Champagne taste on a backpacker’s budget

A guide to affording that trip!

The number one question I always get: how do you afford it? You must be rich! For the first 9 years of my traveling journey I was a student. I self-funded all my trips, and you can too!

I spent 9 weeks in Southeast Asia and spent $3000. 8 weeks in Central America for under $2000. It is possible. You can easily spend this in just one week at a resort.

The number one rule I follow: find deals. I know, you dream of Paris, Australia, or South Africa. You have your heart set on that one place. Get rid of that idea! Just because you don’t go now, doesn’t mean a deal won’t open up next year, or even next month! Using apps like Skyscanner, you set your home airport and click “everywhere”. I found a $330 round trip, direct flight from San Francisco to Iceland this way. $47 round trip to Denver? Yes please.

Be flexible. This may mean a 5 hour layover.Maybe an overnight flight. I discuss how to survive layovers here.  Be open to taking a budget airline. Yes, budget airlines can be rough. It means you have to pay for luggage, or, even better, pack less! I once spent a week in Chicago using only a backpack. Guess what? I survived!

If your heart really is set on that one place, consider checking off season prices. Most destinations have about a 3 month peak period. If you can go the few weeks prior, or after, peak season, you often will get the great weather with much less press!

Eat off the grid

Hungry after your beautiful trip to the Eiffel Tower? Walk past the first cafe you see! Even walking just a few blocks from the main tourist areas will significantly decrease the cost, but not the taste! Christmas Eve my partner and I had a wonderful meal in Paris: mussels, fondue, and a bottle of wine. Cost? Only 32 euros!

Stop staying in hotels

I have yet to stay in a fancy hotel. No matter the country, it will cost you hundreds of dollars a night. Pick the location you want, and search hostels and Airbnbs. The most expensive Airbnb I booked was $126/night for New Years Eve in Amsterdam. I stayed in a cozy Airbnb in Paris for $60/night. A fancy Parisian hotel will cost 3-4 times that!

Rent a car

Planning to visit more than one area? Consider renting a car, especially if you are in a group. I did the math in Iceland. If I booked the bus tours I would have spent over $1000/person. Instead, we rented a car for under $500, split 3 ways.  Check with your credit card, many provide complimentary car rental insurance.

Pack light

Repeat after me: nobody will remember what you wore. Now, say it again. I have a 4 outfit rule for every trip, no matter the length. If it is winter, switch up the scarf. Summer? Mix shorts and tops, or, my favorite, convert your sarongs into a skirt one day, dress the next! If you don’t wear everything in your  bag, you are doing it wrong!  You can easily wash clothes in the sink, or run to a local laundry mat. Many Airbnb’s will have laundry in the unit. This is much cheaper than paying for those expensive luggage fees.

You need no more than 3 pairs of shoes. I know, shocking. For beach traveling, I have day sandals, night sandals, and hiking shoes I wear on the plane. Shoes are the biggest space stealer in those bags!

Ladies, your hair products have to go. Your blow dryer, straightener, curling iron – leave them at home. Most lodging will have a dryer. Trust me, you will thank me! Most electronics won’t work in other countries anyways, and less hair time means more exploring time! This goes for most make-up too!

Most lodges provide shampoo (especially Airbnb’s). If you can decrease your liquids, it will significantly decrease the weight of your bag. Remember, many international airlines have a weight limit, even on carry-on bags.

Trains, buses, and automobiles

Not on a time restraint? Look into buses and trains. I took a $4 bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Min City. It was a coach bus – it was actually nice. It took much longer than the $100 flight, but I saved $96 and saw some of the countryside.

Consider taking a night train, boat, or bus. This will double as your lodging for the night, as well as your transportation. Trains will often have beds, as do some boats.

Go to a hostel

I have mixed reactions when I tell people I sometimes stay at hostels. I have graduated to a private room, but these are often significantly cheaper. Compare the cost to an Airbnb, however, as private hostel rooms will usually charge per person, not per room, if you are with other people.

Even if you don’t stay in the hostel, visit one. These are meant for the backpacker on a budget. This being, tours are often much cheaper. In Colombia the Pablo Escobar Tour was 1/2 the cost at a hostel then it was at a hotel. Hostels also sometimes run free (or very cheap) walking tours.

Hostel employees are frequently longtime travelers. Ask them for great food recommendations, best tours, how to get from one city to another. They travel on a budget, so spend a few moments talking to them. Plus, many hostelers are traveling solo, and some even have a fun bar to meet people!

Pubic transportation

I get a secret kick out of learning other cities’ public transportation. Yes, it is scary at first. I have asked directions more times than I can count. In 36 countries, I have never been unable to find help. Most people love that you are exploring their home, and a simple smile will go a long way. Which brings me to….

Learn a few words

I have learned please, thank you, and hello in every language. Ask the flight attendant before you land, or an airport employee. Taking 5 minutes to learn 3 words goes a long way. Plus, how cool are you that you know hello in so many languages?!

Make your own breakfast

I almost always go to a local market and buy fresh eggs and fruit. This usually costs just a few bucks, and you have breakfast for several days. In expensive countries I will do this for breakfast and lunch. I leave dinners open for exploring local cuisine.

Save

There are plenty of blogs out there that point out the math: if you eat out for lunch every day, 5 days a week, this is $200/month. Skip that Starbucks latte and you are nearing $100/month. Look at your credit card/debit card statements every month and see where you are spending the most money. Can you cut some of that out?

Go off the beaten path

I am not sure why, but many countries are considered “scary”. I loved El Salvador. The Perhentian Islands in Malaysia had some of the most beautiful water I have ever seen. Often these “scary” countries are only off the beaten path to Americans – I met more Canadians than  I can count in Central America, and Southeast Asia is home to many Australians.

Use your credit wisely

If you plan to travel frequently, consider investing in a travel credit card. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has no international charges. Find a credit card with travel redemption. Track your airline miles. This saves money, and you can buy even more trips.

Read a few blogs

The wonderful world brought us the internet. Before I travel any country, I always google “best things to do in x country blog”. If you can read through 10-20 blogs, most of your questions will be answered. Many bloggers are professional travelers, and have learned the best ways on a budget.

 

And finally, just go!

The best advice I can give is just to go. Don’t be afraid, you can do it!

A good traveler often has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving – Lao Tzu 

Follow me on instagram at coffeemeetsair to see my favorite travel photos! A new photo posted every day!

Jenna is a 32 year old coffee lover who spends much of her life on a plane, train, or automobile. You can email her directly at coffeemeetsair@gmail.com

 

 

 

Christmas in Paris

The magic of Christmas in Paris. Even the grinchiest of grinches can’t help but give in. The beauty is evident year round. Paris is the most visited city in the world, with over 35 million tourists in 2015, late spring to early fall is peak season. While the city is well-equipped to handle the surge in population during summer months, the quiet tranquility of snow-covered streets is a winter must-see.

Cafe-lined streets with people sipping wine in open restaurants, soft street music in the air – this is why people flock to Paris. Parisians love this just as the tourists do, and have found interesting ways to keep street cafes open even in winter. Gas lamps, roll up windows, and your favorite French vin will keep you warm!

Why choose Paris in winter? The lines are few and far between. The beauty of winter in Paris is the lack of competing tourists.  My partner and I waited exactly 8 whole minutes to take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel tower – this wait can be hours in the summer. Winter in Paris means you don’t have to pre-book tickets to tours and museums, leaving you free for spontaneity!

Love farmer’s markets? The Christmas Market is a winter wonderland! You can sip from mulled wine while you wander through shops of fresh cheese, handmade toys, and macaroons.  Roasted chestnuts and the smell of evergreens, if you are lucky, maybe even a sighting of Santa! Grab Euros, while some will accept credit cards, most vendors are cash only.

Paris is a city of fashion. There is no exception in winter. The sidewalks are well taken care of, so those cute leather boots are safe from winter slush! Scarves are popular year round, and make an excellent feature item that doubles for warmth.

Paris goes above and beyond to decorate for the holiday spirit. Don’t forget to find the small neighborhoods off the tourist maps. You will be awed by tiny twinkling white lights hung from building to building. Street lamps are adored with wreaths, and shops play christmas carols.

Next, head over to an ice rink. Paris has plenty, and many are free. Check out Paris’ historic city hall (Hôtel de Ville). Ice skating isn’t your thing? No problem, the city is filled with carousels decorated in bright lights, or hop over to one of the ferris wheels!

Spend Christmas Eve in Cathedral de Notre Dame for a splendid mass. Arrive early, lines are long!

Want to see one of the largest Christmas trees in Europe? Head over to Place de la Concorde. Hot cocoa and warm croissants will keep your hands warm and your heart in the Christmas spirit!

Similar to the states, only Christmas Day and New Years Day are closed. We took this opportunity to take a Hop-on-Hop-off tour on Christmas Day. Grab a warm cup of café au lait and be on your way. Have a peaceful stroll along the Seine, the pop up shops will be closed for the day, and you will have rare silence for adoring the architecture.

Feeling the love?  Head to Jardins de Trocadéro, you will find many brides and grooms with photographers in tow, although you won’t need a professional photographer to capture the garden’s beauty!

Still not convinced? Paris is a cultural paradise, to enjoy it with the locals are a must. Eat, drink, and be Merry (Christmas)!

“The color of springtime is in the flower. The color of winter is in the imagination.”  – Ward Elliot Hour

Follow me on instagram at coffeemeetsair to see my favorite travel photos! A new photo posted every day!

Jenna is a 32 year old coffee lover who spends much of her life on a plane, train, or automobile. You can email her directly at coffeemeetsair@gmail.com

Layovers: don’t fear them, use them

I happen to be one of the rare breeds who actually chooses to have layovers for international flights. Why? I’m happy you asked. For one, I cannot stand being on a plane more than 8 or so hours. I admit: my butt hurts, I am tired of sitting, I still haven’t mastered sleeping on a plane, and I just need OUT. I also spent my twenties in random 5 hour layovers all over the world to save a dime, so maybe I am just used to them now.

Anybody who has ever flown has inevitably faced a layover. Long layovers are particularly tough, especially for those on a budget. I’ll tell you how to spend your layover, and, if you have a choice, where to choose a layover.

What to do

The short layovers, under 3 hours, are fairly manageable. When choosing a layover, I aim for these if possible. However, many international flights end up with odd-length layovers.

The Short Layover

I usually end up walking laps around the airport. Simple as that. I will do some browsing, people watch, check out the different escalators and moving walkways (in Europe, the escalators are often flat – like an incline treadmill!).

The Intermediate Layover

These are the hardest. For layovers less than 8 hours, you usually end up stuck at the airport. There are several musts that I always pack in my carry-on. One is a sarong. Yes, even for cold places. Why? Because they can be turned into a blanket, pillow, tied into a cardigan or long skirt, and I frequently use it as a make-shift sheet to lay on the floor. I simply lay it on the floor, place my head on my back-pack (note: this is why I NEVER use rolling luggage as a carry on), and grab my eye mask. Set an alarm, and get some horizontal zzz’s. As a bonus, they are very easy to fold up and do not take up much room.

Be careful when spending money in foreign airports. If you do not have an international travel credit card, you will be charged fees for transactions. I personally use this card, which allows for free international transactions, and access to most airport business lounges in the world (read: free entertainment, food, and wine).

Many international airports outside of the US are much better at airport entertainment. Singapore’s airport (Changi airport) is particularly famous for this. It is filled with gardens, kinetic rain, and, yes, even has a swimming pool on the roof you can watch the planes take off while taking a dip. Truly remarkable. Later, I’ll discuss where to have a layover if you have multiple options for this exact reason. Check airports before you take off, as many international airports have surprising entertainment we are not used to in the states.

The Long Layover

My favorite is the long layover. Many airlines will let you have a 24 hour layover instead of a short layover. Iceland air allows you to choose your layover length in Reykjavik – up to 7 nights without a fee. Long layovers allow you to go out and explore a city. Watch timing, as many flights will land at night and take off in the early afternoon the next day. This is great if you just want a good night’s sleep in a hotel, not so great if you  want to explore the city.

Thinking of a long layover? Make sure to check the layover country for visas. Certain countries, such as China, have visa-free periods if you have an ongoing flight and your layover is less than 24 hours. This is important, as the visa is $140.

If you use a third party booking engine such as google flights or kayak, call the airline. Almost all airlines have a 24 hour free cancellation. In addition, airlines have the same flight at the same time every day. You can usually call the airline and ask for the same flight the next day (assuming seat availability) within that 24 hour booking window without a change fee. Speaking of change fees, unlike in the US, many international airlines only charge a nominal fee (Eva Air is $50) to change your flight.

For the layover that is around 12 hours, make sure to check if you must go through customs and immigration both ways. Iceland, for example, you must go through an exit process AFTER you go through security, meaning two waiting-in-line times to account for. This is basically customs in reverse, so lines can be long. Particularly important if you have a “short” long layover.

Where

Especially when flying to Asia, you are almost guaranteed to have a layover. A quick search will show you many options for near the same price with different airlines. First, check airlines reviews. After reviews, picking a better layover option for a few extra bucks is worth it. Look for free WiFi, especially if you do not have an international plan. Most airport websites will tell you.

Finally took that European trip, but missed a dream city? Layovers are a great way to fix this. Take a look at the airport website. This will show you which airlines use that airport as a major hub. The more flights that fly in on an airline, the cheaper prices will be. If the price for this layover is a bit higher, set an alert. Kayak and many other booking engines will alert you when prices drop.

Changi International, Singapore: This airport is hands down the best. It has a cactus garden, water lily garden, orchid garden, roof top pool, a movie theater, and a 40 foot slide. It also has designated “quiet zones” for those of you who want to sleep. It has even gone so far as to offer suggestions based on the length of layover you have.

San Francisco International Airport: My home airport. This airport has lounges dedicated to yoga, good for stretching those travel weary legs. It also has an aquarium! I am biased here, but also the best airport to have a glass of that local Napa wine.

Taoyuan International, Taiwan: This airport has a library, along with rentable e-readers and iPads.

Munich International, Germany: This airport has an actual (seasonal) ice rink. You can skate, or, if you were born with two left feet like I was, can sip one of Germany’s finest exports at the on-site brewery. If you feel like getting wet, you can surf, or just relax and play a quick round of mini-golf.

Zürich International, Switzerland: This airport has a large outdoor conservation area in between the terminals. You can even rent bikes and inline skates. It also has showers, although I have personally never tried them.

Incheon Airport, South Korea: I’m pretty sure I can convince my partner to visit South Korea just for the airport. Why? There is a golf course and casino right next to the airport! There are also movie theaters, several gardens, and free tours.

I will leave you with this departing advice: always spend a few minutes researching layover airports before you book, and always bring an adapter if you are flying international. I like this one for phones, as it is cheap and has every continent all in one (although I would not use for high energy appliances such as hair dryers). Don’t be afraid to sleep, but keep valuables tucked away and safe. Finally, don’t be afraid of the layover if you’ve done a quick bit of research and you have packed prepared.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Iceland: Come for the northern lights, stay for the volcanos

See my posts on instagram for pictures at coffeemeetsair

Iceland. The first time I said I wanted to go to Iceland in winter, my family thought I was crazy. Why would I go to the most northern capitol of the world in winter? Lady, you are from Chicago, land of winter wind so deep it cuts to the bone. Go to a beach, they said. Take that pasty white skin and get some color, they said. So I went. To Iceland. Twice!

Where to start with Iceland? Iceland was first settled in 874 AD by Norwegians. It holds a similar socioeconomic structure as its Scandinavian counterparts. It is the world’s eighteenth largest island and holds 130 volcanos. Icelanders are taught in four languages: Icelandic, English, Danish, and then a language of the student’s choose. Yes, almost all Icelanders are fluent in four languages.

After the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull halted European air travel, Iceland was suddenly thrust into the tourism scene. Since that eruption, tourism has increased from 360,000 people in 2004, to 1.7 million travelers in 2015. With a population of only 332,000, tourism now accounts for 30% of the economy.

The North American and European tectonic plates join here. This is why it has so many active volcanos. You can snorkel or scuba dive between the tectonic plates. I did that – yes, in winter! It was amazing, and I thought I would die of frost bite, or at least lose a finger. I did, I typed this up with only 9 fingers! No, just kidding – although would that be a story!

People

The icelandars are a warm and welcoming people. English is no worry here. It is always fun to try to learn a few words in every language. Well, good luck with Icelandic! Many words are at least 16 letters long, with lots of h, j, and k’s.

VAÐLAHEIÐARVEGAVINNUVERKFÆRAGEYMSLUSKÚRAÚTIDYRALYKLAKIPPUHRINGUR 

Yes, that is an actual Icelandic word. Luckily, it is said to be the longest.

Housing

I always avoid hotels if possible. Iceland is very expensive.  Hotels in Iceland are no exception. A typical room will cost you anywhere from $250-$450 per night, so guesthouses are common. These are a cross between a hostel and a hotel. You will have your own room, but will share a single stall bathroom with several other rooms. Guesthouses also come with access to a fully-stocked kitchen. I highly recommend these. I will find a local market and buy eggs and bread, voila! Now you have breakfast and a few lunches for the cost of one Icelandic meal. This is particularly important if you plan to leave Reykjavik, as the countryside is sparsely populated and finding restaurants can be difficult – you will end up eating cold sandwiches from an unknown decade at a gas station.

If you plan to spend some time around Reykjavik, a great center point is Hallgrimskirkja. This is the famous church that is downtown, just west of it is the shops, bars, and restaurants. I would personally choose a hotel, guesthouse, or airbnb within walking distance, as you will be in the heart of the city. Public transportation is buses. Taxis will cost you about $20 for a 1.5 mile trip.

Money

As mentioned above, Iceland is very expensive. The currency exchange is about 115 Iceland to 1 US dollar. A quick sandwich at a cafe will cost you around 1500. A restaurant meal is usually closer to 3000 Icelandic. Beer is the cheapest, at around 1000. Luckily, alcohol is much cheaper at the Duty Free shop if you plan to share a bottle of wine with your guesthouse mates!

Tours

This is where it gets tricky. Tours in Iceland are, shocking, very expensive. If you are used to cold-weather driving, rent a car. You can visit many of the sites for free. The national parks (discussed in further below) are all free. Parking in Reykjavik is tricky, but near the church Hallgrimskirkja has street parking if you can parallel park. Unfortunately the side streets are often covered in ice – I would exit the car and help my partner parallel park as getting over those ice chunks without slamming the car behind you can be difficult.

Weather

As expected, Iceland can be cold. However, you may be surprised, as the most northern capitol in the world, it is temperate because it is an island. In winter, temperatures hover around 0*C (32*F). In summer, Reykjavik averages 11*C (52*C).  The northern latitude means for only 2-3 hours of daylight in the heart of winter, yet 20-21 hours of daylight in the summer. Going in winter makes for interesting mornings, as it is not light until 11 am, so those 8 am alarms feel like 4 am! A good set of hats, gloves, and scarfs are usually sufficient, but tights or thermals for hiking is needed.

But the lights!

The northern lights are spectacular. Really, they are worth the flight. However, the aurora borealis is a result of solar flares hitting the earth’s atmosphere. Yes, that is a very simplified version. Importantly, they can be very hard to find. You must wait for a night with no cloud cover, and hope the solar flares were active a few days before. My first trip to Iceland I spent 6 nights desperately hoping for a glimpse, and only saw one very small shimmer. My second trip was more successful. Iceland has a great northern lights forecast, I have posted the link below. This combines the cloud cover (green is clouds, white is cloud-free) with activity. You can find the activity in the upper right of the website.

If you are in Reykjavik, the light pollution will drown out the lights except for very rare times. However, a quick ten minute drive towards the grotto (lighthouse) will allow for a view. Be careful, because the throngs of tourists converge. If you drive your own car, make sure your headlights are off, or you will have angry tourists tapping on your window! The countryside is much better to see them, although that is challenging as you will have to spend quite a bit of time in the countryside or be extremely lucky.

http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/

This should be obvious, but the northern lights are only visible in winter. Which means you must go to Iceland, yes, in winter.

And now, the good stuff

Iceland is unique in its landscape. It is truly like no other.  Beautiful black sand beaches jut against incredible volcanos. You could spent months traveling and still not see it all. I have broken it down into manageable sections. I will post other blogs with specific tour companies and travel recommendations, as well as further details on these sites. For pictures, please see my instagram, coffeemeetsair.

  1. Golden Circle: The most visited part of Iceland after Reykjavik itself. This is a quick day trip, first stop is the park and takes about an hour to drive. The next two stops are much closer. It consists of 3 sections:
    1. þingvellir national park: this is where the tectonic plates meet and you can scuba or snorkel at Silfra. This is one of the 3 large national parks in Iceland. Great for hiking, lots of hidden waterfalls. Note: the scuba/snorkeling you will not see fish or marine life, it is a large crack in the earth’s surface with crystal clear water, and you can see down 100 feet. It was amazing!
    2. Geysir: this is actually a misnomer, because there are many geysers in Iceland. Notice the spelling of Geysir vs geyser. The largest here erupts every few minutes. Truly spectacular.
    3. Gullfoss: large waterfall. Legend has it the original farm owner couldn’t bear to see his gold go to anyone else, and he threw it into the falls.
  2. South Iceland: Driving in south Iceland is a full day trip. It takes two hours to the first site.
    1. Svartifoss: 12 meter waterfall. It cuts through the lava at the start of Vatnajökull. The water has formed a heart-shaped basin rift in which the water cascades. You can hike behind this fall, which is unbelievable to see.
    2. Skógafoss: this massive waterfall is situated right off of route 1. You can trek up what feels like a thousand stairs to the top.
    3. Black Sand Beach: the sand is black from the lava. Stories of a beautiful mermaid in the nearby cave are abound. The sand is incredibly soft, but don’t get too close to the water, as sneaker waves kill an average of one tourist per year. Truly amazing.
    4. Eyjafjallajökull: yes, this is the same volcano that erupted in 2010 and halted air traffic.
  3. Southeast Iceland: this requires an overnight trip at the minimum. It is about 5-6 hours of driving time from Reykjavik each way. This is also where the largest glacier in Europe exists.
    1. Crystal cave: the highlight of my trip! This cave is formed by melting glacier rivers in the summer. In the winter, the underground riverbed is dry, and you can walk into this cave. It is formed purely by ice, and it is bright blue! The throngs of tourists have forced Iceland to have an upcoming vote on limiting the number of tourists per day, so plan ahead. While I was able to book a tour two days in advance, that may not be the case much longer.
    2.  Jökulsárlón lagoon: this is where tours to the crystal cave start. This lagoon is formed by melting glaciers. The Atlantic Ocean meets the lagoon, and causes huge blocks of blue ice to form. These huge blocks are easily the size of semi-trucks.
    3. Diamond beach: large chunks of pure water form clear ice blocks on the beach. This is directly across from the lagoon. Note: everyone goes to the beach of the east side as it is directly across from the lagoon, but the blocks on the west side are much better.
  4. North Iceland: we unfortunately were only able to make it to Snæfellsnes. The roads were too bad due to ice, and we had to turn around. However, it was beautiful! Hellnar is a cute little town we had horse stew soup (I know, I know).
  5. Reykjavik
    1. Lave tube caving: lave tube caves are formed when a volcano erupts. The lava is incredibly hot, and as it moves towards the sea it forms rivers. The top layer will cool and harden more quickly and form a hard crust over the flowing river. As the volcano stops spewing lava, the rivers eventually run dry, leading to a cave system. The hard, upper crust remains, and under becomes a system of caves that you can explore with a guide.
    2. Hallgrimskirkja: this large church is near downtown. While Icelanders are not particularly religious, you can go to the top of the bell tower. Here, you will find beautiful views of the entire city. It is the tallest building in Reykjavik.
    3. Museums: there are plenty of museums in Reykjavik. Most notably are the Whale, Music, and Phallus museums. Yes, the latter is exactly what you think it is.
    4. Nightlife: Icelanders enjoy their beer, especially in the winter when nights are long. Lebowski bar was a favorite of mine. It is based off the movie, and there is a bowling lane on the second floor. The country is very LGBT friendly, and Queer bar is a favorite dance spot.
    5. Food: Icelandic hot dogs are a staple. I personally was not a fan, however they are very cheap and are conveniently stationed around the bars and open late!

I plan to write further blogs with in-depth details of each part of Iceland, including the snorkeling in Silfa.

If you are in doubt, trust me, go! It is my favorite country. Words cannot describe how beautiful this place is, both in its physicality and its people.

 

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

Welcome to my blog!

I first started traveling the summer I graduated from college. I was your typical backpacker, slugging my huge bag through train stations in Europe. It took one trip, and I was hooked. My twenties were spent in countries my parents feared. I studied in rural China. I (attempted) to learn Spanish in Guatemala. I lived on overnight buses and overfilled trains. Life was travel, and I never felt so alive as I did sitting on a chicken bus in El Salvador. I had found my calling.

Then, I turned 30. I finally had a career. I had disposable income. I didn’t need to sit on stinky buses for 12 hours with 4 people in an old school bus seat to save twenty dollars. But I also didn’t want to lose that connection to the locals. Hours of searching travel blogs for how to combine this local feel with slightly more comfortable surroundings weren’t yielding results. I found blogs on expensive resorts. I found blogs on backpacking travel. Where were the blogs for the thirty-somethings like myself who did not enjoy the sterility of resort-life, but also did not want to stay in a hostel anymore listening to my bunkmate vomit into a trash can with thirteen other people? My desire for travel hadn’t left, but my desire for a good night’s sleep was taking over. So I decided to start my own blog to hopefully fill that void.

I just turned 32. I have been to 35 countries in the last 13 years. I struggled through graduate school and internship with little to no money and continued to travel. I am always asked how. Why. Where. When. I hope to answer your questions: how did you afford it? How did you find that little city in Vietnam you love so much? What tours did you love, or hate? How do you poop squatting over those asian toilets? Which backpack is best for me? Can I drink the water?  I leave you with the great words of Robert Louis Stevenson.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Jenna is a 32 year old coffee lover who spends much of her life on a plane, train, or automobile. You can email her directly at coffeemeetsair@gmail.com