Tag: Travel

Notes on abandoning fear and letting go

I have been traveling full-time since January 23rd, which puts me a little over 2 months on the road. I’ve had almost ALL amazing experiences. Rarely there is a day where I wish I back in my old life, working the same old job that held little value for me. It’s safe to say that I’m utterly addicted to the lifestyle.

People have begun to ask me, with much curiosity, peppered with a bit of jealousy, “How do you do it?” Well, here’s a very honest run-down. I hope you’re listening, all you would-be Round The World Travelers. Here are some values and courses of action to consider:

1. FEAR: This is the biggest one, in my mind at least. Fear is the force that holds us back the most from accomplishing what our hearts truly desire. Fear will cripple you with feelings of “What if?” Fear doesn’t encourage, it thwarts, steals, belittles, beguiles.  Instead of having a self-defeating attitude, develop a positive, proactive mindset. Do you do what you want everyday? Really what you want? Do you WANT to commute to your office job, work the 9-5 plus overtime for the man, appease your boss? Imagine a world where you’re utterly free of that. Is that enticing to you? Are you afraid to leave behind the comfort of your “old life?” It’s very probable.

Fear will get you lost

2. COMFORT: It’s comfortable to live a life in the status quo, a life that follows the traditional trajectory. Graduate, find a job, maintain a relationship, possibly get married, have children. That’s a “comfortable” life path that people tend to follow. Why? Because we’re told to? For the most part, yes. For some people that works, and there is nothing wrong with that. But what about the people that hate their jobs? Feel unfulfilled? Dream of choking their bosses, airheaded co-workers, skipping off into the sunset for adventure? Stop holding yourself back. If you are UNCOMFORTABLE  in your current situation, resolve to find comfort in the unfamiliar. More often than not, novelty is the cure to a boring existence. Imagine leaving behind the “comforts of home,” the ones that are boring you to death. Sit an contemplate what would make you happy and pursue it.

An imagined happy place

3. RESEARCH: Get addicted to doing research, even if it’s a complete “Lottery Scenario.” Where would I be right now if I won the lottery? Picture yourself on an unspoiled stretch of beach somewhere? Living in a lean-two in the Philippines? Riding the metro in Paris? Where is your “Happy Place?” Start researching what it’s really like to GO there. How much would it cost? Where would I stay if  I could? Sometimes just a bit of poking around will be enough to fuel your dreams into action.

4. PRIORITY: You might be asking yourself how on Earth am I going to be able to travel when I have my rent to pay for, a car to care for, my Starbucks addiction to feed? Truthfully, it IS too expensive to travel around the world when you’re trying to maintain your same lifestyle back home. Sorry to tell you, but if you want those life enriching experiences of the road, you NEED to get rid of the pricier elements of your “old life.” Not saying that you have to ditch all of your Earthly possessions, but you’ll certainly have to prioritize what you’ll need to succeed.

For instance:

I moved out of my apartment in Philadelphia, saving me $400/month on rent, plus an extra $100/mo. on bills. I left my car in the care of my friend, so that I might avoid the awful gas prices ($4.65/gal? No thanks!). That’s nearly $600/mo. saved, halfway to a plane ticket to Thailand for one month without those expenses.

You might be asking yourself, but I can’t live without my IKEA couch and my loft apartment! Then you’re certainly reading the wrong article.

Goodbye humble abode, hello open road

5. ACTION: In a phrase: Take the leap. This has a lot more to do with letting go of FEAR, but also takes a combination of bravery and literally putting one foot in front of the other. If you’re a procrastinator, this will be difficult for you. Putting things off is not the traveler’s style. We’re the get up and go type. Don’t dream a better life for tomorrow: live it today.

Going, going, gone!

I’m not sure if I’m ready to accept how incredible the last six weeks of my life has been. I have SO much material to work off of for blog posts, pitches for travel magazines and envy-inspiring Facebook posts.

I’m in Los Angeles, recovering from jetlag, letting my entire trip marinade. I swam with turtles and sharks while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. I climbed mountains, swam in pools, oceans, dams, and strangers’ bathtubs. I saw baby crocodiles in the wild. I stumbled upon some of the most beautiful stretches of beaches I’d ever hope to explore. I bush-walked in the rainforest. I came really close to a sea eagle. I held a koala in Queensland. This was the trip of dreams.

Serenity now. Meditating over a view of Cairns city, tropical Queensland, Australia

I’m really excited to share my experiences on these blogs along with my musings about traveling, developing a budget travel mindset, the differences between Australia and the United States and generally chronicling my entire adventure.

Before I left, I was electric with questions like, “Who will I meet?” and “Where will I go?” Now I’m trying to tame the “Was that real life?” feeling and exhilaration that is only felt after an epic journey.

My first international travel piece is getting published in Native Foreigner Magazine in mid-April. I’m proud and eager to see what my first feature narrative story looks like in digital magazine format. It’s about a coastal walk I did from Sydney’s Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. Stay tuned.

I’m going places.

Hell, I’ve BEEN places.

Miffed by the University Myth

It’s official: I have to start the dialogue about the whole college thing. I’ve been feeling a certain way about it for sometime, and I’m ready to formulate some thoughts on it.

This post is inspired by fellow Matadorian Candice Walsh’s piece called 9 reasons not to go to college. It was a brilliant piece outlining reasons not to follow the traditional trajectory of success that many Americans do of flocking to University right out of highschool. Interesting bit: The United States has nearly $1-trillion dollars of student loan debt. How is there not a serious outrage over this? I am shocked, disgusted and about ready to start a revolution.

Happy then. Bitter now.

I’m currently overseas and have been discussing, among other interesting cultural differences from the U.S., the way we approach education vs. other countries. I’m currently staying with a family that is also hosting a couple from France. Natasha graduated from “traditional” University with almost no debt (University in France is virtually free. Her tuition with books was less than $1,000 euros/academic year.) Alex went to a “trade” program for engineering which was equally inexpensive. Both of them completed internships (Natasha in Western France, Alex in Germany) before traveling to Australia. What’s interesting about this couple is that neither of them are in debt $50,000 or $100,000 like many people I know. Instead of panicking to find a job in their field to pay off a huge debt, one that looms over your head and threatens to ruin and dictate your life at a very early age, they were able to cheerfully pick up and travel the world for a while. Nevermind the euro and the economic crisis is France is border-line Greece-worthy. Ouch.

Crisis, schmisis. Natasha and Alex simply chill at the Gold Coast.

I’m detecting a trend (I perceive it to be a very positive one) that people in the United States are fed up. In a phone conversation with my mom once, as I aired my grievances about working shitty job after shitty job, she admitted (somewhat frighteningly) that she is losing faith that college was ever a good idea. All of her daughters who attended are struggling one way or another. Perhaps a college education wasn’t the “golden ticket” our parents’ generation thought it would be.

I have friends that have found ways around paying their student loans, most of them sad, but true. Of them include going back for more education (in turn accruing more debt, eventually settling to sell one’s soul to the world of academia to pay it off), and filing for unemployment as long as possible to put the loan in deferment. Who can bear to live another day flipping burgers when a student loan bill comes in month after month for $500? That’s more than rent in most places!

In Australia, tuition for college rarely exceeds $10,000/academic year. Instead of having to pay off a monumental debt akin to a nasty credit card debt, Australian’s see about one percent of their paychecks go toward student loan debt. What’s fascinating is that the amount that is taken is on a vacillating scale: if you are earning peanuts, the gov’t takes much less. Once you begin to earn more money, you pay more. Sort of a SMART, sliding scale theory. Adopted from the British. Good on you, mates.

I’ve been lucky that my student loan was minimal. Somehow I had this idea when trying to choose a school that the more prestigious and expensive the University to grant me a piece of paper (which I don’t even know where it is. How about that?), the better off I would be. Maybe that was true at a time for people from old money. Luckily my smart parents talked me out of that. Phew, dodged that bullet. Now I only set aside $82/month for my student loan debt. Laughable to some. Still a pain in the ass reminder every month, though, that I’m paying for an education with a job I didn’t even go to school for.

Hi, I'm Jill. The peace-lovin' hippie chick. May I take your order?

How can we turn this around? Discourage kids from getting an education? No. I think college afforded me some valuable experiences, but none more than social and personal growth. Yes, I did learn to write term paper after term paper. Yes, I did read some of Literature’s greats. In hindsight, I wish I would have seen college’s most valuable offering: Networking. I didn’t bother to networking nearly enough. I rarely speak to anyone I even knew in college, in fact. How’s that for an education?

We need to redefine what getting an education means. Walsh points out different alternatives to attending University, all of them better than the next. Everyone should take time to travel. That’s a given and something people don’t do enough. The experience you can gain by traveling the world will make you savvy and able to survive, make contacts and valuable relationships around the world, both professionally and personally.

Also, trade schools are another great idea. Why commit to a rigid and strict 4 year program when 2 years of that is essentially courses you have no interest in taking (ie: Gen Eds)? My friend Kelly attends film school in Burbank, California and it’s the perfect storm: 14 months of intensive coursework 3 days a week, a tight-knit group of classmates (who will eventually become colleagues and valuable contacts later on) without all the beaurocratic riffraff of University life. Get in, get it done, get out, get a job. That should be the name of the game!

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is something I’ve strived to achieve this year. I’ve started bit by bit, and hope to become a self-sufficient earner. Nobody in University teaches you about finances or generating income. Hardly was there even a time we discussed getting a job in the “real world.” We just practiced different techniques of the real-world in a bubble. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I grew up with Microsoft Word. Perhaps the most engaging and memorable experiences in college were class discussions where we were able to have an open forum of idea exchange. Why should that have to cost so much money? I could have just as easily attended book club at a local cafe once a week. Gulp.

I watched a documentary about the visionary genius Steve Jobs. He dropped out of college. He went on a LSD pilgrimage to India instead. And he was one of the most successful and creative people of our time. If you have a good idea, pursue it. Then market the hell out of it. Become your own spokesperson. Demand the respect and attention you deserve. Don’t pay $100,000 for it, then work a shitty job to pay back the government for putting you in this pickle in the first place.

I guess if I could do college all over again, I would. But I’d certainly want to have a clearer idea of what I wanted to accomplish. I would make more valuable connections. I would have….waited a few years, to be honest. Who knows what they want when they are 18? I mostly cared about scoring booze and securing my first apartment. I certainly wasn’t thinking about my “financial future.”

In Highschool I learned to Senior Pic. In College, I learned to to Senior Pic on beer.

Words of wisdom: Take some time off between high school and college to travel. Find something you’re good at it. If you can make money doing it honestly, keep pursuing it. If you feel the need to go to University, get a grant or find a program that will finance it for you. Believe in me, you won’t be happy to be getting those huge loan bills in the mail every month. Redefine your idea of success. Start now and you won’t be sorry.

Am I just a rabble-rouser? Or are these real issues?

Essential Packing List- Australia

I’m in a wonderful and warm (warmer than Chicago, anyway!) Burbank, California. I’ll be in California for a week, exploring L.A., then flying to Sydney next Monday, January 30th.

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, I’m backpacking through Australia. I hope to stay for a month (maybe longer?). Below is my essential packing list:


65 Liter Field and Stream backpack

1 knapsack/purse/laptop carryon



Digital Camera

Web cam

Cell phone


Power plug for Australian outlets (Note: Oz outlets have a slanted 3-prong system rather than the U.S. 2. Also power outlets in Oz run on 240 V, rather than 120 V in the US. Check that your electronics’ tags say they are meant for RTW voltages. This info can be found on the tag or charger and read 120V~240V. If your electronic only reads 120V, you will also need a voltage converter. Available in most electronic stores)

All related cords/chargers


An array of tank tops and t-shirts

3 long-sleeved shirts (mainly for California. It could get chilly in January!)

1 pair of jeans

5 pairs of shorts (1 jean, 2 Nike workout shorts, 1 pair of capris, 1 pair sleeper shorts)

7 pairs of underwear

4 pairs of socks (2 black, 2 white)


3 sun dresses

Bathing suit

2 pairs of sandals (one brown, one black), black TOMS knockoffs, gym shoes, flip-flops, black flats

Small black purse for going out

2 fashion belts, 2 regular jean belts

1 lightweight scarf

1 lightweight jacket (will probably leave behind in L.A. until I get back)


Combination lock

Aluminum water bottle




Address Book



Slim wallet with essentials (I.D., credit/debit card, health insurance card, Visa gift card- SCORE!)

1 book (will probably need to pick up another along the way)

Copies of EVERYTHING: My I.D., insurance card, passport, birth certificate, social security card, VISA card, flight information, hostel booking, ETA (electronic visa verification email).

Shower and toiletries:

1 bath towel (cute pattern, as to double for beach towel)

1 hand towel

1 washcloth

Travel sized shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, face wash



Shaving Cream


Tampons (in case they don’t carry my brand in Oz)


Excedrin, Advil, Neosporin, Dramamine, Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit

Sunblock (SPF 50. I’m a fair-skinned redhead!)

Tweezers, manicure scissors, nail file, nail clipper

2 deodorants (in case they don’t carry my brand in Oz)

Jewelry (earrings, bracelets, rings)

Makeup (the basics like powder, concealer, eye shadow and pencil, blush, mascara, chap stick)

Hair products: Straightener, hair ties and bobby pins, headbands)

Things still needed:

Bug Spray

Small bag for site seeing

Hat (mine got lost in transit)