowing camping gear from local friends or hiring it. In many of the popular trekking areas of the world, there are plenty of companies from whom you can hire tents and sleeping bags. Likewise, I love to snorkel and it is generally easy to hire snorkelling equipment.

And the many advantages….

The pros – where do I begin? Physically, schlepping around an oversize pack is hard work. When you arrive in town and you are looking for somewhere to stay, hauling a large pack is cumbersome, especially in a hot climate. A heavy pack also puts a strain on your back and joints. Not having to handle a heavy/bulky pack generally makes life easier and gives you a sense of freedom and enlightenment.

Whilst traveling on buses and trains, handling a small pack is so much easier. Usually, it can be stored under your seat or in the overhead luggage rack. You can keep it within your sights, eliminating the security risks. I recall taking local buses in Sri Lanka, none of which had luggage compartments. I spotted more than one backpacker who had a major problem attempting to balance an over-sized pack on their lap on the crowded buses. I must admit to a small degree of smugness, as I sat with my comparatively tiny backpack stored neatly at my feet.

Imagine the scenario… have just got off a bus in India after a long and arduous journey and you are waiting for the luggage to be unpacked from the hold. As you wait, you are besieged by touts and beggars all trying to get your attention. If you were just carrying a small pack, you could have walked straight through them all and be checking in at your guest house by now!

At airports, there is no need to wait for checked bags, saving time and potential lost luggage. Anyone who has ever had a bag go missing will surely appreciate the wisdom in taking only carry-on.

Top Tips for traveling light

After many years of tweaking my packing list, here are a few tips:

Wash what you wear daily. If that sounds like a chore, don’t worry – it will soon become part of your routine. If you are traveling somewhere hot, you can wash it before bed and it’s usually dry by the morning. Some countries, especially in Asia, sell tiny packets of washing powder which are perfect for life on the road.

Technology has made life easier. Back in the day, I would carry a Walkman along with a case of tapes. Now all my music is on my phone. Instead of books, I have a Kindle.

Instead of taking a full-size towel, take a compact travel towel which will barely take up any space.

A lightweight foldaway backpack is a necessity when only taking a small pack. This can be used for daily excursions and your main pack can be left at your accommodation.

Take a mini size in everything you possibly can – hairbrush, hairdryer, mini sewing kit and pack of cards.

If you are traveling with a friend or partner, share anything that you both use.

No turning back

My first light-weight excursion was a month-long trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. I was apprehensive to start with. How would I possibly cope without all those unnecessary items?!  Now, I couldn’t travel any other way.

Originally posted 2017-06-15 02:07:26.

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Creating a Home Away From Home




This article was originally published on by Laura Baldwin. Download Tiplr here.

The Lessons I Learned When Beginning a New Life on a Working Holiday Visa

Nervous, excited and eager to go; the very emotions I felt when receiving confirmation on my working holiday visa to Australia. I did plan on well, planning, but my list of things to do became suitcase items as I prepared to fly away with my best friend to begin our next adventure at the other side of the world. I almost forgot about the the almighty travel insurance which is vital if you’re planning on going on crazy road trips or participating in water sports over the next year! A few hours after landing I realised I wasn’t ready for the harsh realities that came with starting a life in another country, and the obstacles you face when creating a brand new home away from home.

Firstly, and quite obviously, there was the issue of money. Always save enough moola to keep you going without work for at least a couple of months. Most countries won’t let you in without enough money in your bank for rent and a flight home and although I haven’t been there yet, I know Canada won’t let you in without travel insurance. Research your destination, look up the cost of food, rent and travel expenses. As a naive twenty one year old who was fresh out of uni, I was a little scared and unprepared once I’d arrived in the land down under, especially when I grasped that purchasing groceries could result in asking the bank for a small loan to help you get by.

Finding your feet somewhere completely new often means beginning the uphill battle of trying to find work. Unless your parents are funding your trip or you saved enough to relax and travel for a wee while then work should really be your number one priority. I signed up to a recruitment agency and that pretty much set me up for my time in both Australia and New Zealand. You don’t have to stay with them but they’ll most likely find you decent work straight away and at least you know you’re working for a legitimate company. If you have zero admin experience, or you’ve yet to try your luck at creating the world’s prettiest double espresso soy vanilla latte, then get yourself some volunteer work at home to gain experience. That way you have both the knowledge and reference before you get there.

As nice as it is to settle, one thing is for certain, TRAVEL. Yes it’s great when you make a new group of friends and you’re having fun living together, but it can become a little too safe and comforting. There’s a reason you’ve decided to go to the country for a year and I highly doubt it involves staying in the same place the whole time you’re there. Take a walk on the wild side, rent a car or book and trip and just go for it. There’s nothing more gratifying than the feeling of taking in the beauty and culture a country has to offer.

Being from the UK I’m used to jumping in the passenger seat of a car and arriving to any destination in less than six hours. Call me moronic but I thought things would be the same in Australia, especially places in the same state. After realising a road trip to Sydney would involve sitting in a car for 12 hours I made sure to look up all destinations from thence forth. I would advise anyone to do the same if you’re not familiar with the place you’ve moved to, especially if you’re planning a weekend trip!

Entering a hostel or new flat full of people you’ve never met before can be pretty terrifying if it’s your first time traveling. Unless you’re a natural extrovert it will mean completely stepping out of your comfort zone and talking to a bunch of complete strangers. Hibernating in your bed and watching Game of Thrones back to back can seem like the easier option but don’t. Take the plunge and sit with people, they’ve been in the same situation as you before so they’ll most likely welcome you and make you feel at ease in no time. It’s crazy how this one simple step with boost your confidence in the future. I even find I’m far more confident in job interviews as I’ve mastered taking control of the initial anxiety I feel in an uncomfortable situation.

You may have made the first move and met people but if you’re not happy, don’t stay. Social media can be the pinnacle for masking your reality, and saying yes can be great unless you know deep down your gut is telling you something completely different. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself; if you’re unhappy in a place or hostel then leave! An Instagram filter may make your life look idilic, and with people telling you ‘ah you look like you’re having the best time’ it can be easy to pretend your overall feeling to a place, person or situation is one of pure delight when really it’s not. There will be another place in the amazing country you’ve moved to that will make you feel far more content and honestly, you get one chance at this so don’t waste it.

Be prepared for the unprepared! If only life was like being handed a big bowl of melted chocolate, well eventually you’d feel sick and the novelty would wear off. That’s why you’re going to have to go through difficult times and often they’ll come at the moments you’re least prepared for them. I lost my passport when I first arrived in New Zealand. I had yet to open a bank account, apply for my tax number and find a job. The latter required me to have the previous three items. I’d saved enough to live for a month but that’s how long it took me to apply for and receive a new passport, then set up the bank account and send off for my IRD number. I cried, I slept and I probably refreshed my emails 100 times a day for confirmation that my passport was on it’s way back to me from the UK. That hasn’t been the only time things haven’t gone my way but I’ve learnt from the past that as long as you face it, you have to get through it. The month I spent sitting around at the hostel meant a month of meeting new people and from that I’ve made some of by closest friends here. When things become overwhelming, sit down, take a deep breath and let it go. It will always sort itself out.

I’ve often been told how lucky I am to be able to do this, and yes I know I am but the reality is anyone can. There are so many countries offering the working holiday visa that it really is as simple as saving up some money and getting on the flight. I’ve met every kind of person and although it isn’t for everyone, it’s always been a motto of mine to regret doing than spending my life thinking what if. With a positive mind, the right preparation and a sprinkle of get up and go you have the ground work to have the best year of your life. Or years, because traveling the world is a profession if you allow it to be.

Originally posted 2017-06-18 10:45:14.

Also published on Medium.

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Getting There: Traveling by Bus in the U.S.




This article was originally published on by Alaina Kiesel. Download Tiplr here.

“Wait. You did what?”

That’s the typical response I receive when I tell friends and family about my travels to and from Burlington, North Carolina to Sedalia, Missouri last summer.

I was headed to visit a dear friend and experience the famous Missouri State Fair! No, I didn’t opt for the four hour $400 flight; I definitely didn’t go for the $400 45-hour train ride; and though tempting, I didn’t road-trip the fourteen hour drive knowing that my poor 2004 Subaru Forester might not survive. So I went with the best option I could come up with. I took the bus. The Greyhound bus. Nine of them, actually. Four one way and five the other.

Clip from the 1995 comedy “Stuart Saves His Family”

Sounds like a nightmare right? While it had its good and bad moments, traveling by bus is an experience I’d highly recommend. If you’re already used to extensive bus travel throughout Europe or Asia, the Greyhound buses might seem like luxury to you with its cushioned seats and personal outlets. Before this adventure, I had a few experiences with transport that could only attempt to compare: hours in a group van throughout southeast India; four to five hour trips from Upstate New York to Manhattan; a couple of hours on the public bus from small Tuscan town Poggibonsi to central Florence . I had only an inkling of what I was in for before embarking on 25+ hours of extreme temperatures, body odor, gas station snacks, new sights, and inspiring stories.

Despite long hours and the occasional smelly passenger, riding the bus was the perfect way to pass through multiple cities, save money, meet really interesting people, finish a good book and take SO MANY NAPS all the while making my way to my destination.

There’s something thrilling about driving through a new city, an old town maybe. But there is even more splendor in gazing out the window as an observer possessing an ability that one would never have from the distance of the driver’s seat or from an airplane. You are not looking out at the road or the clouds or rooftops, but at the lives and idiosyncrasies of each cispeal place. The beauty of the bus is that when it stops, you also gain the ability to become part of that place, even if just for a moment.

Greyhound Station in Tennessee / Photo Credit: Brent Moore

Because of large chunks of time between some arrivals and departures, I was able to catch a fiddle band at one of Nashville ’s great venues, walk through downtown Little Rock, and enjoy a beer at a couple of pubs. On the bus, in the stations, and in local bars between transfers, I spoke with people from all over the country: an LA native, Cheesecake Factory Chef itching to get home to his baby girl after a business trip; a young man moving himself down to a new university after a tough year, a father picking up his entire life in Florida to be closer to his struggling daughters in Connecticut; to name just a few.

My experience was humbling and exciting, though as with any adventure, there are things I’d wish I’d known or had done differently.

So here are some of my tips for any fellow bus travelers:

  1. Wear Layers: 9/10 times the bus will be colder than it is hot. The bus drivers are cognizent of the fact that many close, hot bodies together can cause unwanted smells so he or she will often keep the air on for the duration of the trip. It can get VERY cold, so whether it’s an extra sweatshirt, long socks, or even a blanket (yes, people do it), be prepared.
  2. Be Early: It’s ideal to be able to get your pick of seats. I preferred to sit closer to the front, away from the restroom, and next to a window. If I was able to, I also always checked for a working outlet in or near my seat.
  3. Plan According to the Itinerary: When I was planning my trip, I carefully noted the amount of time that I’d have between each transfer to see what I would have time for in between. A bathroom break? Lunch? A full on city tour? It helped to look at the bus stations on a map in relation to the rest of the city/restaurants/amenities. I learned that many of the bus stations are not central to town and tend to be in not so great areas (as a young woman traveling alone, there were a few moments when I felt slightly unsafe). Make sure to be aware of the time of day you’ll be at these stops. I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk solo from the Nashville station at night. I ended up paying $5 to Uber just a couple of blocks away to 3rd and Lindsley Bar & Grill.
  4. Helpful Items: Portable phone chargers are great! If you are traveling solo, having access to a working phone especially at night is important. A Reusable water bottle was my life saver because there were always water fountains around in the stations and I didn’t have to spend money or look for shops/vending machines. A journal is the best way to record your journey. I ended up typing notes in my phone while on the bus and then writing in my journal at rest stops and between transfers. Write down observations, interactions, all sensations! The amazing part of travel isn’t just the destination, it’s about getting there.

[Alaina Kiesel | Editorial Assistant Intern | North Carolina & New York, USA]

Originally posted 2017-06-18 10:41:35.

Also published on Medium.

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How To Bring Your Queer Partner to Cousin Courtney’s Straighter than Spaghetti Wedding




So you’ve weighed your options and decided that the night probably won’t end with fire and pitchforks; you’re attending a straight wedding with your queer partner. Maybe the bride is your cousin who once said she thought lesbians were weird or maybe you’ll be seated with Uncle Mark who still uses the word “gay” like a seventh grader. It’s safe enough for you to go, but are you going to be waiting and listening for inappropriate comments instead of Uptown Funk? We want you to have fun, so pack your chapstick and head out for a weekend of mimosas and misogyny. Here’s your guide on how to still have fun when you’re not sure how much of the crowd is waiting for the church to burn you right then and there.

Before the Event
Have the tough discussions first. Highlight any potential problematic partygoers and how open you want to be with them. If you’re normally loud and proud, but want to keep your sexualities on the down low, you’re not betraying your community. If you want to be out, but steer clear of Aunt Nancy at the buffet, go for it. Know what terms you’ll be using to introduce one another and be willing to change or have a plan to leave if one of you is uncomfortable at any time. Have a number for a local taxi in your phone before you’re at the mercy of the wifi in a Kentucky barn. Even if there are some specific people you want to avoid, what’s wonderful about a wedding is that there are usually loads of people there! So if someone misgenders you after you’ve been clear? Moonwalk your way to the other side of the dance floor.

What to Wear
Besides white, nothing’s off-limits. You don’t like wearing heels? You don’t have to femme it up. You love wearing dresses, but also want to keep the beard? Just keep it classy. If you are the best-dressed couple in the room, you’ll draw attention for the right reasons.

The Ceremony
It is tempting to believe that just because the service is overwhelmingly heteronormative, everyone is against you. Some people are just attached to traditions and haven’t paused to place gender and sexuality in context because they’ve never needed to. There’s a place for you in the institution of marriage if you want there to be. Bring tissues and thank Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).

A Conservative Relative Approaches You with Concern/Disdain/A Pitchfork

Breathe and remember that you were invited. The bride or groom decided that they wanted you at their wedding and you have every right to party the night away just as this person does. Then remember that this is wildly inappropriate. If this is a random person, a “mind your own business” will do. You know them? “Mind your own business, Janet.” Moonwalking away is always an option.

Yes, dance together! Slow songs, fast songs, anything-that-mentions-a-slide songs! Don’t be the sloppiest couple on the dance floor because that’s just tacky, but if you want to be the second sloppiest, go for it! And if you’re feeling way too shy, but still want to dance, make your way out for the couples’ songs: friends do this one all the time too. Everyone will be too drunk to notice.

Final Notes
Remember they didn’t choose to be this way, this is just the way they are. If it gets painfully hetero, make it a game. Drink every time someone says “blessed.” Add a coin to the pile every time the groom performs his fraternity handshake. Print your own Straight Wedding Bingo (below) and turn your pain into sweet, sweet winnings. And the best way to ignore the haters might be to get caught up in the wedding madness: jam out to Uptown Funk, race each other to the chocolate fountain, and dance the Hora with people you just met.

Originally posted 2017-06-15 03:05:39.

Also published on Medium.

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