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Traveling is relatively expensive, no matter what your budget. I try whenever I can to save money, wherever I can. The biggest expenses: room and board. That is, food and a place to sleep. Here are some tips on how to avoid paying outrageous prices for either.

If you plan on very short trips to major cities (for example, if you plan on spending two nights in Paris), hostels are a much cheaper option than hotels. You will usually share a room and bathroom with fellow travelers, but you will always have your own bed. Plus you often receive free WiFi connection and breakfast in the mornings. Hostelworld.com is a great, easy to use website for finding good deals on hostels in nearly every country. In my experience, beds typically cost 10 to 30 dollars per night.

Now, a couple of alternatives for the braver of heart…

Ever heard of CourchSurfing.org? Basically, you sign up online and wherever you travel, you stay at the home of a local for free. It’s a great way to meet new people and learn about the culture of the place where you are visiting. You can choose to stay only with people who have had background checks and/or have reviews from other travelers who have stayed with them previously. I haven’t used this website, but I have friends who have had great experiences with it!

Are you willing to work five or six hours a day in return for room and board, probably on a farm outside of a major city, and do this in the same place for at least a week or longer? (It’s a lot more fun than it sounds, trust me.) If yes, there are many opportunities to travel doing this, and to do it very cheaply. Here are some websites I have used that are very helpful. I don’t deny the existence of similar sites that are just as good or better. These are just the ones that I have personally used and liked.

WorkAway

WWOOF

HelpX

Do you know of any other websites like the ones I’ve listed? How do you save money when you travel?

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“If you’re 22, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain

Where was the last place you traveled? I don’t mean last weekend when you drove the couple of hours it takes to see your parents. I mean traveled, out of your state or even your country, to a place that is fundamentally different from the one you are used to.

I can understand the reservations. Why would I want to leave? I’m comfortable here, and besides, I don’t have the money for it.

I hear you, and both are valid arguments, but I still have a response. Have the courage to be uncomfortable. Have the courage to be poor. Work for your food and a place to sleep if you have to. Travel like your life depends on it, and try to do it while you are still young and impressionable.

I have made two major moves in my life. The first was when I went to college; I moved from Kansas to New York. The second was when I studied abroad my junior year; I went from the United States to Italy. Both were enormous culture shocks, and both made me very uncomfortable. I questioned every experience I’d ever had, everything I had ever learned up until that point. And thank God.

We need to be shoved out of our comfort zones. Or better yet, we must have the guts to leap out of them, overwhelmed with both eagerness and fear. When you travel, you will have the freedom to explore yourself away from everyone who knows you and has certain expectations about your personality. Those people aren’t with you when you travel. You can be whoever you want to be. This is the most liberating feeling I have ever had.

I don’t mean to simplify or dismiss concerns or reasons why you are unable to travel. It can be a significant expense, both in time and money, and while there is no substitute for actually getting out into the world, there is one thing you can do that comes close. You can read. Read everything you can get your hands on about different cultures and countries, especially if the books/articles have been written by someone who is actually from those places. (For tips on Traveling on a Budget, complete with websites for hostels and work exchanges, see my next post.)

All I can tell you is this: if you travel, you will grow as a person. You will be confused and feel out of place, but you will learn more than you can imagine. Do whatever you have to do. Just get out of here.

What was the last trip you took? Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever been? Where do you still want to go in the future? What’s stopping you?

β€œIn exploring the shared language and poetic sensibilities of all animals, I am working towards rediscovering the common ground that once existed when people lived in harmony with animals. The images depict a world that is without beginning or end, here or there, past or present.” – Gregory Colbert, photographer

Visit his website here.

Come Closer

I watched Anis Mojgani, a spoken word poet, perform his poem “Come Closer” at the Sarah Lawrence College Annual Poetry Festival in 2010, and I fell in love with him. His humble presence is almost more magical than his words. Almost.

Anis is a two time National Poetry Slam Champion and winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam. Read his poem below if you want, but only watching the video can do it justice.

Watch the YouTube video here.

Visit his official website here.

Come Closer

come into this. come closer.
you are quite the beauty. if no one has ever told you that before know that now. you are quite the beauty. there is joy in how your mouth dances with your teeth. your smile is a sign of how sacred your life truly is. come into this. true of heart come into this. you are true of heart. come closer. come closer. know that whatever God prays to He asked it to help Him make something of worth. He woke from His dreams scraped the soil from the spaces inside Himself made you and was happy. you make the Lord happy.
come into this.
come closer.

know that something softer than us but just as holy planted the pieces of Himself into our feet that we might one day find our way back to Him. you are almost home.
come closer. come into this. there are birds beating their wings beneath your breastplate gentle sparrows aching to sing come aching hearts come soldiers of joy doormen of truth come true of heart come into this.
my heart was too big for my body so I let it go and most days this world has thinned me to where I am just another cloud forgetting another flock of swans but believe me when I tell you my soul has squeezed into narrow spaces. place your hand beneath your head when you sleep tonight and you may find it there making beauty as we sleep as we dream as we turn over when I turn over in the ground may the ghosts that I have asked answers of do the turning kneading me into crumbs of light and into this thing love thing called life. come into it.

come you wooden museums
you gentle tigers
negro faces in two broken scenes
come rusting giants
I see teacups in your smiles upside down glowing. your hands are like my heart. some days all they do is tremble. I am like you. I am like you. I too at times am filled with much fear. but like a hallway must find the strength to walk through it. walk through this with me. through this church, this church of bone, birthed of blood and muscle. this church of ours. there is a doorknob glowing like chance. clutch it. turn and pull. step through. chin up. back straight. eyes open bones in our throats hearts loud and bending. walk through this with me. walk through this with me.

On December 31, 2011, as I was preparing to celebrate the new year just like nearly every other American I knew, I was also thinking about a New Year’s Resolution. When I was a teenager, my resolutions were things like: lose ten pounds, save more money, stop procrastinating on assignments. If you know me now (hot mess that I am), it isn’t surprising that not a single one of these was ever fulfilled. So this year, I moved on to what I thought was a more mature resolution: to live each day in accordance with what I felt to be Divine, or True. Way to get in over my head before I’d even begun.

When a new year approaches, I notice that people suddenly want to improve themselves. This happens at other times of the year, but it is not this very active, I will be better right now approach. And when we make this declaration that we will improve, we also make the unstated assumption that we know how to go about improving, and this is where I find that many people make mistakes.

We can only know ourselves through our own experiences, which have led us to become these apparently inadequate human shells that we are now. (I don’t think this is true of anyone, by the way, but it is the general sentiment that I gather around December 31 every year.) This is why we have friends. And therapists. This is why we share our wisdom with others, because no one in the world has had the same experiences as you, and therefore, you have something to teach, just as you have so much to learn.

I’ve realized that it is sometimes difficult to get people to talk about things that are very personal to them, but that many people are more than willing to share their opinions on what they think is good, and to make recommendations based on those opinions. Many of my friends have made book or restaurant recommendations to me, and although I didn’t always follow through with them, I have listened carefully, because if this thing was so important to a person that they would want someone they love to experience it too, then it must be pretty great, right? What I want to do with this blog is take all of these incredible recommendations that have enriched the lives of people I know and compile them here.

Look, it is evident from watching us all scurry around writing checks to gym secretaries that will never see our faces again after January that we want to be better people. I want to be a better person. Oscar Wilde said, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” In this digital age, that quote can be altered to what you watch, what you listen to, whatever. It is what you do when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it. I want my soul to be good and beautiful, and so I want to do and see and read lots of good and beautiful things. That’s what this blog is about.

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