Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

One of the trickiest places to start when wanting to travel on a budget is to figure out where to stay.  If you’re not careful, accommodation can become the most expensive part of your trip – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Tried and tested by generations of travelers, the following resources cater to every travel personality and have proven to be excellent options for both short and long-term travel.

Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

 

Hostels 

Easily the most common way to go for many first-time travelers, hostels are plentiful in most parts of the world. From as low as a couple of dollars a night in places like South America and Asia to a still reasonable thirty dollars a night in more expensive areas such as Europe, hostels provide many options for the budget traveler. From the family-friendly hostel to the hostels known for being a constant party, dorm rooms to private rooms, you will likely stumble upon one that suits your needs.

Many hostels are geared towards students and budget travelers, offering budget friendly packages for those that are pinching their pennies. For long-term travelers, many hostels are willing to work out a work-for-rent deal with you – where you spend a few days a week volunteering in the hostel, whether at the desk or cleaning rooms – for free accommodation and even a free meal each day.

Check out www.hostelbookers.com and www.hostelworld.com for a wide range of hostels anywhere in the world.

Hostel in Chiang Mai. From Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

 

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing can be an intimidating accommodation option to try out and, if you are nervous about it, it doesn’t hurt to go on your first couch surfing experiences with a travel buddy. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, couch surfing involves staying in a local’s home wherever your destination may be – usually on the couch, a cot, or a spare bedroom.

Hosts are typically individuals who have traveled and couch surfed themselves, enjoy the camaraderie of the travel community, and like to meet new people and show off their city. Couchsurfing is great for when you are only at your destination for a couple of nights, although some hosts have been known to allow their guests an extended stay of a week or more.

Signing up at www.couchsurfing.com is free and allows you to pick your destination and browse hosts who are currently accepting guests. A great aspect about couchsurfing.com is the ability for hosts to be verified and for travelers to review their stay, so you are not going in blind.

Air BnB 

No matter your destination or your budget, Air BnB has a number of options for the budget savvy traveler. Air BnB allows you to search based on location, price range and room type, resulting in enormous variety – from unique treehouse experiences, privately owned Bed and Breakfasts, or a local family offering a spare room in their home.

Some hosts have been known to offer travelers their place even if they won’t be in the country – giving you an entirely private home for the duration of your stay.

Signing up at www.airbnb.com is free and allows you to search, read reviews, view photos, and chat with your host before making any final decisions.

Air BnB Stay. From Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

 

WWOOF

WWOOFING – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – is an ideal opportunity for those interested in a long-term stay in their destination of choice if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. WWOOFING typically involves staying with a local host and helping out with routine chores each day that revolve around maintaining your host’s farm. In exchange, hosts provide you with free accommodation and meals for the duration of your stay.

Details are discussed between you and your host regarding your length of stay – whether it’s a week or a few months – and how many hours of work they expect of you each day. Some WWOOFING hosts are also happy to accommodate your children.

You can find out more about this budget travel option at www.wwoof.net or www.wwoofinternational.org

House Sit

The dream: to live in another country for free. House sitting allows you to stay in someone else’s home while they’re away for anywhere from a couple of days to long term stays of six months (or more!) Typically you are only asked to maintain the home and property during your stay although may be asked to pay for a portion of the utilities.

For animal lovers, a combination of house and pet sitting opportunities are widely available. Not so fond of furry creatures? No need to fret, there are plenty of homes that do not have pets.

Signing up for a good house sitting website is not free – there is a yearly fee that differs for each website – but the money you’ll save is more than worth the fee. Check out www.mindmyhouse.com, www.housecarers.com and www.trusteshousesitters.com to find your next house sit experience.

 

Chiang Mai hostel. From Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

 

If accommodation prices have been stopping you from following your travel dreams, these resources are a great place to start to cut back, or completely eliminate, hefty accommodation fees. Whether you plan to go away for a weekend or for an undetermined amount of time, these options can give you a unique and memorable experience.

 

Original post can be found here.

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An Open Letter To The Man I Met Abroad

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It hits at the most unexpected times. It’s not written in stone and it can sneak up on you when you’re least expecting it. We all know the feeling: the undeniable tightening of the chest, the butterflies soaring in your stomach and the endless need to hear his voice, see his face. Love has a funny way of working and travel has a funny way of making itself a larger priority. Maybe it’s not really love if it doesn’t come first but it has gotten pretty close.

The first time I saw him he was singing in a café that my friends and I went to every Wednesday: a guitar slung from his shoulder and a harmonica dangling from his neck. Opportunity struck and before I knew it, he was picking me up the following evening. I sat in the balmy Caribbean heat, sipping on rum while he sang a song for me and afterwards, he spent the evening taking me out to his favorite spots before dropping me off at home.

We didn’t take it slow. The realization that I had only a short time left created a sense of urgency and we spent nearly every waking moment together. Our time was filled with evenings listening to him sing, dinners and drinks and nights at his place. We explored an abandoned house, kissed in the sea, and drove around the entire island. We talked about our futures, our families and our dreams. We laughed, fought, cried and ultimately kept each other close until it was time for me to go. There were promises of visits in the near future, of him visiting Canada and me returning to the island. There was assurances that we would talk on the phone, FaceTime every week; we were sure that we would stay in touch.

But as these things go, the phone calls faded and the FaceTime never even began.

I caught myself doing the most embarrassing things that we affectionately label as “crazy girl” behavior. But I wasn’t crazy, was I? I just missed him. I missed the idea of what could have developed and I was terrible at putting that idea to rest. Was it real love? I don’t know. Would it have continued if I hadn’t taken my flight home? I don’t know that either. But I do know that it wasn’t for nothing.

It was real, for me.

It might not have lasted and who knows if I will ever see or hear from him again. But during those months and in those moments, it was real. I let myself be open, raw and vulnerable. I loved being near him, holding his hand, and kissing his face. I loved waking up next to him, listening to the stresses of his day and debating our thoughts about the world. I loved when he pulled me tighter in his sleep and when we made up after a fight. I loved having that sense of being wanted and appreciated, even for that fleeting moment.

It will always coincide with my time abroad.

Whenever I look back on my time abroad and the incredible people I met, I will remember him. He’ll sneak into my thoughts whenever I think about the experiences that I had and the things that I loved. I’ll remember the moment that he said he wanted me to meet his parents and when I, terrified at the seriousness of that request, declined. I’ll remember the moment that he ran down the street towards me when he thought I was leaving without saying goodbye. He will always be there when I think about my time abroad, even when he wasn’t.

It made me believe that love can still exist.

Our time together wasn’t perfect. There were things about me that annoyed him and things about him that drove me crazy. There were times when our souls were intricately meshed and times when our personalities pushed against each other. But, all of the similarities and differences made me realize that I haven’t given up on love. It made me realize that I don’t want to settle for our hook up culture of Netflix and booty calls. I want debates, I want arguments, I want make up sex and morning sex and 3 o’clock in the afternoon sex.

I want movies in bed, homemade meals that involve dancing around the kitchen in our bare feet and, more importantly, I want that with someone whose soul wants my soul, whose soul inspires my soul. If that takes another five years to find, then I will wait because I deserve that type of all-consuming, honest, raw love. We all deserve that kind of love and we shouldn’t be afraid to wait for it.

Lessons Learned from Living on an Island

Before moving to the Caribbean island I had no idea what to expect. Warm weather, the sea and days relaxing on the beach, obviously, but I had no idea just how life changing it can be to immerse yourself in island living. It has shifted my perspective on reality and I am determined to incorporate the life lessons I’ve learned for the rest of my life.

Caribbean Beach
wave Island time is a real and inherent thing that you will come to love if you choose to study on an island. As you embrace this concept of time, the stress and anxiety begin to fade and you finally begin to take in the life that you’re living. Time will no longer be the dictator of your life. It will be replaced by human contact, relationship, and experiencing the beauty in each day.

wave To quote Karen Blixen, whose pen name was Isak Dinesen: “the cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” This quote could not have more meaning than it does in Barbados. No matter where you are, the salty water of the Caribbean Sea is only a short walk away and it truly is a cure for anything. Breathing in the pure, clean air and letting your body be enveloped by the calm water makes you feel rejuvenated and alive. Not to mention – the sea is the perfect cure for a hangover after one too many rum punches.

wave Family is everything and the people living on the island know this. In Canada, we are growing farther and farther apart from our families. Parents work on holidays and Sundays are no longer a day of rest. One of the most beautiful things I noticed about Barbados was how family oriented everyone seemed to be. On a Sunday, when everything shuts down, you will find the beaches and parks packed with generations of families picnicking together. If you want to learn how to picnic, hang out with the Bajans.

wave Life is all about balance and this is something I truly came to learn and embrace while I was studying in Barbados. There is a time to work, a time to play, and a time to relax and we need all three of those to live our lives to the fullest. Life is not meant to work, sleep and repeat, and in our Western culture this is often what happens, with excuses of being tired, having no time, and not having enough money.  Money does not equal happiness and it is necessary to live a life that balances work, play and relaxation. Trust me, once you learn that all three are needed, you’ll understand that it is truly what will bring the most out of your life.

Whether we live on an island or as far away as the prairies of Alberta, we can still use these ideas about life to increase our own happiness and improve the way that we live our lives.

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Welcome To The Belly of The Dragon: How a Stigmatized Barbados Community Opened My Eyes and My Heart

Those of you who have been following me will know that from January to June of this year I was on a study abroad program in Barbados. Lucky me, right? Usually, when people think of Barbados or the Caribbean in general their immediate thoughts are beautiful white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, and the warmth that we all desperately crave for eight months a year up here in Canada. You’ll probably be staying in all-inclusive resorts, living in luxury for a week or two for a reasonable price. Barbados is your island getaway where you can eat, drink and lay on the beach as much as your heart desires.

You will step off that plane and smile as the thick, humid air hits your face and as the days go by you’ll think, what a beautiful place to live (yes, it is). This is paradise (also true). Nothing bad could ever happen here. But what you don’t see from the shores of the beach, the parties on St. Lawrence Gap, or your luxurious resort is the other side of life in Barbados. The side where some people struggle to keep food on the table, struggle to provide their children opportunities to succeed, and struggle to overcome crippling stigmatization. What you don’t realize when you’re lounging at The Boatyard, a popular stop for cruise passengers and resort-goers alike, is that just across the street sits one of the most socioeconomically low communities, where the drugs are being sold and bought, where the sex trade workers come out at night, where unemployment is sky high and where the community children are running around, caught up in the middle of it all.

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Set on the outskirts of Bridgetown, Nelson Street is a notorious street in the center of the St. Ambrose Community. With a history of public drug use, prostitution, and violence, it is locally known as being a pretty rough area. As a social work student, I was lucky enough to be placed right in the center of it all. Based out of the St. Ambrose Church Centre, I was thrown in head first. On my first day there, I was stopped by numerous concerned citizens when they noticed I was about to turn down into Nelson Street, each one trying to redirect me another route that would have added on an extra 20 minutes. I even had one man, of large, muscular build and heavily tattooed comment that he would never walk down Nelson Street alone. I thought to myself, “if he can’t go there, what chance do I stand?!’ Fully apprehensive, I made my walk down Nelson Street alone when a man who would come to be a huge support for me in the development of my project greeted me by saying, “Welcome to the belly of the dragon.”

Although my first few days were filled with catcalls and unspeakable comments made to me by those who limed on the street, they quickly turned a new leaf once they realized I was there to stay. During this time I learned that what you have certainly does not equate to your happiness. Despite their daily struggles, the individuals living in this area all had one thing in common: hope. If not for themselves than for their children and their futures.

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Having the opportunity to work in a neighborhood such as this truly opened my eyes and my heart. I was privileged to hear the stories that others did not want to listen to. I was welcomed with open arms into the primary school where I fell in love with the bright eyes and smiles of the children. I was guided by those who worked in the Centre I was based from. I cherished the dominoes games that I was invited to participate in with the group of men who hung out at the very same spot of the same street every single day and I was forever grateful to be invited onto the porches of those who offered me to come up for a glass of cold juice on my walk back to the bus at the end of each day.

But the moment I was most humbled is the moment a group of young men, who had initially been the worst of all the catcallers, became the people who would tell those following me too closely to back off by saying “she’s one of us”. That moment is a moment that I will never forget and one that I will always hold onto, the moment when I truly realized just how welcomed I had become. To go from being a stranger in the community to being dubbed one of their own was one of the most rewarding feelings and reminded me why I had chosen this career. I will be eternally grateful for this community for truly opening my eyes and my heart and I sincerely hope that these children get the futures that they deserve.

Are Toiletries Taking Over Your Backpack? Take COCONUT OIL Instead!

This may seem like an odd travel staple to some, but carrying coconut oil has saved me from having my backpack weighed down with toiletries. Toiletries are the number one thing that I, and many friends, have complained about. Sure, it can be easy to downsize your clothes and shoes, but toiletries always seem to take up so much space! Not only that, but they’re heavy! All of my toiletries could easily weigh up to an extra ten pounds strapped to my back and you know what? It is completely unnecessary.

Since discovering coconut oil a few years ago, it has made packing light a lot easier. No longer do I need to carry around a facial moisturizer, body lotion, conditioner, eye cream, makeup remover, hair serum AND a million more things. Instead, I just throw a pot of coconut oil in my bag and I’m ready to go. This little beauty has multiple purposes including, but not limited to, all of the ones I just mentioned. Take a peek below to see just how to use it.

Moisturizer
Warm up some coconut oil between your hands and apply to face and body. With a light, naturally sweet scent that will remind you of tropical holidays in the Caribbean, coconut oil helps to sooth and hydrate dry skin. Full of vitamins and healthy fats, coconut oil leaves your face looking brighter and younger.

Eye Makeup Remover and Eye Cream
Coconut oil is the perfect trick to get rid of stubborn eye makeup. Put about a nickel size in between your palms and gently massage over your eyes and even your waterproof mascara will come sliding off. The oil has a double benefit here as the lauric acid works as an anti-inflammatory to reduce puffiness around the eyes.

Hair Conditioner
To use as a hair mask, apply a few tablespoons to the ends of your hair and leave on overnight or even just 20 minutes before washing out. My hair is very prone to dryness so I often cover my entire head of hair in coconut oil about once a week for a thorough, deep conditioning treatment.

Have some oil on your hands after using it as your facial moisturizer? Run your fingers through your hair, focussing on the ends of your hair or any fly-aways to leave your hair looking shiny and smooth.

Body Lotion
Skip the expensive, store bought lotions because your coconut oil has you covered! Use this in the same way as you used it for your facial moisturizer; just apply all over your body.

Shaving Gel
This changed my life and ladies, you will thank me. Say goodbye to sore and unsightly razor burn on your bikini area by using coconut oil as your shaving gel. The oil softens the hair and allows your razor to glide smoothly over your skin. Another bikini shaving tip: once you’re out of the shower, moisturize the area again with coconut oil or with natural aloe vera.

Teeth Whitener
Oil pulling with coconut oil is great for oral hygiene. Again, the lauric acid pulls through and helps to kill off bacteria and plaque that can cause your teeth to yellow.

That’s not all that coconut oil is good for. This multi-purpose, organic oil can be used for so much more. What are you waiting for? Ditch the excessive toiletries, toss in a tub of extra virgin, organic coconut oil and begin reaping the benefits of naturally glowing, healthy skin and hair while on the road!