In Defense of the “T” Word: When Did Tourist Become So Negative?

At some point, the word tourist became an insult.

Article upon article has been written on how to travel the world without acting like one. Just a quick Google search has plenty of sites shaming tourists, calling them cheap, loud, drunk, and more.

Even Rick Steves, the famed travel writer, wrote an article called “The Ugly Tourist (and How Not to be One)” in which he divides visitors to Europe into two classes.

As you can guess, the “bad” one is, “those who view Europe through air-conditioned bus windows, socializing with their noisy American friends.” If you do any sort of tour or don’t hang out with random strangers that you meet on the street, you’re clearly traveling wrong. You are (dare I even say it?) an ugly tourist.

Oh, and god forbid you want to take a photo. Apparently, to Rick, “the worst ones have selfie sticks.” If you’re traveling alone, forget about taking a cute pic of yourself because if you whip one out you’ll quickly be labeled as a narcissist and that dirty “t” word again!

Outside of the internet, I’ve met countless backpackers on my trips who offhandedly dismiss destinations, cities, and even entire countries as too touristy. For full effect, make sure you imagine this being said with a tone that indicates they’re clearly above the base location, and definitely won’t be adding it to their to-do list.

Is there anything more ignorant and close-minded than that?

In defense of the tourist, the Oxford Dictionary defines one as “a person who is travelling or visiting a place for pleasure,” and Merriam-Webster states that a tourist is “one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture.” By these definitions, a trip to seek enlightenment with the monks in the Tibetan Mountains is just as touristy as a spring break vacation to an all-inclusive resort.

If you’re not one of the few exceptions, like an expat working in a foreign country, I have some very, very bad news for you: you’re a tourist.

Call yourself a backpacker, call yourself a traveler, call yourself a digital nomad or a million other names, but the facts are that you’re a tourist when you travel in a new country, and being a tourist is not bad or wrong or anything to be ashamed of.

I travel full-time and some of the most amazing places I have ever seen are solidly of the tourist persuasion: Machu Picchu in Peru, the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and pretty much the entire city of Florence, Italy. Sticking to the off-the-beaten-path destinations would mean missing out on the best that almost every country has to offer, and the truth is that touristy places are often popular because they’re cool, unique, and worth visiting.

There’s plenty of touristy things I love to do that the internet vilifies.

I hang out with other Americans I meet, don’t speak every language fluently when I visit a new country, and I almost never choose to do a homestay to “immerse myself with the locals.” ‘Cause you know what the locals are doing? Going to work from nine-to-five, then coming home to watch Netflix.

Sometimes… I even eat fast food. Honestly, whether you choose a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant or an international chain, it doesn’t matter. Your travel experience is no one else’s to judge as wrong or right.

However, even though I’m a tourist there are still plenty of things I don’t do when I visit new countries. like insult local customs or expect everyone to speak English.

You know why I don’t do these things? Because I’m not a dick. My behavior in other countries has nothing to do with being a holier-than-thou traveler, and everything to do with being a decent human being.

There’s a wrong way to be a human, but there’s no wrong way to travel.

As long as you are kind, thoughtful, and open-minded, you do you. Take a bus tour, or renovate a bus and get off the grid. Wait in insanely long lines at famous restaurants, or do a homestay and learn to cook the local cuisine.

Explore somewhere new the way you see fit, enjoy your travels, and please stop using the infamous “t” word as an insult, because it’s not.

 

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m totally wrong? Comment below with your thoughts!

You may also like The Truth About Traveling Full-Time

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

Learn to Travel for Free with the Beginner’s Guide to House Sitting

Bob and Fara aren’t your average forty-somethin’ couple. While most are busy with the day-to-day lives of raising kids and keeping their career afloat, for them that’s not the case.

In 2017, they found themselves singing a familiar refrain that is all to common amongst long-term travelers: “I quit my job, sold everything, and hit the road.”

Ok, it wasn’t quite as simple as that, but you get the picture.

Then, they made the mistake of starting their travels in Scandinavia where they immediately blew through their budget. After that, Bob and Fara quickly made their way to greener (aka cheaper) pastures in Eastern Europe and started searching for ways to save money so they could travel longer.

That’s when they discovered house sitting.

Bob and Fara have learned a lot as they navigate the wonderful world of house sitting jobs and snag free accommodation across the continent. Now, they’re here to share their expertise with you in the complete beginner’s guide to house sitting!

 

1. How do you find house sitting opportunities?

There are two different ways to find house sitting jobs while traveling.

Membership Websites

Our primary sources are two paid subscription websites that pair homeowners with house sitters:

There are numerous other websites out there, but these are the two which we have had the most success with.

In our experience, a homeowner will post an opportunity to the site with the important info (dates, approximate location, expected duties, photos of the property and pets, etc.). Then a house sitter can apply for the ones that interest them.

Many house sitting platforms are also set-up for a house sitter to post their availability (dates, locations, pet/maintenance experience, etc) and have a homeowner contact them when they have a need. However, we’ve never received any leads in this way.

Word of Mouth

As we meet people on our travels, it often comes up that we are house sitting as a way of financing our trip. Sometimes these chance encounters turn into leads. For example, Fara had met a nice Croatian woman through a knitting Facebook group and, before ever meeting her in person, she had connected us with one of her friends who needed a last-minute pet-sitter at the same time we were in Zagreb. Homeowners from previous house sits will also contact us when they or someone they know have upcoming trips planned before posting the opportunity to one of the house sitting websites.

We hope these word of mouth and repeat customer leads become a more significant percentage of our house sits in the future.

 

2. How much do you get paid?

Since we are traveling on tourist visas, we don’t have the right to work in any of the countries we visit and can’t legally charge for our services.

With that being said, there are still plenty of extra perks.

Financial Benefits

All of the homeowners we’ve house sat for offer us free lodging for the duration of the sit and often extend it to a few days before and after they are gone. Often we are left with at least basic staples with instructions to make use of anything that will spoil while the homeowner is away, including anything in the refrigerator, pantry, cellar or freezer.

We’ve been traveling primarily with a rental car, but some homeowners will let us use their vehicle while they are away as well.

We use a bit of fuzzy accounting when figuring out how much we make house sitting. If you look at it as money not spent on lodging, food and transportation it can easily amount to $50-100/day that stays in our travel fund during the duration of the house sit.

Travel Perks

There are several intangible benefits we receive by house sitting.

We get to “live like a local” for a little while, sometimes in a part of the world we would otherwise never consider traveling to. The homeowners we have met have all been wonderful people, who love travel, and warmly welcome us into their homes despite being practically complete strangers. We’ve taken part in local festivals that foreigners rarely attend, and finally, we get to be around animals without having to figure out how to travel with our own.

 

3. What responsibilities can you expect during a house sit?

Before every house sit we meet the homeowners in person and prefer to spend a day or two with them running through their daily routines with the pets and other responsibilities. Most homeowners have a detailed manual with all the important information for the house sitter, but it is not a replacement for hands-on interaction. I guess a very trusting homeowner may do everything electronically, but it would be counter to our desire to meet and interact with the locals.

Most of the house sitting opportunities posted (and the ones we’ve experienced) include caring for the homeowner’s pets. The most exotic pet we’ve cared for so far has been chickens, and we had to collect and eat the eggs.

Most of the homes we’ve cared for are at least partially heated using a wood burner, so in the winter there could be some chopping and bringing in the firewood and tending to the fire.

In the spring and summer there could be some light gardening and yard maintenance or tending to a swimming pool.

At the very least a house sitter should be expected to keep the house at least as tidy as the homeowner left it to them.

We’ve seen house sits posted that included duties such as tending farm animals, keeping an eye on contractors making improvements to the home, or even helping to run a hotel or bed & breakfast… We’ve declined to apply for such “opportunities”, but they may appeal to others.

 

4. How much flexibility does house sitting require?

Flexibility can be defined many ways when it comes to house sitting. You are dealing with two private parties (homeowner and house sitter) who are operating under a mutually beneficial agreement, so anything is possible.

It has been our experience that dates need to be a little flexible which is why we prefer to build in a few days on either side of the homeowner’s expected departure and arrival just in case of some last minute change in travel plans. We’ve never had a homeowner cancel on us, but it can happen. We know of some house sitters who draw up a basic contract in case of cancellation to recoup some costs associated with such an event.

During the house sit, Murphy’s law dictates that something will happen you are not fully prepared for. This is just a fact of life and successful house sitters are flexible enough to handle these cases in stride. Pets may gets sick, but the homeowner should leave you with contacts for veterinary care. Something in the house may break or stop working, but our own homeownership experience has taught us to fix what we can and call an expert for what we can’t. This flexibility is part of the job description of a house sitter.

When talking about locations, flexibility will open up many more opportunities for the house sitter. A significant number of house sits tend to be located in rural areas or small villages with limited access to public transportation, restaurants, and shopping. Even when an opportunity is found in a major city, it will likely be located in the more residential areas, away from the central tourist districts.

In the off-season, house sits can be more easily found in what would be considered a vacation destination. It is also worth noting that the more popular a destination or season is, the more competition there will be with other house sitters.

 

5. How many house sits have you done and how many are set up for the future? 

We’ve completed five house sits since last December which is when we got serious about using house sitting as a form of lodging. The shortest duration has been a three or four day weekend and the longest was two weeks not counting the time we stayed before and after the homeowner was gone.

These have taken us to rural Ireland, London, the Pyrenees in France, Zagreb, and Lake Balaton in Hungary. We have confirmed sits upcoming in Transylvania, back in Croatia, and Luxembourg and at least a couple others we are in the process of negotiating the final details.

Every few days Fara is finding new opportunities to apply for that will fill in the gaps between the upcoming sits.

 

6. Can you give me an estimate on how much time and money you invested to land each one?

Money: We currently have memberships on five different house sitting websites which cost approximately $30-120/membership/year. 

Time: I tend to just read emails that have been sent to us by the house sitting platforms.  

For example Trusted House sitters sends me two emails a day (morning and evening) based on the sits they have received in that timeframe before made public on their website. The email is organized by country and alphabetical so I can quickly scan to see if there are any sits in countries that we are near or plan in the future to be in or close to.  

On a weekly average I might spend 30 minutes looking at these house sitting emails. If I see something listed in one of the emails that looks like it might fit our needs I will send it to Bob for his opinion and if he thinks its a good fit then he will let me know and I apply for the sit. Bob keeps track of our Visa dates for permitted time within a country. So often he will have to run a calculation to determine if we have the available time to do that sit based on the Visa situation at that time.

There have been three sits that we had to turn down based on inadequate Schengen Visa time although we would have loved to perform the sit.

 

7. What does a typical process look like from the first application to getting the job?

After submitting an application the ball is almost entirely in the homeowner’s court, so there is a lot of waiting on our part. If we don’t hear back within a few days and it is a house sit we are particularly interested in, Fara will follow up with the homeowner to show interest and prompt a response.

At this point the application will go one of two ways. The homeowner will give us a “no” response (and a continued lack of response we also take as a “no”) or they respond to schedule an interview.

The interview is typically over video chat, in some cases it will be entirely via email, messenger or text, and in one unique case we were in the same general area as the homeowner and scheduled an in-person interview at their home.

This interview is as much for us to interview the homeowner as it is for the homeowner to interview us and in our experience has always ended with both parties agreeing to continue with the house sit.

 

8. How do you make sure your house sitting requests stand out from the rest?

Fara tries to tailor each application to the homeowner rather than just sending a canned, boilerplate request.

Adding personal touches such as relating past experiences with animals to the homeowner’s pets or showing knowledge and interest in the location they live in makes a difference. We try to emphasize that our story is unique in that we’re neither twenty-somethings straight out of university nor retirees enjoying their twilight years traveling.

Above all else, we try to portray ourselves with as professionals with many years of experience from owning and caring for our own homes and pets.

 

9.What surprised you the most about house sitting? Is there anything you wish you knew before you started?

The most surprising thing for both of us is how much we needed to treat house sitting as a business with us as a service provider and the homeowners as clients.

We went into it a bit naively thinking that we’d make our travel plans and pick up house sits along the way. This resulted in only rarely finding opportunities we were even available to apply for. It wasn’t until we changed this mindset and made our itinerary flexible enough to accommodate going where the house sitting opportunities were, that we were successful finding and landing house sits.

If we had known what we know now, we would have also built up our house sitting resume before embarking on our long-term nomadic trip. Without a history of successful house sits, it took the right homeowner to be willing to select an apparently inexperienced house sitter.

 

10. What has been your favorite house sitting experience so far? Would you recommend it to others that are interested?

It may sound a bit like a cop out, but it would be impossible to pick one favorite experience as they are all memorable for different reasons.

The Ireland house-sit was exhilarating because it was our first sit and everything was brand new. Despite us not really having a clue what we were doing, the homeowner is willing to let us watch her pets again later on this year.

In France we took part in their Carnivale celebration where we were the first Americans anyone could remember being in attendance.

The pets we took care of in Hungary now occupy a special place in our hearts. We went back a few weeks later to pick up something we left behind and they were all ready for us to stay and take care of them again.

We love this “job” and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone wanting to experience real life in a foreign place.

 

Read more about Bob and Fara’s travels on their blog at Can Do Latitude and simplify your travel plans with their Shengen Visa calculator!

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

78 Full-Time Travel Tips To Take On The Road With You

I love to travel.

If you’re reading this article, you probably do too.

When I left the country for the first time back in 2013, I had no idea what to expect. By the end of my two-month experience teaching in Belize, I knew that I wasn’t going to be getting a job and living in the U.S.

Since then, I’ve lived, worked, and traveled in over 15 countries. I’ve learned a lot during this time about what to do (and not do), and I’d love to share some that insight with all of you.

 

On Money

1. Be smart with your money. A lot of people think, “Oh. I’ll keep spending because I’ll never be back in this place again.” If you do that too often, you’re going to run out of money fast. Sometimes, the best nights and the best stories happen without spending a cent, so consider getting off the beaten path before you blow your budget.

 

2. Make money while you’re traveling. We’ve been able to travel full-time for two years now because we work as freelancers while we go.

 

3. Set a clear budget. Know your budget, and stick to it as much as you can.

 

4. Use cash. Money feels a lot more real when it’s physically disappearing from your wallet. It’s a lot easier to overspend when it’s just one more card swipe rather than a trip to the ATM.

 

5. Save. A lot of people who travel full-time don’t make money a priority, but you should do your best to save money every month. Caring about retirement is cool.

 

6. Don’t worry too much about what other people or employers might think. People might tell you that extended travel is a bad idea, but we’ve been able to pay off our loans, save money, and advance our careers while traveling. The amount of remote workers is going up every year, and people are much more open to working with them than you may think.

 

7. Be wary of anyone asking you to pay a deposit. If you give one in a foreign country, you’re just asking to lose a bunch of money or spend time arguing trying to get your money back. Even more so if you don’t speak the language.

 

8. Don’t trust someone just because they’re from your country. We thought we could trust a landlord in Colombia because he was American, but he was the worst one we’ve dealt with.

 

9. People will do just about anything to get as much money out of you as possible. If they seem like a hustler, they are.

 

10. Airbnb is great for protecting yourself from scammers in the rental industry. You can read reviews, rent from trustworthy people, and have a third-party mediator.

 

11. You get significant discount on Airbnb the longer you rent. We almost always get at least 20% when we rent for a month.

 

12. Take pictures of your apartment when you arrive and when you leave. If there’s ever a dispute, you’ll have evidence.

 

13. Know the tipping expectations. If they don’t tip, then don’t tip. If they tip, then tip.

 

14. Make sure you have an emergency fund. When you inevitably f*ck up and need to buy a new flight ASAP or drop money on something serious, you won’t have to worry about charges going through, over drafting, or anything else.

 

15. Always have a credit card on hand. If you can’t have an emergency fund, a credit car is the next best thing to ensure you’re never stuck someone you can’t get out of. They buy you time and are also necessary for some car rentals and other international purchases.

 

16. Separate the important stuff. Both you and your partner should have debit and credit cards, so if one of you gets pick pocketed or loses their wallet it’s not the end of the world. If you’re traveling alone, leave a second debit and credit card in your apartment when you go out to avoid being stranded without cash or access to your accounts if something goes wrong.

 

On Packing

17. A deck of cards almost always comes in handy. There’s a ton of different two-person games to play, and it’s a great way to hang out with people you don’t really know.

 

18. Invest in sturdy boots. We do a lot of walking when we’re traveling, so I always bring a good pair of walking shoes with me.

 

19. Always bring a portable charger. No one wants to choose between photos of an exotic destination or music on the ride home. portable chargers are cheap and one of the most important items if you don’t want to be stuck staring into space on a bus, train, or plane.

 

20. Pack a headphone splitter if you’re a couple. Great for watching tv/movies or listening to music/podcasts together, especially when one person’s phone inevitable dies.

 

21. Don’t overpack. Pack everything you want, then remove half before you leave. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

 

22. Limit your luggage to one on your back, one on your stomach. We go with a big backpack and a small backpack and always have everything we need.

 

23. Packing a speaker is a great idea. I use my portable speaker all the time.

 

24. Consider a portable projector. Your apartments might not always have a TV, so look into portable projectors if you want something bigger than your laptop screen.

 

25. Always travel with an extra outfit in your carry-on bag. If your luggage is lost, you can at least feel fresh the next day when you start the miserable hunt to get it back.

 

26. Never put anything valuable in a checked bag or under the bus. Laptops, cameras, cellphones, and passports should all be in one bag that’s in your sight at all times.

 

27. If you’re sleeping in a bus, train, or air terminal, wrap the straps of your bag around your arm or leg before you pass out and get robbed.

 

28. Practical above all else. A cute sundress may look amazing, but jeans and a black tee will be appropriate for more events and seasons. Every article of clothing counts. If you don’t wear it in the first month, donate it or throw it out.

 

29. They don’t really wear shorts in a lot of countries. Americans love shorts. A lot of other countries don’t. Unless you’re going to be on a beach, skip them on your packing list.

 

On Travel

30. Don’t get caught up trying to see everything. When I first started traveling, I felt like I had to see and do it all. You just have to accept that you can’t see everything so that you can actually enjoy yourself.

 

31. Try not to say no too often. I find myself turning things down too much at times. I try to remember that I’m traveling to see and try new things.

 

32. Don’t romanticize traveling without a plan. It might sound adventurous and fun, but in reality it just means wasting hours at a coffee shop trying to figure out your next steps. We typically have the big stuff (i.e. accommodation) planned before we get somewhere.

 

33. Don’t rely on tour agencies to give you the facts. In a lot of countries they are willing to sacrifice your wellbeing to make some money.

 

34. Don’t rely on ratings alone for restaurants and businesses. Read reviews even if a rating is high because TripAdvisor has become less reliable over the years, and sometimes the average or bad reviews paint a different picture.

 

35. Take pictures of the mundane stuff. Beautiful landscapes are great, but snap some of your meals and partner and new friends you meet… those are the ones that will bring back the most memories in years to come.

 

36. Don’t be afraid to haggle, but don’t be a dick about it. Negotiation is expected in a lot of countries, so get comfortable doing it. Just don’t push it too much if it’s not a significant amount of money.

 

37. Don’t give to kids. Parents use them as beggars all the time, and though it’ll tug at your heartstrings it’s better in the long run not to support it. If you really feel terrible about yourself, find a reputable organization you can donate to instead.

 

38. On Airbnb, always verify that you’re actually renting an entire apartment and not sharing it. People list shared apartments as entire apartments all the time. Really read the description, and send a message to clarify before your book.

 

39. If someone seems like they don’t really know how to use Airbnb, don’t rent from them. If they struggle with the tech, they’ll probably struggle with providing a good experience.

 

40. Don’t buy too many souvenirs. They take up space and will usually fall apart or be thrown away the minute you get home.

 

41. You can find a lot of good information in Facebook groups. In more popular cities, there’s almost always an expat group of some sort where you can ask more specific questions.

 

42. Four full weekends is almost always enough time in one city. We typically stay in each city for five weeks, and it’s enough to enjoy a mix of visiting the big sites and getting off the beaten path.

 

43. The internet isn’t always right. Sometimes I show up in a city where everyone says you can’t drink the water, and it’s perfectly fine (looking at you, Sibiu.) Or, the media will sensationalize a culture (like Dubai) and we’ll show up to find that it’s way more normal and relaxed than the online articles make it appear.

 

44. When you start planning a trip, dedicate a gmail folder to it and move all confirmation emails directly to the folder. Then, when you’re traveling it will be much easier to find the one you need in the moment.

 

45. Before you set out on the next leg of your journey, screen shot addresses, phone numbers, and tickets or bar codes. You may find yourself without service or internet, and having the essentials safe on your phone can be a godsend.

 

46. Popular digital nomad destinations aren’t always the best. Medellin is praised as one of the best, but I’ve preferred almost every other city I’ve lived in to it. Do your own research, and don’t lock yourself into one place for too long.

 

47. Check tourism boards and ticketing websites for every city when you arrive. There’s often plenty of cool festivals, shows, and events that you’ll never hear about otherwise.

 

On Transportation

48. Always, always, always know the visa rules for every country you’re traveling through. We lost a lot of money because we didn’t know that we needed a visa to transfer airports in India on a layover. Don’t make a mistake like that.

 

49. Pay attention to whether your driver seems drunk. After a tuk-tuk driver almost drove us all off the side of a mountain one night, we’re much more careful about adhering to this rule.

 

50. Downloading movies and shows from Netflix to your phone is one of the best forms of entertainment. I used to only use music and podcasts, but now movies and shows are my go-to for long trips.

 

51. A Spotify subscription is worth it. We pay $10/month, and it’s 100% worth the money to have access to downloadable music and podcasts.

 

52. Being on the plane overnight is better than being in the airport overnight. After spending a night in the Mexico City airport, I’ll do whatever I can to avoid it again. If you have to travel overnight, try to at least be on a flight.

 

53. Sometimes it’s better to spend a little bit of extra money on transportation. The more I travel the more I realize it’s often worth it to pay a little bit extra for comfort, speed, convenience or all three.

 

54. Always let someone know if you’re getting off the bus at a quick stop… otherwise, there’s a very real chance that your bathroom break could end with you getting left behind in the middle of nowhere!

 

On Day-to-Day Life on the Road

55. Stay active, and sign up for gym memberships when possible. Unlike the US, most gyms in other countries don’t require craze fees and contracts. I always sign up for a month-long membership when I get to a city, and it helps keep me healthy and sane.

 

56. An endless vacation may sound like fun but even that comes with problems. Stick to a routine and stay productive. It will keep you from spending too much money, drinking too much, or getting traveler burn-out.

 

57, Buying groceries and cooking at home is cheaper and healthier than eating out. Going to restaurants regularly can be tempting, but try to cook at home during the weeks and save the meals out for a treat on the weekends.

 

58. Make an effort to look good. When you work from home and live out of a suitcase, it’s easy to get sloppy. Dressing nice can make you feel like a totally new person… even if it’s just for a trip to the grocery store.

 

59. A lot of medicines are widely available and significantly cheaper in other countries. You can usually find what you need in a pharmacy and get it over-the-counter without a prescription.

 

60. Project Fi is a decent worldwide phone plan, and there are ways to use it without having a Google device. I pay around $23/month for texts, $0.20 per minute for calls, and $10/GB of data on my iPhone. I believe it’s only for Americans at this time, but other countries have better phone plans anyways.

 

61. Sprint’s customer service sucks. We had them for over a year and didn’t have many positive experiences with them… but the Open World Plan for traveling in Latin America is still the best and cheapest option out there.

 

62. Apple products can be difficult to find at reasonable prices. I paid $90 for a $20 charger when I was in Mexico. Consider bringing an extra if you’re going somewhere that doesn’t typically carry Apple products.

 

63. Your apartment or hostel door will get stuck. And you’ll be left wondering how you’re going to get in when it’s late at night or freezing outside. Luckily pulling the door toward you as you unlock it will solve the problem and get it open again 98% of the time.

 

On Making Friends

64. Do your best to meet new people. If you’re traveling with a partner, it can be easy to fall into your comfort zone. You have to make an effort to be social. People won’t just come up to you and ask to hang out, but if you initiate a conversation 99% of the time you’ll make a new friend.

 

65. That being said… there’s a difference between going out of your comfort zone, and being uncomfortable. Some people just suck to hang out with. If you get a bad feeling, don’t be afraid to leave the situation.

 

66. If someone makes it a point to tell you they’re a “traveler” and not a “tourist,” stay away from them. They’re often d-bags.

 

67. Volunteering at local nonprofits is a great way to meet people and feel good: You might have to do some digging to find opportunities, but it’s a good way to learn about the community.

 

68. Not every silence needs to be filled. I’ve noticed a lot of solo travelers tend to overshare because they don’t want the conversation to stall. Let it flow naturally and don’t try to control it, and it may end up on some great unexpected topics (or, just people asking you if you voted for Trump for the millionth time).

 

On Food

69. What’s everyone else ordering? If everyone at the restaurant has fish, don’t get the burger. Also, don’t be afraid to point at someones meal and ask the waiter what it is.

 

70. Sometimes you just need a little taste of home. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing McDonald’s or Starbucks every now and then, and you shouldn’t let anyone shame you out of it!

 

71. Don’t complicate things. When you try to change an order or ask too many questions with a language barrier, things will just get more muddled. Accept that you just probably won’t know what’s happening or what’s coming about 50% of the time.

 

72. Mentally prepare yourself now to pay exorbitant prices for peanut butter. That’s just how life works now. Oh, and you’ll never, ever, ever find grape jelly outside of the US.

 

73. One meal out is almost always enough. Split it and tell yourself if you’re still hungry, you can order more food after… I promise you’ll never need to.

 

On Common Sense

74. Keep your hands on your pockets in crowded areas, especially when you’re transitioning off a bus in a crowded area with a lot of bags. I got pick pocketed once, and now I’m always super careful.

 

75. Pat yourself down whenever you’re getting out of a cab before letting them drive off. We’ve left THREE phones in cabs. Now we always pat ourselves down and check that we have everything before letting the car drive away.

 

76. Always put your pictures/videos in the cloud. It’s easy to download the Google Photos app and directly upload all of your photos at the end of each day. After losing every picture from three weeks in Thailand when I got pick pocketed on the last day, I back everything up.

 

77. ALWAYS check the meter before the taxi starts driving. Too many drivers will start it with the last fare still running, or won’t turn it on at all and demand a crazy price at the end. If there isn’t a meter in your taxi, check the estimated trip price on Uber before agreeing to one with the driver, and always confirm a final price before you get in. Actually, just avoid taxis when you can, but be extra careful while in them if you can’t.

 

78. Learn the emergency number for every country you’re in. Hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s important to be aware that it’s not 911 everywhere.

 

Unfortunately, I’ve learned many of these travel lessons the hard way. DON’T be like me, and take these 74 full-time travel tips to heart before you pack your bags and hit the road.

Of course, If you have any tips or tricks that I missed, let me know in the comments!

 

 

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

5 Tips to Furnish A Rental Property (from a Full Time Airbnb Dweller)

Hey guys. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you own a rental property and are ready to post it on Airbnb. That means we have a complicated relationship. I love you, I fear you, and sometimes, I even hate you (I’m sorry!)

Why?

I’m a full-time traveler and have lived in Airbnb apartments and short-term rentals for 16 months now. Oh, and I move to a new one every single month.

That means I’ve seen the inside of A LOT of properties recently. Some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly.

Lucky for you, I’ve decided to vent my frustrations in a helpful post on how to furnish a rental property straight from someone who is actually living in them.

I know most people who rent your place are just passing through, but the digital nomad movement is on the rise. Using these ideas will make your rental property more appealing to long-term renters, who always have an eye on the reviews looking for small details like these.

So, without further ado, here are my five biggest tips to furnish a rental property that every guest will love!

 

cute kitchen

 

1. Live In It

It’s so simple, it hurts. I’m honestly surprised more hosts haven’t actually spent time eating, working, and cooking inside their own properties.

Welcome to a week in my life. During it, expect episodes like: getting all prepped to make that new Pinterest recipe, only to realize you don’t have a grater.

Or, a situation in which: you unpack a suitcase full of clothes only to realize there is not a single storage space for them (yes, this has happened to me more than once).

The list goes on and on.

Honestly, this is really the only tip you need to quickly learn exactly how you need to furnish your rental property. However, I know most of you just don’t have the time or energy to do it so I’ll continue with the rest below…

 

2. If You Want a Clean Apartment, You Need to Provide Cleaning Supplies

Fun fact (or is it?): the only host who complained about the apartment being dirty when I left was also the only one suspended by the Airbnb security team because his messages to me were so unhinged.

Well, the reason his apartment wasn’t spotless when I moved out wasn’t because I already paid a cleaning fee, and it wasn’t because I lived in it for a month rather than the usual two or three days (although, I feel these are both valid reasons…) it was because he didn’t provide a single cleaning supply! Not even a broom!

I’m more than happy to take your apartment through a weekly clean on my own because I’m not an animal and don’t want to live in my own filth. But, that requires a couple spray bottles, a mop, and maybe an old rag or two as well. Stock a cabinet with cleaning supplies and if your next tenets are anything like me your apartment will be sparkling when they move out.

 

3. Your Kitchen Needs More Than You Think

I have never once moved into an apartment that has spices in the kitchen. Never. My garlic powder budget has become like $60 a year and counting. A basic spice rack would seriously be a godsend for cooks like me, who often get stuck using salt only for weeks… so boring.

While you’re in the kitchen aisle, you should also buy a corkscrew (even though I’m now a pro at getting wine bottles open with a bobby pin and a spoon, contact me for more details), chip clips, a pitcher, a grater (clearly I’m passionate about shredded cheese), and a large pot with a lid (this is rare for some reason). Also, any sort of coffee maker is required (please don’t make me consume any more instant sludge), and Tupperware and aluminum foil are very appreciated as well.

Finally, take a moment to honestly evaluate your counter space. I’ve been in more than one Airbnb with so much random stuff on the counters that I’m unable to actually cook. Get rid of it, and cook a meal or two in the kitchen to make sure it’s fully stocked and usable.

 

 

4. Consider the Small Stuff

You would be surprised by how many apartments I stay in that don’t have a single lamp. When my choices are overhead lights or nothing at night, it’s hard to relax in the apartment.

Other furnishings that have been seriously lacking in most rental properties I stay in include hangers in the closets, coasters so I don’t destroy your tables, and a full-length mirror. Also, please put a trash can in the bathroom. I’m sad that I even have to ask.

Another great tip is to never furnish a rental property with anything white! This freaks me out!

The one I’m in now has white sheets, white towels, a white tablecloth, and a white throw blanket on the couch. I mean, it looks nice, but there’s literally no way I’ll get out of here without accidentally destroying something, and I would really prefer not to do that.

If you really wanna be a stellar host, include details like converters, charging cords, travel-sized shampoo and conditioner so I can shower before I go out shopping for the basics, and a card with the wifi password prominently displayed. Small things like that make me feel like a human again when I get into the apartment after 30 hours of traveling, and are much appreciated.

 

5. Throw Out Everything Decorative

Decluttering is all the rage right now, and it’s something every Airbnb host should accept deep, deep, into their hearts.

Things I’ve had to move/hide/stash when I moved into new apartments include: vases with dried flowers, framed personal pictures, candles, a very large, very strange decorative tree, musty books, an endless supply of knick-knacks, and once an entire table set for 10 in a one-bedroom apartment… just, why?

I don’t have much stuff, but I still need space to put it. If you truly insist on sharing your decorative taste with your guests, then at the bare minimum make sure they have an empty set of drawers for clothes, and a shelf or clear counter space in the bathroom. That’s all I ask!

 

Use These 5 Tips to Furnish Your Rental Property

When I’m looking for my next Airbnb, reviews are my best friend. Just a few positive words from another digital nomad who spent weeks in your apartment will automatically move to the top of my list.

So, take some time to furnish your rental property with a new eye, and full-time travelers around the world will thank you!

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

Have you heard of Grabr? This App Will Pay You to Travel!

Ok, I’m super excited to share this app that I somehow just learned about, despite it being around for years!

One of my readers, Scott, emailed me about it in response to my latest newsletter: “6 Ways to Make Money While Traveling.” He mentioned that I should try the Grabr app, and told me he was about to get paid $450 to go to Lima! What?! I did some investigating, and I am now here to tell you all about it!

 

 

What is Grabr?

Ok, so basically Grabr is an international person-to-person delivery system. People who want products that aren’t available in their own country can “order” them in the app or online. Then, you buy them in your home country and deliver them when you travel.

Each delivery has a “Traveler Fee” which is what you make money off of. This fee is totally negotiable and, just like a tip, it’s based on the total order amount. Higher priced items mean a higher traveler fee. I’ve seen delivery fees up to $80 and even higher just from scrolling through the requests today!

 

Why Use the Grabr App?

Grabr does a few things that I think make it worth using.

First of all, it connects you to all of the people who want goods from your home country.

Second, it forces the buyer to secure their money in the app before you pay for the product, so it gives peace of mind knowing a third party is mediating the transaction. There’s no sketchy situations here, and no way for the people to back out of payment once you deliver the item.

And third, as of today, if you deliver 10 orders, you’ll get a $100 bonus from the website! Nice!

I mean, if you’re going to the country anyway, you might as well throw a few extra things in your bag and make some money, right?

 

The Downsides

Ok, there are two small downfalls to this app that I noticed when I was reading about it.

The first problem is that it definitely requires some upfront investment. You have to buy the product yourself in your own country, then you don’t get reimbursed by Grabr or receive the extra fee until you complete the delivery. So, that’s a bit of a risk, and also not always possible for travelers on a super tight budget.

The other issue I see with it is that you have to waste valuable vacation time meeting up with people to deliver the goods. Also, what if they murder me?

Scott told me that because the people prepay for the goods, they have more incentive to meet up and not be flaky, and that he hasn’t had issues with this part of the Grabr delivery during his experiences. You can help mitigate this by only taking a few orders with high delivery fees (instead of a bunch of small orders to a bunch of people) and by always meeting in public spaces. No matter what, though, it sounds a bit inconvenient, and meeting strangers is not always the best way to start a vacation.

 

 

Would You Try the Grabr App to Make Extra Travel Money?

I feel the need to say that I am not affiliated with this company in any way, and I have actually never even tried it! I just learned about it last week and thought some of you guys may be interested in testing it out.

It’s really popular in South America, but also growing in other cities around the world. Unfortunately, I just checked and there is only one order for our upcoming trip to Sibiu, Romania. Too bad I didn’t know about this on my earlier travels, because I would 100% try it! Also,  I know I would have loved to get some stuff delivered from the United States during our two years teaching in the UAE.

If you do decide to try the Grabr app, please comment below or shoot me a message because I definitely want hear about your experience with international delivery!

All my love,
Di

PS Check out my Working Abroad series for more ways to make money while you travel, or click here to find out where I love to find the cheapest flights and the best vacation deals!

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

Instagram Makes it Look Easy: The Truth Behind Life in a Prius

No agenda to keep, new cities every week, and a weirdly strong opinion about Taco Bell.

It might not be what 28-year-old Jordan Thornsburg expected when he graduated from Miami University in 2012, but the daily grind of post-grad life in Dayton, Ohio had him rethinking his priorities.

Some people buy an RV, others renovate a van… Jordan Thornsburg lives in his Prius. The videographer and creative mind behind Macroscope Pictures has been living in his car since March 2017, and gave me a glimpse into his incredibly unique and often hilarious life on the road.

Where, how, and most of all, why? He answered all of my questions and more about a lifestyle we’ve all thought about in passing, but never really had the guts to make happen.

 

Leaving His Old Life Behind

As with most major life-altering decisions, it all started with a break up.

“I had a really great relationship that ended right before 2016 when she decided to move to the UK and I did not. That severance was the catalyst for a lot of soul searching about the course I wanted my life to take. According to a 2010 census bureau survey, Ohio residents are the 3rd most likely to still live in their state of origin.  I knew I wanted to defy this trend, but I didn’t know where to start. How exactly does one decide where they want to spend their life when they’ve experienced so few of the options?” 

Although traveling the country seemed like a faraway, fleeting thought, it soon turned into an obsession. He scoured Youtube daily for ideas, saved money for months, and finally landed on his escape plan.

“A few DIY projects and Goodwill drop-offs later, I quit my job, and on March 1st, 2017 I told Siri to set a course for yonder.”

So, what makes Jordan different from the rest of us? Not much, really. He’s just a college grad who was underwhelmed by the monotony that adult life often becomes. Traveling the country and living in his Prius was the solution, and so far, he’s loving it.

Jordan recommends the lifestyle for “those who seek to challenge themselves, collect less bullshit space-consumers, and live while they’re alive. You can work for 50 years at the same job in your hometown saving smart for a retirement of travel adventures, but not only are you going to be the least physically capable of enjoying it you’ve ever been, there is also no guarantee you won’t die before the time comes.”

And if you need a little more inspiration…

“We gave a manbaby [Trump] access to a button that could trigger the end of every conscious creature on the planet. Go for broke!”

 

 

The Day to Day Life of Living in a Car

Many of the basic amenities we take for granted in an apartment are non-existent in a Prius. So, what exactly does the day-to-day routine of a car dweller look like?

“Ironically while I set out intending to escape routine, I ended up discovering its value. When you are hopping from one place to another nearly every week, keeping a routine that sets you up for physical and mental flourishing becomes much more challenging.”

Jordan hoped that getting away from the distractions of every day life would help him become a better version of himself. So far, it’s a work in progress… 

“On an ideal day I go to the gym, meditate with Headspace, chip away at a creative project, cook, journal, and read/listen to philosophically enriching or educational content. The daily reality involves failing to do half of those things, eating out, and wasting time on Tinder.” 

 

The Basics

I’m glad Jordan mentioned Tinder, ’cause I was feeling like it was time to get pretty up close and personal. Specifically, how does showering work when you live in a Prius without running water? The answer is “hobo hygiene,” and it’s easier than you think. He pays $32 a month for a YMCA membership that grants him access to 2,700 gyms across the country, effectively solving all the problems associated with trying to smell like an upstanding citizen while living in a car. 

 

 

Internet Access

Showering may be one thing, but internet access is a whole different beast when living on the road. Can you imagine life without unlimited wifi? For Jordan, that’s been one of the toughest aspects of the lifestyle, but also one he’s grown to appreciate in a certain way. 

Jordan “shares” (aka uses 95% of) a 15gb month family cell phone plan with his parents. Even that’s not enough, though, and local libraries and Starbucks have become frequent haunts for him. Still, limited internet access could be a blessing in disguise for a lot of us who have become addicted to our screens. 

“An unlimited data plan is very tempting, but at the same time I actually appreciate the limitation. It’s an incentive to put my phone into airplane mode and experience the world, rather than sit in my car and gorge on Netflix.”

 

Food

Most Priuses don’t come with an open kitchen plan, and cooking outside on the hitch on the back of a car sounds less than ideal. Still, it can and does happen (although, pretty infrequently). Jordan only owns a single fold up burner, a spoon, and a pot.

To be honest this sounds like my own personal version of hell, but some people just really don’t care that much about food variety. When your fridge is a high-efficiency cooler only sporadically refilled with ice, something’s gotta give. 

“Despite having all the gear I need to make meal magic, I can’t help myself from analyzing the time and resource investment it takes vs. optimized drive-thru fast food orders. My diet right now is in large part made up of healthy choices from Taco Bell.”

He usually opts for one of two options every time he goes. Two mini skillet bowls fresco style or two tostadas fresco style (no chipotle sauce!) both run him only $2 – $3 for a filling 300 calorie meal.

 

 

Sleep

You can’t just park overnight wherever you please. Living in a Prius involves a certain amount of stealth, and Jordan’s sleep game has been slowly evolving over the year.  “I started out sleeping in Walmart parking lots. Later, I discovered how much I get a kick out of sleeping in a downtown area where a hotel would cost a fortune.” Jordan will let you aspiring Prius dwellers in on a little secret: “most metered parking spaces in excellent locations don’t start charging until 8am.”

If you can get your ass out of bed early (not too hard when the morning sun is cooking you, Jordan says) these become convenient places to settle down for the night. And when he’s not checking out new cities, Jordan likes to sleep in nature. “Lastly,” he says, “I got hip to the wealth of Bureau of Land Management properties, where you can camp for up to 14 days straight free of charge.” He also recommends Freecampsites.net as an enormously helpful resource for car dwellers in the country.

 

Let’s Look at the Finances

We’re all wondering it, so I asked it. How can you make money when you live in a car?

Well the honest truth is… you don’t. Jordan saved up money before he went on the road so he has the freedom to go where he wants, when he wants, and only take on paid work that he really enjoys.

Over the past year he’s worked on freelance shooting and editing projects and a few corporate video gigs. However, most of his time is spent working on passion projects, like the #ShotsOrShots drone challenge he and his friends complete every week on his Instagram, or the videos showcased on his Youtube channel, like this promo he made for the Summer Shadows Tour.

 

 

On average, Jordan spends between $500 and $650 a month to live in his Prius, depending on how often he goes out for dinner and drinks with his friends. However, I noticed that health insurance wasn’t listed on his budget breakdown. Jordan may be different from most millennials in a lot of ways, but the cost of health insurance is still f*cking up his life like the rest of us.

Instead of doctors, Jordan uses “peppers to absorb my toxins and crystals I bought on Ebay to provide healing energy.” He’s just kidding though.. kind of.

“I use the kind that’s imaginary and I pay $700/year in penalties. I looked into buying healthcare and it would cost me $3000/year and not even begin covering me until I’ve spent something like $5000 out of pocket. On principal, I’d rather die.

 

Lifestyle: The Pros and Cons of a Living in a Prius

Since Jordan started traveling, he’s been able to spend weeks in each of the top three cities he always wanted to live in: Denver, Austin, and Los Angeles, and that’s just the start. The list of places he’s traveled to was over 30 entries long, including Miami, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and national parks throughout the west.

I wondered if there’s a car or van life culture that’s hidden to the untrained eye, and Jordan says he’s met a few others like him. However, the lifestyle is so nomadic that he didn’t really see any common threads that tie them all together. “I’ve been surprised about how much variance there is. Variance in upbringing, wealth, motives, political affiliations, physical health, mental health, diet, etc. But if you judge the “culture” by the 25,000 youtube channels on the topic, you could begin to think they’re all vegan bloggers.”

As far as the worst parts about living in a car, Jordan says it’s hard to keep a healthy morning routine, and (despite the amount of time he spends on Tinder), dating is difficult and the logistics of his love life have become pretty interesting.

However, one of the best parts about it is pretty clear. He has “the freedom to pick up and go wherever I want, whenever I want. My friend was talking about how she really wanted to visit Taos, NM. One Google search and an hour later, I was on my way there.”

 

 

Stand Out Moments

Every adventure has it’s memorable moments, and Jordan’s is no different. We discussed some of the scariest events that he’s been a part of on the road.

“In New Orleans I found myself feeling extremely tired, so I pulled over to take a nap in an unfamiliar part of town. After putting in my ear plugs and masking my eyes, I heard what was very clearly gunshots. Despite this realization, I drifted to sleepy boy land. Next I woke to a cop shining his flashlight through my windshield. ‘This is not the place you want to do what you’re doing,’ he told me. He was obviously right.”

What’s as scary as gunshots and cops in the night? Easy: “Being on a road in Texas. Any road.” Jordan has found driving in the Longhorn state to be more terrifying than anywhere else he’s been in the US.

“You’ll often hear excessively long horn blasts and dramatic skidding to a stop. During one week there I saw two minor collisions. Another time I was first on the scene where a vehicle ran off the road and tumbled into a ravine. The driver was fortunately okay enough to crawl out and attempt to act sober… That said, I still love Texas.”

 

 

So, How Long Will it Last?

Traveling the world is fun but can also be romanticized, and I know it’s definitely possible to get disillusioned with the nomadic lifestyle. I asked Jordan if he has any plans to get a permanent place soon, and put the Prius lifestyle behind him for good.

“I don’t have an end date in mind but I’m not in any hurry. With my Prius I feel like I’m lacking nothing, and the cramped space reinforces my motto: Sleep in your car, live in the world.” 

Right now, finances are fine and life on the open road has only just begun. He gets to see the world, push his creative limits, and hopefully become a better version of himself along the way. Exploring and creating are major perks, but most importantly for Jordan “living a life self-defined comes with a sense of pride.”

 

Jordan lives in his Prius so he can make videos for YOU. Follow him on Instagram, subscribe to his Youtube channel, and check out his site at Macroscope Pictures. 

Check Out These Related Posts!

Slight North

Collect memories, not things. 

Pin It on Pinterest