Monday, September 10, 2012

Unexpected Encounter In Chefchaouen

During the night of my visit to Chefchaouen, I ended up meeting an intriguing man standing in front of his shop. He had a face that was worn from experience. He was a bit dull in the eyes, giving off that feeling that this man has already seen everything that there is to witness.

He gave me the nod as I walked into his shop, which turned out to be an art gallery of vivid impressionism. He asked me where I was coming from (I had my backpack on) and I hesitantly responded. I had my precautions after my experiences in Tanger of forced drug deals and harassing hustlers. He followed my response with an offering of mint tea which is an opening sign of hospitality for the country.

Little did I know, this stuff was more addicting than CRACK!

I asked him if it was for money, knowing to avoid that scheme. He recognized exactly what I was thinking and fittingly responded with the saying "Don't put all your eggs in the same basket." He didn't wait for a reply as he walked into the other room. I followed him and was greeted by another man who turned out to be his understudy. They both said their names, Mohammed was the painter and Ahmed was the understudy.

We began talking about my travels, his own experiences, and his paintings as we sipped down this smooth nectar. Mohammed had actually been married to an American woman for 7 years where spent a bit time of Ohio. This explained his perfect English.

 After half an hour of conversation, he mentioned that they would be cooking me a trademark Moroccan dish, Tajine.

Pictures don't do the flavor justice.

My preconceptions about Morocco were completely shattered by their welcoming behavior. During the preparation of the food, Mohammed invited his friend Nordine over. Once Nordine got there, we wolfed the food down and sunk into our chairs. Nordine and I started talking about this hotel he ran up in the mountains close to Chefchaouen in Parc National Telassemtane. We began discussing the place, the sights, and where I could go after. The price fir comfortably and I decided the next night I would go there.

My stay in the moutanins and resulting three day hike will be covered in the next post!

Stay Traveling My Friends

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Interview With Rob From Stop Having A Boring Life

Rob was an up-and-coming, successful man from Ottawa. He graduated from college, and earned a profitable job at a business firm. He was making it in the most conventional, American sense. He had all the "trophies" that come along with his prospering but there was something that kept him from being content with this lifestyle. He couldn't help but wonder, "Now what?"

Most people combat these thoughts with a long phone call to someone close, a night of heavy drinking, or even a short vacation. However, Rob saw this as the perfect opportunity to travel the world, turning this dissatisfaction into a blessing in disguise. He sold his house including everything inside it. On September 4th, 2009, he spent his last days at work and would soon be traveling the world, living his dream.

He created a refreshing blog in the process, named Stop Having A Boring Life, documenting all the experiences and thoughts gained from such an expedition. His motivation to blog was the lack of information and guidance for a truly global trip. On his blog, you can live vicariously through all his adventures while also getting a sense of how to accomplish your own travel, no matter how ambitious.

I was gifted with the opportunity to interview him and get a sense of what it is like to start, and actually live this cosmopolitan dream.

George: I know the trademark for your site is to stop having a boring life. I'm
curious though, was there a single event that made you decide to make this
change or was it a general dissatisfaction with your previous lifestyle?

Rob: I always wanted to travel just never had the guts to go for it. I had a
good life with a solid job but I wanted to see what else there was and
knew there was more.  It took years to happen but once I made that final
decision, everything started to fall into place.

George: Was it difficult to make such a drastic change in the way you live your life?

Rob: Mentally it was tough to leave everything with no safety net. Once the
mental drama was over and I was going, everything happened very easily.

George: How did the people close to you respond to the news?

Rob: They knew it was coming, I had been talking about it for years.

George: From the beginning, did you think you would be gone in a single span for as long as you have?

Rob: I honestly had no idea, and my goal as to rent an apartment in Bangkok and
do web work. That never happened and I turned into a travel addict which
I’m alright with.

George: Was there a learning curve for you when it came to traveling?

Rob: Just jump in the deep end, you’ll learn how to swim as we all do.

George: Do you travel with luggage or a backpack?

Rob: Backpack that I have a zip that covers the backpack part and I typically
carry it like a duffle bag.

George: What are the top three essential items for you? Besides hygienic items.

Rob: An open mind, good cash flow and a smile.

George: Has there ever been a time where you got sick or bored of traveling? Or
just missed too much?

Rob: I’ve gotten sick countless times and always miss home when I wake up
somewhere strange with a headache from a night that shouldn’t have been as
crazy as it was. As a general rule though I don’t get homesick, I’m quite

George: How did you approach each new place, country, or region? Did you read up
on the area beforehand or let yourself find out on your own?

Rob: I never read anything, I just go and let it all come together as it will.

George: What has kept you moving on to different places when you have found a
place you are completely content to stay at?

Rob: The idea of what else is out there. If I’m just going to live somewhere
and not travel, I might as well do it in Canada where all my friends and
family are. I’m here to see the world and one day settle, not just
relocate somewhere.

George: Have you ever felt that maintaining a blog during your travels has taken away from the experience?

Rob: Never, I write as a hobby. People say they have issues updating because
they are too busy, I don’t believe it. The time other people use to read a
book or watch a movie, I use to blog. It’s a hobby of mine and I feel
weird when I don’t. I also type as fast as lightening which helps.

George: What are some of the most memorable experiences during your travels? Can
be good or bad, whatever has stuck the most in your memory

Rob: I stayed in a cashew tree fort for 5 weeks on the coast of Eastern Africa
and when I left I gave a gent $66 and he put $34 and bought himself a
small shack near the beach. That made his life as it’s very hard to save
anything when you get paid $50 a month and a coke is $1…

George: How you ever managed to find your way into trouble with the law?

Rob: Never, I’ve been very fortunate.

George: Who has been the most interesting person you have met during your trip?

Rob: Can’t answer that question, I meet interesting characters everyday.

George: Which country has the best cuisine in your opinion? The best scenery?

Rob: Thailand has the best food and scenery, depends what you’re into. Canada
is pretty unreal but so is South Africa, Jordan, Turkey, Nicaragua and the
list goes on…

George: What are some of the most impacting lessons you have learned from your
experience traveling the globe?

Rob: I’ve learned that people are basically good and that if you want something
new, you need to change what you’re doing. We are the results of our
actions which are the results of our thoughts. Change your mind and you
can change your life.

What would be your advice to people who wish to travel but haven't for some
reason or another?

If it’s important to you, do it and go big as it will be the time of your

Rob's blog, Stop Having A Boring Life, is full of countless stories of unbelievable encounters and sights encompassing almost all of the blog. His page is well worth the visit. Who knows, you just might be inspired to travel the world yourself!

Stay Traveling My Friends

Monday, September 3, 2012

Consumed By The Beauty of Bruges

Bruges was my first stop after my stay in Amsterdam.  I spent the train ride over the Dutch border and into Belgium rehashing translucent memories and splendid moments of complacency with my backpacking buddies. I decided to go to Bruges after some Dutch people we met at a park recommended the town for its unparalleled beauty.

I stepped off the train expecting nothing tangible but something that was going to put me in a state of awe. I was still ignorant of the fact that most of the "beautiful" parts of a city are located in the old town which can be a ways from the train station and/or the actual city center. I impulsively followed the peope who looked the most touristy, hoping they would bring me to the promise land. However, they weren't many travelers since it was still out of season.

The only time I was frustrated they weren't around.

In my obvious state of confusion, a girl from London approached me with the same predicament, wondering if I know were the old town was located. As mentioned before, I did not, but luckily she had a map which we worked to bring us to the outskirts of the old town. The transition from "new" town to old town is an alluring one in Bruges. At first, we were looking for any sign or mark of culture, history or tradition. Once we found this, we unconsciously snaked our way through the conduit of silent alleys banked along the sides with magnificent medieval architecture.

These places exist?!

We both voiced this thought of how it felt like the buildings were literally imposed on us in their consuming beauty. Our eyes were drunk from the beauty that poured in from every corner. We continued our walk, comfortably silent, scanning over the dated design of this town.

When we reached the town square, our hypnotized minds were awoken by the first chirps of people talking. We decided to try the infamous Belgian waffle, with melted chocolate on top. Needles to say, I was in heaven. If heaven was full of beautiful buildings and the tastiest waffles in the world.

Yeah, I went there.        

We strayed away from the center, desiring the same silent awe we had just felt before. We found exactly what were looking for. Once we turned the corner from the square onto a side alley, the canal opened up with a bridge between the two sides. Each side adorned with differentiating buildings of that dear medieval architecture. In the distance were the windmills dotted across the outskirts of the old town. Skimming atop the canal were three pearl white swans. We both stopped our stride, paralyzed by the moment fate just handed us. I started laughing at how absurdly precious my life was slowly becoming in this trip.

When people told me that Bruges was the Venice of the north I was excited by that connotation. However, after witnessing the beauty of Bruges and Venice, I felt this appearingly observant comparison only sells Bruges short. 

Stay Traveling My Friends

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Top 10 Best Tips For A Road Trip

During those existential teenage years, I really wanted an escape. I needed a distraction, a new place, somewhere I had not seen before. A cinematic road trip through the vast United States sounded like just the remedy for my adolescent blues. Once we decided to do this, I got to planning the trip. I started planning the trip searching on the clustered internet for places to go and ways to save money. I talked with people who had previously done road trips looking for bits of wisdom.

Some of the tips are based on saving money, and losing comfort. If you aren't broke teenagers like we were, then you can skip out on some of these cost avoiding tips. However, I do recommend you try and get yourself out of your comfort zone by doing something a bit unnatural to shake things up a bit in your life.

1. Chose Your Group Wisely
These are the people you will be crammed in the car with you, driving countless hours for a weekend, two weeks, or one month. You would get annoyed with anyone spending that much time together. However, I recommend that you choose friends (not some you just met) who are worth the annoying moments for all the other good times you will have on the trip. This choice is a personal one and depends completely on the person choosing, but I advise you to spend some time thinking over it.

Case and point.

2. Plan Ahead
 This tip completely depends on how much time you have for your trip. When we first started out doing weekend trips, I tried to cram in as much stuff as possible due to the limited time. If you're a weekend warrior like we used to be, then I recommend micro-managing your time. Although it's not ideal and you may not have as much time to savor the view or stare off philosophically, you get you're money's worth of exposure to new areas and environments.

When you start adding more time, say a week or two, you can allow some time windows for open exploration of the area and towns you pass along the way. Spend time driving the scenic backroads versus the monotonous interstates. Spark up a conversation with the locals in a hole-in-the-wall diner. If you have time yet, and want to see it all, then micro-manage away.

First, I found the places we wanted to visit. Next, I determined around how much time each hike or stop would take, when we should be there, and when we should leave. Then, I used Google maps to find the time the drive takes, then do the next destination and so on. I wrote this all down on a couple sheets of paper and brought them along as a guide for the trip.

3. Do The Research
 With the internet, most of the world (especially our country) has been mapped out for you by the legion of travelers just like you. The number of blogs and informative websites about destinations in the US are nearly infinite. Yet this is the place where most people fall short in their plans and usually end up with an unsatisfying trip, or even worse, fail to go on the trip.

There are plenty of parks that are completely free to enter and hike. Some of the national parks have a fee but are nothing on par with a day at an amusement park. Go to the amusement park if you can but remember there are worthwhile places seeing without paying a price.

Free flowers! 

 Do yourself a favor and use the internet to your advantage. First pick the states you wish to visit. Then google simple things about these states such as "Top destinations in (insert your state here)," "Most Beautiful places in Utah," "Best hikes in New Hampshire," or other types of these varieties. You will be given a plethora of sites that link to others. Use these to your benefit. There truly are beautiful places everywhere.

 Yelp is a great social media to find authentic diners and hole-in-the-walls serving food from the area. Try some barbecue in Alabama with its famous white barbecue sauce, the creole seafood in New Orleans, or a nice gator tail in Florida.

Gator Tail...? Tastes like chicken!

4. Go Camping!
Lets face it, we live a time and age where real adventure is getting harder and harder to experience. Camping provides the back-to-nature experience and adventure that is absent in most people's lives. You still get to have some comforts and amenities in an environment we rarely see. Instead of spending 30 bucks on a meal, get a pack of hotdogs and spark up a fire. After the meal is finished, spend time around the fire recalling moments of the trip, enjoying the stars above, and the friends around you. Also, you get to save considerable amounts of money versus a hotel or that creepy motel slouching on the side of the road.

Yeah, I'm talking about you.

If you do plan to camp, bring whatever comforts you feel are necessary without getting in the way of the experience. Tent, sleeping bag, pocket knife, lighter, flashlight, etc. Also, I would book a couple days ahead for some of the more popular sites to ensure you have a place to stay.

On our big roadtrip, we packed our itinerary to the brim. To maximize the time, we would drive well into the night for the following morning's destination. Once we got there during the night, we would find a parking spot at a rest-stop, hotel, or hospital nearby and sleep in the car.
The sun serves as the perfect alarm clock when you sleep in your car because it comes with no snooze button and is always consistent. This saves even more money then camping, although you don't get the sites. I am not recommending sleeping in the car, since it "can" be dangerous, but if you do, be smart about it. Keep an eye out and chose a smart stop. Hospitals and hotel seemed to be the safest place.

I agree with Dwight on this one. Stay away!

5. Drive With Some Good Tunes!
I remember on one of our trips we were doing the 24 hour drive from Florida to Boston straight through. We left Florida around 7p.m. Once it got to be about 1 a.m. we were somewhere in South Carolina and the radio would not come in...for the next five hours. I bet there wasn't much to listen to around this time anyways but I was relying on this music to get my through the drive!
We had taken my car this time which is a very run down Nissan Altima from the dinosaur days. The car stereo does not have an auxiliary jack or USB outlet to plug in an iPod or Mp3. All we had was Elvis Presley's greatest hits on a CD. It got old way too fast. Lucky for everyone in the car, the radio started coming in and awoke me up from a sleep facilitated by "Jailhouse Rock" being on repeat for the 23rd time.

We lost our enthusiasm much sooner...

I recommend making a playlist because the radio can be very sketchy, or even non-existent in some places. Yet music provides life to the drive. Some of the most memorable moments I have are driving through the deserts of Oklahoma and New Mexico listening to some of my favorite tunes. Another time, we were driving on the Natchez Trace Parkway which is a 444 mile drive of rolling hills through the densely green, scenic forest. I turned on an ambient trance track and we all just silently rode these waves of euphoria.

6. Bring a GPS
Preferably one with an accent to add some authenticity to your trip. On a more serious note, a GPS is incredibly handy with a planned trip. Ask your mom for one, you friend, or even your friend's mom (use those connections!). The reason I stress a GPS device is because some of the most exotic, beautiful, and obscure destinations do not have an official address. Instead, the coordinates for some of these places have been posted on travel and hiking blogs. These are much more reliable. Just make sure your GPS has the option to plug in these coordinates. This can be a bit more work than visiting the more well-known and conventional parks. However, I have find some of the best landscapes using the coordinates to find some hidden places.

For example:

Big rocks.

Cave inside the rocks.

Waterfall inside the cave!

Attempting to leave the cave.

The remains...

7. Purchase Your Own Food
You guys are true adventures, riding off into the lonely light with only your headlights to guide you and that annoying Australian woman trapped inside your GPS chirping about upcoming exits, right turns, and left turns. (When she tells me I need to make U-turn because I messed up is where I draw the line in our relationship!)

Okay now that I'm done venting, I can tell you that unless it is a genuine local restaurant, I would not stop there to eat. Nothing brings you back to the feelings of routine, monotony, and boredom like a good ol' fashioned meal at Chli's or a fast food joint. Instead, buy bulk at a Wal-Mart or ALDI. Pick up granola bars, power bars, fruit cups, dried fruit, trail mix, a pack of multi-vitamins, some junk food to snack on, pudding, energy drinks for the a.m. drives, canned meats and fish (if you're daring), and most importantly, WATER. You can use the shopping bags as trash bags for your car. Bring a backpack for the long hikes and with some of the food and liquids packed inside.
You're missing out!

8. Choose The Right Gear
On one of our weekend trips, a girl we know wanted to come along who had not been hiking before. Once we got to our first hike, she pulled out her mom's Victoria Secret boots. We all gave each other the look, knowing how this would turn out. 

Ten minutes into the hikes the sole of the boot came completely off. We had to buy another pair after the hike which gave her massive blisters on her heel because they had not been worn in properly. You don't need to buy the most expensive stuff. I managed to get around 350 miles of rough hiking out of a comfy pair of hiking boots from Wal-Mart.

I know I got exceptionally lucky here but there are much cheaper options than those $200 pair of L.L Bean boots. Look around your local Sport's Good shops or even thrift stores to save an extra buck. Get yourself something durable that also fits well. Don't forget the sunscreen, sunglasses, and bug spray for those sensitive souls.

9. Have Someone Check Out Your Car
 For all the obvious reasons. Change the oil and have the fluids checked out. Bring jumper cables with you. Having someone with you who can change a flat tire is always handy. Fix-A-Flat is a priceless invention! Check with your insurance company about their towing policies ahead of time so you are aware of their policies. If someone in the car has a triple AAA card, even better.

10. Most Importantly, Bring a Hat!
  You know you wanna.

I hope this list makes your dreams of taking a roadtrip easier to achieve. You really can travel on a budget yet still do it right. Be adventurous and get out there onto the open road. Only then you'll realize why road trips are a necessity in life and why they have become a pastime.

Chase it!

Stay Traveling My Friends

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ambition to Travel

Although Scarface is not really seen as a traveler's film, it holds a special place in my heart as a backpacker. The first time I saw the classic film, I was primarily interested in the violence and action of this rags-to-riches Cuban thug destroying everything around him on his path to success. After another viewing or two, I recognized and appreciated this man's unstoppable ambition and how empowering it was. I wanted to emulate this aspect of him in a different context. More specifically, the context of a backpacker.

I never wanted to let my dreams of traveling remain dreams up until my death. I also noticed too many people around me passing their own personal dreams back for "another day that never came." With increased technology, improving transportation, and budgeting options, the world really can be yours with the right mix of motivation. You really do have the capability to chip away at your personal bucket list.

Ambition puts your pursuits in a tangible perspective. Instead of thinking how difficult a goal is, you act in a way that brings you closer to the pursuit. When I chose to backpack Europe, I knew that from the time I made this decision up until the day I left on that plane to Frankfurt, I had to make some serious moves. Since I was taking 18 credit hours for pre-medical courses, I knew I could only work on the weekends. I took up two jobs and piled in the hours from morning until night. I sold all the things I realized were not necessary.

One of my jobs was at a restaurant. When I had extra time, I would cook steaks for my whole dorm floor with a small up-charge to make some extra money. My story is nothing compared to some others. One man I met from Canada survived an extra two weeks on his trip without having any money left in his account solely to continue the experience. One older hippy I met actually began busking once he ran out of money and eventually got back on his feet. Since then, he has been traveling throughout the world on his own means.
Another man I met from South Korea sold his car to go to Italy. He did not know what he would do when he got back but you will be damn sure he was fully in the moment during his travels. These sacrifices people make to travel really add value to the whole experience. Even now, I laugh at how tired and grumpy I would be at times from work and the lack of sleep. I felt incredibly tired and fatigued at times but one thing I never felt was powerless. I knew I was making my dreams a reality. I hope you do the same. If you want to plan a journey and have some difficulties, comment below and I would be glad to help.

Believe in yourself.
Stay traveling my friends

Chefchaouen: The Sapphire Town

I am a firm believer that when people travel, they have this subconscious desire to find a genuine utopia. However, they always come up short because their idea of utopia is flawed, not the place. For some reason, utopia has become synonymous with the "cookie-cutter idea." Thanks to many of the sci-fi films, we now know many of the inherent flaws in this dissatisfying place. However, I would like to propose a place, a town actually named Chefchaouen, that is a utopia for a much more genuine reason.

Chefchaouen is a town located 110 kilometers southeast of Tanger. The reason I went there is a bit of an interesting story. First, on the bus from the port of Tanger to the city, a man was trying to hustle me into joining him at this party "full of cocaine and girls" and stay at his house for the night, free of charge (I really wanted to believe him).

I knew he was lying, as with anything that is way to good to be true. When I got off the bus, two men came and shouted at the hustler "Don't trust him! He rips off tourist!" When I heard this, I thought these guys were safe and could help me out (first mistake). Anyways, he went with me to grab food and ordered twenty plates of appetizers before I could even speak (he makes me pay for the bill in the end). At the end of the dinner, two of his friends show up and sit down at the same table.
HE then suddenly brings up the topic of hash and how much I want. I reply "Uh..what? I don't want any drugs man I just got here" and am shocked. He acts equally surprised (fooling nobody) and said that he did me a favor and called up his friend (a dealer) for some hash.

He continues "The dealer is upset he had to come here. What are we going to do with this?" in the kind of tone suggesting that he doesn't like problems and prefers my money. They all sit back down, leaning in, trying to surround me, and the fear of what these guys would do, as well as the foreign country got to me and I gave them the money, left the drugs, and booked it to a hostel. The next morning I was looking for a place to go and found Chefchaouen on the destination list of the bus station. I thought "Why not? I like being spontaneous." Little did I know how much this random decision had in store.

At first, Chefchaouen seems pretty plain and routine. These outskirts consist of the white, three to four story apartment buildings that are common in Tetouan. Once you make the climb up the hill, the beauty starts unfolding before you. You come upon an open square decorated with a few murals. This square is the entry point to the real beauty of Chefchaouen. After passing the square, you immediately become distracted by the Moor castle standing on your right. The left side of the street is adorned with unique storefront each coming from a different time period. Despite the urge to stop, the real beauty is still further up ahead. Once you enter the old town of Chefchaouen, your senses become so satisfied there is no need for an imagination.

There are kids running around, laughing and playing tag, and quickly pointing at the nearest photographer ;)

On the opposite spectrum of youth, people from an older tradition slowly trudge up the hill wearing their old traditions.

Vendors sell small bites at every couple turns. All the while, you are caught in this peaceful atmospheric calm created by the sapphire walls of Chefchaouen. The walk further upward brings you to the old town square. This area was my least favorite because it was the only bit of the town that had a touristic feel. However, this can easily be escaped with a climb up to the Mosque. The panorama up here is quality, with a dome of mountains to the back of you and the wonderful gem of Chefchaouen beneath your feet.

As you walk down from the Mosque, back down the blue alleys of Chefchaouen, you start to feel like you are floating downstream a river as the downhill sweeps up your feet in a calm pace. Your thoughts quiet, and you you just simply observe everything that is happening in this utopia of a river. Then by chance, you get washed up aside into a side alley, away from the current. The silence wakes you from the peaceful meditation you were in earlier. In these alleys you find mothers peeling nuts, kids passing the soccer ball, or a man smoking a lonely cigarette.

In one of these side alleys I met a painter with his own gallery who offered me to some sweet tea and a discussion. We got to talking about Chefchaouen. Turns out, they painted these walls blue because it makes the suns reflection off the building much easier. Some other locals I met prefer a much more interesting story behind these mysterious walls. In the end, my words do not do justice to the magnificence of this true gem of a town. I strongly urge you to travel there for yourself and experience the harmonic beauty that will silence your mind and light up your face in blissful awe.

The Essential Backpacking Checklist: What You Really Need To Bring

Backpacking in a foreign and exotic part of the world is a dream not many get the chance to materialize in their life. For the few lucky, brave, and determined people that are able to go on their own adventure, their checklist and what they are bringing become a significant choice. I plan to offer some personal advice that lifts some weight of this heavy choice and help to show you what you really need to bring.

First, I want to get rid of the fear you have about what to bring as well as the doubts you may have about packing "light." No matter what you think you need, and how much you think you need it, half the things you plan on packing are not necessary. If you are traveling as a true-natured backpacking, you will only need the essentials. I decided from the beginning to travel light and once I had my stuff packed, I could not help but feel a bit scared I did not pack enough "stuff." I soon realized into my trip that all this "stuff" you expect to need are part of the old lifestyle you were living back home, not the adventurous one.

Now that we have outlined the reason why to pack light, I would like to provide you with a concrete list of what to bring with you. Some of these items and quantities will be elaborated on after the list.

-4 pairs of underwear

-3 pairs of socks 

-1 or 2 shirts to wear out at night: I chose a flannel because it doesn't show the wrinkles when stuck in your bag.

-1 long sleeve shirt: Anything long-sleeved that keeps you warm.
-3 T-shirts: Keep them light and mesh material.

-1 windbreaker/rain-jacket: Preferably something that can also retain heat. Adidas has some nice options in this department.

-3 pairs of shorts: Make sure they are mesh material. That makes them incredibly light, easy to clean, and quick to dry. I choose this material also because it was easy for me to do a quick was of them in the sink at the hostel I was staying. Same goes for the shirts.

-1 pair of jeans: I recommend a dark wash because they may get stained and you won't be able to wash your jeans every time you wear them.

-1 belt: I only recommend this because you might lose weight on your trip because of the constant walking...or because of your budget.

-1 pair of hiking shoes: Make sure they are comfortable, sturdy, and broken in for at least a couple days before you leave.

-1 pair of shoes to wear out for nightlife: This choice is completely up to you and your swag.

-1 pair of flip flops: Do not buy an expensive pair, only get cheap ones and replace when they break. Many people recommend Moccasins but I felt a combination of durable hiking shoes and cheap flip flops for the beach days much more favorable.

-1 outlet converter: Yes, they really do have different types of plugs throughout the world! Wal-Mart sells a handy converter that covers all types around the globe for a cheap price.

-1 pocket knife: Everybody strongly recommended I bring one but I forgot to pack it and did fine without it. However, if you plan on camping then I would definitely bring one.

-1 can of mace: I recommend this for females as this is an unfortunate reality of traveling as a girl, especially solo. Although you do not have to worry much in western Europe, I have met people who have had quite uncomfortable experiences in the eastern bloc. Not saying all of the people in the east are bad but just to bring as a precautionary measure.

-Hygiene: Deodorant, small bottle of cologne/perfume, 3 in 1 hair and body wash (this stuff is ideal and saves space!), nail clippers, Q-tips, toothbrush and toothpaste, and the very important female "necessities."

-1 Money Belt: This is really an essential when traveling. First off, you will be have to be carrying more cash than you're probably use to carrying around back in the states since credit cards are not accepted like they are in Amuurica. That means you will have to withdraw money which also means international exchange, conversion, and ATM fees. You can escape with less damage by withdrawing larger amounts and avoiding frequent trips to the ATM. With this bundle of cash, it will be safe in the money belt and you will not have to spend any time worrying.

-1 Compact Guidebook: If your travel is short and focused, then you can just purchase the latest Lonely Planet or Rick Steeve's for that city/country. However, if you are traveling across many countries or more than one continent then I recommend a broad guidebook that covers the major sights. When you get to the major sights, ask the people from the are where they would travel in the surrounding area if they had the time. I found that this strategy gets you to the places that the tourists aren't frequenting as much and have a much stronger reflection of the real ethnic traditions of the country. Ideally, you can purchase guidebooks on your smartphone, Lonely Planet offers many, and not have to worry about the bulk.

-A Novel: This part is completely up to what you think you would enjoy but I would like to offer a bit of advice here. I recommend bring a book that is a bit abstract in the sense that each sentence, or even word, can be meditated on. I realized how beneficial this could be from personal experience. A Brazilian I met in Germany ended up becoming a very good friend of mine. One day when we were talking, he gave me a book he said he would like me to have. It was Richard Alpert's novel Be Here Now. Although some people think this type of novel is a crock of s**t, I really enjoyed the ambiguity of it because I could spend all of my train ride going over just a couple pages, seeing how it related to my life, as well as the present moment. I am not some New Age freak but these type of novels are perfect for traveling. Another example would be Confucius' Analects. In the end you are going to bring whatever book you want but I recommend something that will let your mind wander a bit.

-A Journal: This one to me is more obvious than socks. When you travel, the constraints on your mind get broken as the routine of daily life back home turns to spontaneity and the ideal moments where free will can be exercised. You're brain will be "turned on" in the most natural way possible and new observations will come flying at you. With all this new exposure to the wonders of the world, you will want to record some of the things you see, think, and feel. You can use a note application on your smartphone. I did this and unfortunately had it mugged off me one night in Prague. I lost all the observations, information, and music I had encountered on my trip. You have been warned!

With this list, you will be ready for any adventure that comes your way. I'll admit, there were a couple times where I was not completely prepared but I improvised and am here to tell the story. This should serve as a reminder to never underestimate your resourcefulness when the situation arises. In the end, I hope you remain brave and travel light! I am incredibly happy I did :)