Australia – Know Before You Go

I made it to Sydney on a perfect November day and I still remember the feeling of excitement as the plane arrived in the land down under. I had always dreamed about visiting this mysterious country on the other side of the globe. Like any other hardcore planner I had done my research, but none of the articles had fully prepared me for some of the subtle differences until I experienced it first hand.

  • Relax – No one is in as big of a hurry as you are. While waiting for the bus I found the mood to be a lot less tense than in the states. Overall life is slower paced and there is generally less complaining. I’m sure the amazing weather, high minimum wages, and dry sense of humor from the locals will help you adjust but if you’re not used to this kind of laid-back lifestyle, make sure you pack your patience!
  • Expensive – I was warned but nothing can soften the sticker shock you feel when entering your first supermarket. With a part-time job and a tight travel budget, shopping for food and drinks (especially alcohol) was an interesting adventure for me. On the plus side, the tax is factored into the sales price and that can help ease your mind a bit.
  • Beautiful – The people, the beaches, the views, and gardens are all next level. As I traveled from city to city, I quickly learned this applied to most areas of the colorful country. I had never been anywhere with such a diverse landscape and always felt warm and welcome everywhere I went. To that point, I would allocate enough time to go to multiple cities, as there is so much to see and experience!
  • Green – I was happy to learn how environmentally friendly the country is. Overall they are less frivolous when it comes to water and energy. For example, clothes are air-dried and showers are kept short. As a culture, you can tell that they are passionate about preserving their home and expect their visitors to as well. I would encourage you to be mindful of your consumption while you’re there.
  • Animals – The critters you will meet in Australia are plenty and sometimes poisonous. I did a three-day excursion to Fraser Island, which is home to one of the most dangerous beaches in the world. If the sharks and jellyfish don’t get you, the snakes, spiders, and wild dingo just might. However, it’s not all scary, the kangaroos and koalas alone make the trip worth it.
  • Opposite – Everyone knows by now that we drive on opposite sides of the road in the states. What you might not be prepared for is adjusting the way you look when crossing the street and what side of the car to get into as a passenger. Lifelong habits are really hard to break, just ask a few of my Uber drivers. Please be extra careful and look both ways!

All in all, Australia is a magical place and one of my favorite countries I visited during my time abroad. Although the flight from the states is long, I recommend it to everyone at least once. Like America, there is a lot to see so be sure to make time for a longer visit.  On my next trip to Australia, I hope to explore more of the west coast and the outback.

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The Best of Bali

Last year for my birthday, I stayed on the beautiful Indonesian island of Bali for the very first time. Although small you will find it to be a diverse place to visit, with volcanic mountains, lovely beaches, and rice paddies to explore. In the month that I was there, I documented my favorite experiences and I’m excited to share them with you.

Hang Out with Monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest

As an animal lover, I had so much fun observing the little creatures up close and personal. However, they are very smart and will steal anything from your iPhone to a shiny earring. A lot of tourists bait them with bananas to get the picture-perfect shot; I opted out of that intimate experience.

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Grab a Sunset Drink at Rock Bar 

Rock Bar is located at the Ayana Resort and is a spectacular place to watch a sunset. I would recommend only going for drinks, I found the food to be expensive and not that great. Reservations are encouraged and I would warn you not to sit too close to the front, as the waves can get pretty high.

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Plan a Trip to Gili T to Swing in the Ocean

Gili Trawangan a short ferry ride from Bali and a must see in my opinion. The beaches are white and the roads are busy with horse-drawn buggies with no cars in sight. The island is Instagram famous for their many ocean swings, but be careful of the sharp coral hidden in the water. The bar scene was lively and a very fun place to spend my birthday.

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Scuba Dive with Manta Rays by Nusa Penida Island

As a scuba diver, I enjoy exploring marine life anytime I can. I learned from a friend that the manta rays were especially popular and would often feed near the neighboring island of Nusa Penida. It was an easy day trip from the mainland and exceeded all of my expectations. Snorkel trips are also available for those not certified.

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Enjoy Rice Field Views at Bebek Tebasari Resto 

Ubud is home to many rice fields and famous for their terraced layout. My hired driver for the day (a very affordable option for a day trip), recommended this amazing restaurant for lunch. I sat on a colorful mat in a hut that overlooked the rice paddies. The traditional ribs and heart shaped rice were one of my favorite meals of the trip.

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Climb the Steps to Tegenungan Waterfall

Tegenungan is an impressive waterfall that you can only get to by walking down many steps. At its base is a nice swimming hole for anyone wanting to take a dip. The surrounding landscape is lush and you feel like you are in the middle of the rainforest. Make sure to pack sneakers, as coming back up requires a little more work.

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Order a Smoothie Bowl at Kynd Community

I happened upon Kynd Community one day as I was exploring the area around my hostel; the bright colors just drew me in. This plant-based spot serves delicious coffee, juices, and smoothies.  The decor is fun and you will frequently find patrons snapping pictures in front of the festive wallpaper.

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Try a Coffee and Tea Tasting in Ubud

Bali is known for making great coffee and the plantations in Ubud offer free tastings. Nestled deep in the jungle are outdoor tasting rooms that serve up many different flavors of coffee and tea. They explain the entire process of growing the products that are eventually sold in local cafes, restaurants, and their gift shop.

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Visit the Beautiful Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot is just one of many spectacular Hindu temples in Bali, but it’s unique because of the location. Meaning, “land in the sea” the picturesque structure sits atop a rock formation out in the ocean. I would plan your visit during low tide, as you have to cross the water to get to the temple. This is one of the busier attractions but worth a stop.

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5 – Tips for Solo Babes Staying in Hostels

Over the past year, I have checked in to over 30 different hostels and I frequently get questions about my experience. Are hostels safe? Am I ever nervous when traveling alone? I usually explain that hostels are not as scary as they sound, and can be a great way to meet people and stick to a budget. While all of this is true, I do agree that special considerations need to be made when you are a female navigating solo.

  1. Location, location, location! This might seem like a no-brainer but a central location is usually the pricier option. However, this could mean saving money on transportation to local attractions, restaurants, and supermarkets. A lot of hostels even provide a free shuttle to the closest airport or bus station. Keep in mind that a busy hostel means more people to socialize with and a safer environment to explore. Don’t get stuck in a bad location just to save a few bucks!
  2. Sorry guys, I prefer all female dorms! I’ve never felt uncomfortable in a mixed dorm, but I have been kept up all night by loud snoring. This may not always be the case but every time it happened to me, it was a guy! If you are a heavy sleeper, then there’s no real reason to avoid them. Mixed dorms tend to be cheaper and provide more opportunity to interact with both genders. Do keep in mind that there are always tradeoffs, as a room full of women might take longer in a single bathroom.
  3. Not all hostels or their amenities are created equal! Does it have a pool or a badass communal area with a ping-pong table? I’m personally a sucker for free bike rentals and a continental breakfast. As a female, you might be particularly happy to learn that most provide hair dryers. Even if they aren’t readily available in the bathroom I would ask the front desk, someone is always leaving one behind to lighten their load.
  4. Always check ratings and reviews! I diligently check the websites and pages of the hostels I’m considering. Most sites are rated on things like security, cleanliness, value, facilities, and location. I would also look at reviews that specifically reference female or solo travelers. A well-rounded hostel will have a fun environment to meet people but also be a clean and secure place rest your head at night. For ratings and reservations check out hostelworld.com, it’s my personal favorite.
  5. Be open! I would encourage you to be open to new experiences and unexpected people. I found that putting myself out there, allowed me to say yes to day trips that I would have never explored on my own. Look for hostels that have planned activities, meetups, and bar crawls for similar solo travelers. I’ve met some lifelong friends navigating the world of hostels; I hope you are lucky enough to share in that experience.

There are a million other articles out there reminding you to bring a luggage lock (which I would also advise), but I wanted to give some tips that I had to learn on my own. I hope these help can help you on your journey and possibly inspire you to take your first solo trip abroad. Always remember to trust your instincts and you will find the world of hostels to be an amazing place. Safe travels and happy hosteling!

Included below are some of my favorite pictures from my time in Byron Bay, a magical beach town in southeast Australia. Pictured are friends I met in Sydney and ended up staying with at the Backpackers Holiday Village hostel last Thanksgiving.

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One year ago today…

One year ago to the day I was packed and nervously waiting at the airport to start what would become an 8 month adventure abroad. I had carefully, and with OCD precision, picked out what clothing, shoes, and electronics had made the cut. My Osprey backpack was clean and organized and as ready to see the world as I was. A couple of months earlier I had quit my full-time position and gained a part-time remote role that would allow me the flexibility I had been dreaming about. While I loved my coworkers and the tech company perks were amazing (there is only so much free LaCroix and breakfast tacos can do)… I knew I wasn’t happy. So after a lot of back and forth and some much needed encouragement from family and friends, I made the leap! Next thing I knew I had purchased a ticket to Paris and the reality of the situation started to unfold. While I had traveled internationally before, this trip would be different for many reasons. This time around it would primarily be a solo expedition and unlike the others, there was no expiration date in sight. It was now or never and looking back I’m so happy I took the risk. My only regret is that I didn’t start sharing my journey sooner, so today on the anniversary of my trip I will begin to tell my story.