I've been on a long hiatus

I have really neglected my blog this time, haven't I? It has been an adventure in these past 6 months of hiatus. 
From London to Amsterdam to Dublin to Cork to Schull to running away from evil French cafe owners to Dublin to Galway back to Dublin and finally resting in Lahinch, Co Clare then back home to Arizona, USA, add in a small road trip to Las Vegas and a 2 month long road trip in Northern California. WHEW (not mentioning the small road trip to southern California I took after Christmas).
You would think after all this travel that I would be ready to settle down at home already but NOPE, I have already got my hands tied inside of another dream adventure to Thailand and Bali. How can I make this work?!
Ps. I added an instagram widget. This is the best possible way to track me because I haven't been the most loyal blogger.. but I am working on it!  ->
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London Update!

So I don't think I could be neglecting my blog as much as I am right now. It is really difficult to keep up with a blog while traveling because in pure honesty, I rather be exploring than sitting on my computer. That's fair right? BUT I'll write a short post about my time here in London! 
So after our very LONG 26+ journey to London from Arizona, USA we had finally made it. 
We knocked on the door of the perfectly located Hampstead Heath, London home to Dan and Judy our helpx hosts! This has been the best helpx location so far let me tell you! My sister and I click with Dan and Judy so perfectly! They are so kind and their beautiful, small and cozy home is located just down the street from the PICARESQUE Hampstead Heath. True countryside in the middle the one of the worlds largest cities. We can also hop on a single bus and be in busy Piccadilly square quite quickly. (such a score!) On top of the two being just lovely, they are always spoiling us with chocolate, Ben & Jerrys and Toblerone while encouraging us to go out pub hopping in Camden, innocently of course! They encourage having fun! Sadly, we leave for Amsterdam tomorrow via ferry. We will miss Judy & Dan very much. They have welcomed us back already thankfully! :)

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Are you happy? :)

Hi Y'all!
So I have had this gradual realization about my expectations and how they play the biggest role in discovering happiness both in life and in travel. So please for the sake of yourself and my blog listen to me now: 

I want you to imagine yourself looking out an airplane window. 


You are headed on your dream vacation. Lets say it is on an island.


Imagine your perfect day on this island. 
Maybe a Mai-tai. Maybe a piña colada. Virgin if you're pure.
How would your perfect day play out? 
Think about this for a second. 
What is your perfect vacation? 


Now erase everything you just dreamt of because that is not how it will happen.
Brutal, I know, but the chances of it laying out that way are extremely low.

This is what I want you to do:

Go with no expectation..
or perhaps go expecting the worst. 

 Seriously. Imagine that you will do nothing more exciting than sitting in your hotel room. 
Now when I say this I hope you don't actually go and sit in your hotel room. Do make a small list of the most important things that you must do but allow your schedule to be flexible. Allow time for opportunities to take place. I strongly believe things happen the way they do for purpose. For a  lesson and an opening door.


My favorite proverb in this entire world.


My biggest advice for both life and traveling is:

Never set expectations. 

Open yourself up to flexibility. 
If you get a nudge to go a specific way or to get on a specific train, do it. 
Beautiful things happen.. some might even call it magic :) 
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Backpacks and updates!

Hi you! 
So it has been a few days since I posted last. I hit it off with a bang and then kind of forgot pushed aside my blog for awhile because I have been very busy! My birthday was the 13th, I got a tattoo ouch on the 15th, my boss is going out of town for 10 days, meaning I am the new gelato master and had to perfect my skills the past couple of days, so it has been a bit hectic lately, not to mention I leave for my 3 month backpacking trip in 12 days! 
People lie when they say tattoos don't hurt *FYI* Thank you Kay! :)
Anyways, I wanted to write about backpacks and if it is really necessary to have one when.. well backpacking. The answer is no, well maybe. It all depends on the trip. If you are going to camp like cavemen and sleep in tents then YES. If you are helpxing, where you will stay at a location from 2 weeks - 3+ months, then no.
My sister and I's luggage.
I will be bringing a laptop backpack and a carry on roller suitcase and my sister will have a medium sized roller suitcase as well. The rollers don't do damage on your back like the backpacking-backpacks do and you don't have to shove everything down into it. Easy! We may not look like real backpackers but i'll let my experiences do the talking not my luggage! This is a judgement free zone people! 
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How much in the bank?

The second most important thing after buying the plane ticket is the amount of money you take with you. 
So how much money am I bringing with me? 
~$1,500 for 3 months after all transportation is purchased
. (buses, ferries, inter-Europe flights)

View from atop London Eye and Lunch near the Tower Bridge

The money you bring after all transportation is covered is completely up to your feels. Do you feel like going shopping, seeing tons of concerts, visiting many attractions and drinking the good stuff? Then the more money the better.
-If I traveled with no intention of eating out, going to pubs, going on the London Eye, hiring bikes and taking boat rides down the canals in Amsterdam, etc, the bare minimum I would take would be NO LESS than around $175 per month personally. BECAUSE some days I wake up and really need a coffee to function or need to run away and take a bus to the beach. If you never went out at all, wanted to live the eco-organic farm life, then I am sure you could get off for much cheaper. 
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Cellular Devices

No matter how hard you want to resist and/or think having a phone while overseas is not necessary, it is. You might use your phone once a week to never at all, a cellphone is still important. 

1. Safety
2. Having contact with hosts (if volunteering)
3. Convenience (Need a cab? You don't have to walk a mile just to use the payphone to get one)
4. Emergencies I learned this the hard way. I never thought I would be put in a situation where my family from the US would NEED to speak to me right away. I ended up finding out about a very tragic event hours after it had happened. 

Biggest problem about cellphones overseas: The outrageous overseas fees. 
Solution: 1. SIM Card OR 2. Buying a cheap prepaid phone

SIM Card: 
If you select this option see if you can suspend your current cellphone account while gone.
What you will need before you leave home: An international phone with a SIM card slot. (FOR iphone users like myself: Iphone 4S or 5)
What you will need to buy while in Europe: A SIM card (that you will 'top up' = load money/pay as you go) I have a Vodafone SIM card. 

Prepaid Phone:
What you will need before you leave home: Nothing.. other than your important phone numbers. 
What you will need to buy while in Europe: A cheap pay as you go phone (starting at $25 for old-school no-touchscreen bricks) that you will top up = pay as you go. 

Important reminder for everyone with smartphones: 
Keep cellular data turned OFF at all times when not in use. 
Data is still being used when you aren't using your phone because apps continually update themselves.
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Being released from dogma: Live by this.

Words I live by. 

I still feel like you may have some hesitation about going.. so every now and again I will try to inspire you as much as possible because I feel there is no better education than studying this earth and it's people.
If I found out I had a life threatening sickness tomorrow,
I would still feel damn accomplished with my life! 
Could you say the same? 
I don't need to follow society's idea of how this life is "suppose to happen" to feel satisfied. There are no guidelines to life. This world is a giant game, seriously.. challenge the social normality.
We need more people who have enough courage to do so.

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Buck, quid, banks and cards!

Money doesn't buy happiness? But it does buy plane tickets and music festivals to see your favorite bands in Ireland. This is happiness to me!
Longitude Festival. Dublin, Ireland. July 2013.
General money and card information for travel:
Things you are going to need (hopefully obvious at this point): 
  • An ATM(debit) card 
  • One or two credit cards 
  • Paper money  
Things you must take into account:
  • Exchange rates- Study the exchange rate of your home dollar to that of the destination country a week before leaving so you know when you are getting a good exchange deal. 
    • Never exchange your money at the airport. That is financial suicide, just as you would never go to the airport solely to eat a dry or soaking-soggy $12 sandwich. 
  • ATM fees- In most cases, at least that I know of, you will be charged to withdraw money from any bank that is not your own. Both your bank (for cheating on them) and the ATM will charge you anywhere from $2 to $5. Getting charged for taking out money that belongs to you is just wrong to me.
    • Some major banks have ATM partnerships worldwide - meaning no fees.
    • If you are a US resident, Schwab Bank's High Yield Investors account debit card has a zero ATM fee protocol meaning they give back all money charged by ATMs at the end of each month. Sweet deal! I have created a second bank account with them and just transfer funds when needed from my chase account to avoid those stupid ATM fees. 
    • Watch out for ATMs that have been tampered with! Villains install devices on ATMs to get your account information and rob you.  I wish they would get a real job.
These ATMs all have skimming devices.
  • The best travel credit card: Capital One offers rates closest to the official exchange rate.
    • All credit cards charge a 3% fee when overseas except: Capital One's No Hassle Card, Chase credit cards and some American Express cards. I'm not sure about other countries sorry! 
      • Bringing a credit card along is crucial in case something goes wrong!
Do not forget to tell your bank about your travels!
You don't want your card to be blocked for suspicious activity. 
PS. If you know of a money tree near Arizona, USA please contact me ASAP. I must help with quantity control. 
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Before you leave..

Do you have a general plan mapped out yet? Are you going to volunteer in exchange for food and accommodations? Are you going to couchsurf or hostel it every night? How long do you want to travel?

Backpacking is tight son.

Once you have an idea of where you want to go, it is time to get down to the serious business! 
Some of the key things you need to research are:
  1. How long am I allowed to stay in the country? (Ex. Americans must leave Western Europe after 90 days)
  2. Are there any visa requirements for the destination country? Side note: If no currency is being exchanged, you do NOT need a volunteering visa but because this often brings up a problem at customs,  I would suggest not specifically saying you plan to volunteer but that you are backpacking instead. Nothing illegal here. Pinky promise!
  3. Tell your bank and/or credit card company about your travels so they don't shut it down for suspicious activity. I will go into more detail about the best bank and credit cards for travel in a separate post.
  4. Scan/email/print all important documents such as your passport, ticket details, insurance policy, emergency numbers (parents, bank theft/fraud, country embassy, etc) in case of theft or loss and keep them in a separate place. 
  5. Find a good packing list! BE A MINIMALIST. Here is a good one! Freaking long, but the best and most informative packing list! 
      • "Take the lightest suitcase you can find, fill it with the least amount of clothing that your courage will allow, close your eyes and remove half of what you have packed and then rapidly depart." 
  6. Leave your shy, TIMID side at home. You are traveling the world, you can be anyone you want! Forget about that embarrassing/awkward thing you did 2 years ago. 
  7. Do things that make you uncomfortable and PUSH you outside of your comfort zone. Be able to interestingly share at least 4 of the craziest things you did in that insane country! Make other people jealous! It's fun! <- And that's cruel Rachel. 

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How to not get kidnapped or stolen from while traveling.

The first thing people had to say when I told them I was volunteering/backpacking abroad: 
What if you get kidnapped? How do you know this is safe? 

Me, not scared, just done after walking miles in the icy cold. Ireland 2012.

I get where they are coming from.. An 18 year old girl, flying out of the country for her first time, not to mention alone, 5,000+ miles away from home, in the big, foreign, scary land of Europe where creepy middle-aged men pickpocket your belongings or throw you in a prostitution ring. Well, if you say it like that then yeah, Europe does seem scary as hell...... but y'all are a little too paranoid.
Rachel's top safety tips:
  1. Educate yourself about the horrible things that do happen to people who go abroad.
  2. Watch your bags. Watch your valuables. Keep them hidden. Don't show them off.
      • Keep money/cards/tickets/passport in a money belt under your clothes. 
      • Keep all electronics in pocket that is either locked or not easily accessible to pickpocketers. 
      • Here is an informative article about pickpockets. Just read it. Stop being lazy.
  3. Walk confidently and with a purpose like you know where you are going even if you're not even sure you're walking on the right side of the fecking street! Just keep acting like a koool kat 8)
  4. Trust your intuition. That gut feeling. Feel the vibes man~
      • Is it feeling a little sketchy? Don't ride that wave of doesn't-feel-rightness dude. Trust yourself and get out of there.post signature

This hotel room is damp, dirty, and smells of stale urine and I still can't afford it.

Hotel rooms are just not in my budget and I am guessing that if you're here, on my blog now, it probably isn't in yours either. Do not let this stop you from traveling! There are some cheap, even free alternatives! 
Backpacking Hostels
Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Backpacking hostel I worked for in 2012.

Hostels get a bad rep. If you have ever seen the horror movie Hostel you probably want nothing to do with one (severed limbs, no thank you!) but please remember it is just a movie folks. Hostels are actually a fairly ordinary thing in Europe and in many cases, just seem strange and foreign to us Americans. I like to think of it as having a sleep over with a potential friend! 
If bringing a towel is an inconvenience you can rent one for a few dollars!
HostelWorld is a very well known/popular hostel finder worldwide. Use it too!

San Lorenzo, Italy $67/night 2ppl

If you aren't comfortable sleeping with 4+ others in a single room and can't afford the outrageous prices hostels charge for individual rooms then Airbnb is perfect. You pay for a room in someones home. A private room for less than what it costs to sleep next to several others in a hostel? I'LL TAKE IT!


Don't want to pay for a room at all? Sleep on someone's couch (or bed!)
This is a groovy travel platform that connects you to other travelers who have a couch to lend! You might even get lucky and sleep in a bed! Stick with people who have good references. But whatever you do, be respectful and don't treat it as you would a hotel room. Create relationships with your hosts, not sleep and leave. 

University Dorms
Trinity College. Dublin, Ireland. Twin ensuite accomodation.
While students are away for the summer some universities rent out dorm rooms to travelers at a low cost. Isn't that innovative? Here is a link that will guide you in the right direction for college dorms!
I must make a confession: After working at several backpacking hostels, a dirty and damp hotel room doesn't sound half bad if it means privacy!

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Cheapo Transportation

The plane ticket over to Europe has to be one of the 
most expensive things about my whole travel itinerary. 
In 2012, I flew from Phoenix, AZ, USA to Dublin, Ireland 
for around $804 USD in September.
This year I will be flying from Phoenix, AZ, USA to Dublin, Ireland 
for around $944 USD in June
If I really looked hard enough I could find better deals but these are STILL going to look incredibly cheap next to the price of the same flight from websites like Expedia and Travelocity. 

What do I use? 
You won't find cheaper airfare then on Hipmunk. I've compared Hipmunk to other airfare listers such as Expedia and Travelocity, Hipmunk has always been the cheapest.

How can I find the cheapest days to purchase my ticket? 
Matrix Airfare Search
It is what the travel agents use. 

Other important tips: 
- Fly out midweek (cheaper than flying Friday when everyone else wants to)
- Buy tickets on Tuesday (when new deals are released)
- Allow your dates to be flexible (it could be $1200 on the 25th but $850 the 27th)

Cheap budget airlines: 
Ryanair (Europe)
Easyjet (Europe)
Allegiant Air (USA)  Have a cheap flight from Phoenix to Honolulu, Hawaii for around $300 round-trip (even next day)

Ryanair the Ikea of Airlines? Spain 2012

ALSO one of my favorite websites for traveling cheaply excluding flights is Seat 61 *Highly recommend*

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