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backpacking

A Quick Guide to Amsterdam

I fell in love with Amsterdam as soon as I stepped out of Centraal Station. The city is picture perfect all around. The beautiful, and sometimes crooked, brick houses and canals are incredibly charming. Amsterdam is not just instagrammable though, it’s also a really cool place to explore. The thing that I thought was really cool about Amsterdam was that there were all kinds of tourists, all there for many different reasons. Amsterdam has raunchy attractions for the more rambunctious traveler like the Red Light District, Head shops, and Cannabis Coffee Shops but also has incredible museums like the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum.

Amsterdam combines the beauty of its 17th-century architecture with plenty of best museums and art galleries in the world. Dutch culture is also incredibly laidback, making Amsterdam one of the most offbeat and appealing cities in the world. 

Things to do.

things to do in amsterdam

This biographical museum is dedicated to telling the story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl growing up in Amsterdam during WWII and fell victim to the Holocaust. The museum is housed in the townhome where Anne and her family hid during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Anne recorded her experience in her now publicized and widely read the diary, The Diary of Anne Frank. I suggest buying your tickets well in advance, like two months in advance, online. You will have to book a particular time to visit the museum.

As per the name, this museum is dedicated to the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh, a well-known Dutch artist. Here you can view his most famous works like; SunflowersAlmond Blossoms, and The Bedroom.

If you want to really learn about art and history in the Netherlands pay a visit to Rijksmuseum. Considered one of the best museums in the world, this is sure to be something you put on your list.

Biking.

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A common phrase I heard thrown around is that there are more bikes in the Netherlands than there are people. I say when in Amsterdam, do as the locals do. Rent a bike and explore the city. Just watch out, many locals do not have patience for amateur bikers clogging the streets.

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Just a short day trip from Amsterdam, Keukenhof Gardens attracts millions of people when its tulips are in bloom. The best time to see the tulips is in April-May. 

Red Light District.

The Red Light district possesses some of the city’s most rambunctious nightlife. It is home to a legal and regulated prostitution industry and a variety of sex shows, sex, and head shops. The streets are lined with glowing red windows indicating where an available sex worker is. In the evening, locals and tourists alike roam the streets, all visiting the Red Light district for different reasons. Some are looking for a good club to grab a drink, some are on their way to smoke at a local coffee shop, and others are there, for whatever reason, to take a peek at the ladies in the windows. The sex workers in the Red Light district act as their own boss. They pay rent for space where they conduct their business and set their own prices and standards for customers. The legalization of prostitution in the Red Light is one of the ways the Dutch are attempting to deter human trafficking in Europe.

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Canals.

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A system of gorgeous canals span the entire city of Amsterdam. There are plenty of canal tours throughout the city. I personally recommend an open top classic boat.

Cannabis Coffee Shops.

Legal marijuana is a huge industry in the Netherlands. Marijuana is sold only in licensed coffee shops. The coffee shops are easy to find despite there being a law against advertising in the shop windows. The shops typically have several strain options and the choice to buy by the gram or as a pre-rolled joint (pure or with tobacco). The vibe in many of these shops is very relaxed, for obvious reasons and many have snacks to help with your munchies.

Jolly Joker Amsterdam
Jolly Joker Coffee Shop Amsterdam

When to go.

Because of the tulips fields, I recommend visiting in April-May while the flowers are in bloom. The weather is best in the summer months but can be crowded. Even if you go in May-June, still expect some chilly days.

Where to stay.

As always I recommend getting a hostel when traveling solo. Hostel prices can vary depending on the time of year. I found most were about $35-50 a night.

Book your stay now with Booking.com

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Amsterdam Travel Guide

How to Kill Time During a Layover

How to kill time during a layover

So, you're on your way to your dream destination and you've made it to the connecting airport. But now you’re stuck with four or five hours to kill until you board your next flight. Luckily I have some advice for how to kill time during a layover. Let's bet airport boredom!

Explore the airport. Find a directory.

First things first, you need to be familiar with where you will be spending the next few hours. Find one of those airport directories and find something that interests you. You’re going to be at the airport for a while, so might as well see what it has to offer. Are there any cool stores you can check out? Any good food or drink options? Can you move between terminals to access different shops? You may be surprised by what you find. 

Freshen up.

Take advantage of the time you have freshen up. Splash some water on your face, reapply makeup, even brush your teeth. Sometimes I even change clothes if i want to look nice when arriving to my final destination. Taking the time to do this can help you feel refreshed and ready to go. 

People watch.

Airports are filled with people from all walks of life, going to different places, speaking different languages. Every person has a story and trying imagining what that story is can be the best form of entertainment. Don't be rude and stare but it's is ok to glance around and take in your surroundings. Who knows, maybe you'll spot a celebrity! I once stood in line at security near Gigi Hadid.

Take a nap.

It can be hard to find a comfortable place to sleep in some airports but it can be done. Get creative. use your luggage to prop up your feet or your head. You can even try walking around to see if you can find a more comfortable gate to wait in. Not every gate has the same lounge area. When I had a connecting flight in Munich, I abandoned my flight gate to go relax at one a few gates down because that gate had reclining chairs. 

Exercise.

Feeling your muscles atrophy from your last flight? Do some exercise. Work your legs! I personally pop my head phones in and power walk while lip-syncing my favorite tunes. some airports even have fitness centers in them with day passes available for the public. 

Eat.

Most airports have restaurants, convenience stores or bars in them. I find food on the ground much more appetizing than eating an in-flight meal. Most airports have food courts with hosts of meal options. Airport food can get expensive though so, I always try to pack some snacks in my carry-on. 

Surf the web.

Check and see if the airport you're at has free Wi-Fi or; if a store, restaurant, or airline has a Wi-Fi public network in the airport. Use your layover to update your blog, check in with family or friends, or even check up on things to at your final destination.

Check out this list of Wi-Fi passwords for airports around the world.

Read or journal.

Many travelers like to download books to their phones, iPads, or e-readers to kill time while in transit. If you prefer a real book there are plenty of bookstores in airports. Buy a book or simply browse and read a couple select pages of a book every so often. 

If you aren't into reading, try writing. Use this time to journal your feelings about your trip. Pick up a blank journal from one of the many bookstores if you don't already have one. Keeping a journal is very therapeutic and can help calm you nerves if your anxious about your upcoming travels.

Got any more tips for killing time? Share them in the comments below...

How to Kill time during a layover

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Finding the Right Travel Backpack: A Guide for Women

Women Travel Backpack

So you're looking for a Travel Backpack...

Finding the right backpack is imperative to any wannabe backpacker. You want the pack to be lightweight, yet hold a lot for a long journey. Must be sturdy to hold up against the elements or the occasional trip in a flight cargo hold. You want it to be unique but, you don't want to draw too much attention to yourself as a tourist or traveler. Whatever pack you decide on it has to be a decision based on functionality, comfort, and your personal style preference.

Looking for a Travel Backpack can be an overwhelming task. Travel backpacks come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and different functionalities. It hard to determine which pack is the best for you, especially if you are unsure of what you need.

The three main areas to consider...

  • Capacity: The size pack you'll need is tied to the length of your trip and how much weight and bulk you want to carry.
  • Features: These will determine how the pack works for you. What features do you need to make sure the pack is as functional as possible for you?
  • Comfort and Fit: You need to consider the length of your torso as well as the padding and structure the pack has to support your shoulders and spine.

Capacity...

First of all, like many solo travelers, I believe it is best to pack light. Packing light allows you more freedom while traveling with your pack because you don’t have to lug a lot around and because you can avoid checking luggage. Remember though, packing light requires a certain level of self-discipline and careful planning. As long as you plan ahead and prepare yourself for traveling with a light load you should be fine.

So, what’s the perfect size travel backpack that can fit all you need but is also carry-on approved?

While you can certainly travel with even less, a 35L-46L travel backpack just might be a perfect size.

Why 35L-46L is the perfect size for a travel backpack?

  • A backpack that is between 35L-46L is the perfect middle ground, the cliché; not too big, not too small.
  • The measurements fall within the carry-on restrictions of most airlines.
  • It will hold plenty of stuff without allowing too much space for unnecessary things.
  • It’s small enough to manage and provide you with a good range of motion.

Features...

Top or Front Loader: How the pack opens is typically an area of personal preference. Top loading packs seem to be the norm. Front loading packs are picking up in popularity but are typically overshadowing by many travelers' desires' to have a ‘classic pack.’ I’m definitely one of those travelers who goes for the classic pack but definitely appreciate the ease of access that comes with a front loader. For this reason, I have been attracted to the Osprey Kyte 46L or Stratos 36L which are top loaders but have a side zipper that can access the main compartment.

Water Resistance: A backpack doesn’t need to be totally waterproof, but the need is obvious if you are ever out in the rain. It one of those things you don’t think you need until you do. Some bags don’t have them, but you can always purchase a separate rain cover separately. Many packs from brands like Osprey and Deuter come with rain covers though.

Compartments, Compartments, Compartments: The ideal bag should have multiple compartments. Having compartments allows everything to have its own space. You can easily separate things from each other. You wouldn’t want some muddy shoes next to fresh clothes in your pack.

Sleeping Bag Compartment: This is typically a zippered compartment near the bottom of the pack It's a useful feature even if you don’t have or need a sleeping bag. You can always use this separate storage area for other larger items.

Lock it up: Make sure each compartment has two zippers which you can overlap and lock together. Travel backpacks seldom come good locks. However, any lock can be enough to deter a theft. Many thefts are crimes of convenience and are the result of people leaving things lying around or not locked up. For this reason, a relatively small can work just fine. If you need to buy your own lock, check out these TSA approved ones.

Compression Straps: Compression straps are useful if you need to tighten up your pack to prevent things from rattling around while you're out. They allow you to make your pack more compact whether it’s over-packed or has extra space.

Warranty: A decent warranty is always, and obviously, an attractive extra. Brands like Osprey and Deuter have a lifetime warranty. A long warranty can be a sign of quality and long-lasting gear, and it’s nice to have a back-up. Having a warranty is definitely worth spending a little extra on a backpack.

Comfort and Fit...

Padded Hip & Shoulder Straps: The hip belt must be comfortable, padded, and adjustable because this is where a majority (roughly 80%) of the backpack’s weight should rest. This will help distribute the weight properly between your back and hips. Firm padding in the shoulder straps will also allow for you to carry the weight comfortably.

Lumbar Back Support: Avoid packs with flat backs. Look for a backpack with lumbar support. This will support your lower back, improving posture by keeping your spine in a neutral arch and distribute weight more evenly.

Ventilation: If you’ve ever worn a backpack, you know about ‘sweaty back syndrome.’ Backpacks that ride against your pack are notorious for causing this. Many quality packs these days feature a suspended mesh back panel to combat the this. With this design, the pack rides a few inches away from your back, which instead rests against the breathable mesh.

Weight: You don’t want a pack that is too heavy but also don’t want one that is too light either. While I recommend traveling light, be wary of packs that may be ‘too light.’ Some weight to a pack is a good thing. It can mean that the pack is made with sturdy material or has the proper framework and padding for your back and shoulders. Be careful not to skimp on important features just because you think the lighter the better.

You’re going to be wearing this on your back and spending a lot of time with it, so you want to make sure you get the right one.

Choosing the right pack can be overwhelming. Hopefully this guide helps you select the right pack for you. 

Some extra helpful tips....

  • Take your time. Research packs, try some on, test it out, maybe even buy one and then return it if you figure out it's not right for you.
  • Go for a color that appeals to you but don't make it too flashy. Flashy colors seem to scream tourist and can increase your chances of getting targeted for scams, theft, etc.
  • Ask your friends for help choosing, maybe you know someone who can recommend a pack for you.
  • Go to a store like REI to get fitted before buying, if you are planning on buying online.

My Recommended Travel Backpacks for Women...

Osprey Kyte 46L

Why this pack?

Osprey seems to have classic yet, versatile pack designs. Kyte series packs are light, but highly functional – this pack can easily switch roles from overnight camping/hiking to urban backpacking. The pack also features side zipper access to the main compartment making it super easy to reach everything in your pack, no matter how deep it's buried in your pack. This pack is at the top of my list because it still hold a lot, is extremely functional, and is carry-on approved.

North Face Terra 40L

Why this pack?

This pack is mid-size and very versatile. It is also lightweight and offers an excellent suspension system enough volume for several days out. The design is also very classic and has an abundance of zippered pockets for storage.

Osprey Stratos 36L

Why this pack?

This pack provides easy access to your belongings via the top load or front panel making it very versatile. You can easily remove things from the bottom of your pack without loading everything. It is also lightweight but has the ability to carry a large load.

Deuter Futura Pro 42L

This pack features excellent back ventilation, flexible carry comfort and an adjustable “floating” hip belt, plus a stow-away rain cover, and a bottom and top compartment separated by a internal zipper divider. 

Osprey Tempest 40L

This lightweight pack features top loading access and a lower sleeping bag compartment. This pack doesn't come with a rain cover but is designed for excellent back support and a frame that transfers most of the weight to your hip belt. 

finding the right travel backpack

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Where do I begin with planning a round the world trip?

The first thing to figure out would be how to finance it. No money, no travel.

Taking a trip around the world is not something that just happens to you. You have to be the one to make it happen. I have searched far and wide on Google and travel forums to find any tricks and tips to bring in extra dough. The truth is, you have to be willing to put in that extra work. You have to be willing to work an extra job or do other things that bring in cash. There is no ‘easy way’ as much as I have wanted there to be. Here is what I’m doing to save and my idea of how much a trip like this will cost.

So how am I saving money?

  1. Working Two Jobs

For the past 10 months I have been working two jobs, averaging 65 hrs. a week. I’m a private Nanny for a family in Chicago and on Saturday and Sunday I serve at a brunch restaurant downtown. Working two jobs has not been glamorous but it has been vital a necessary to get me out of debt and has allowed me to be independently financially stable for the first time in my life. Believe me, I’m exhausted most of the time, but I power through. One thing that is helpful is that I have a lot of friends at my serving job. Working with friends makes the time go by much faster and gives you more of a reason to go to work than just for the money. My suggestion is, if you have to get a second job to help finance your life or travel try to make friends there or try to get a job at a place a current friend works. Even though I have worked 50 hrs. already by Friday night, I don’t really mind getting up a little early on the weekends to see/hang out with friends and make some money. Thankfully, my weekend gig is understanding of my work schedule. Of course, there are days where I need a day off for my sanity. For this reason, I have asked the restaurant to only schedule me if needed. I still work every weekend but might be the first one sent home if its slow or they sometimes will only schedule me for one day a week, but that’s rare. Additionally, if I try to trade shifts or request off with short notice, they try to accommodate me. I’m very grateful for the flexibility and it’s one the reasons I’ve been able to keep up both jobs. Having two incomes has been vital to making this possible and has taught me a lot about good work ethic. I can’t even begin to describe how rewarding and comforting it is to know that I’m doing something every day to earn money.

  1. Using a money saving app

One way I’m also saving money is by using an app on my phone called Qapital. It’s a money saving app that saves money for you according to rules you have set up for your bank account. You can also set multiple goals to work toward and have different rules for each goal to save money. I personally have goals titled ‘Get Outta Here,’ ‘Emergency Funds,’ and ‘Travel Gear.’ I have different goal amounts for each one and rules for saving money. Your rules basically move money into a saving account based on your bank account activity. For example, every time I order Pizza Hut, my Qapital app moves $10 into my savings account called ‘Get Outta Here’ because I bought a ‘guilty pleasure.’ This is one of many modifiable rules within the app to help you save. The savings and transfers are automatic as long as your bank account shows at least $100 in it. I’ve been saving a lot of money with the app because you set and forget the rules and it forces you to save.

  1. Trying not to spend money on unnecessary things.

This is obvious. Everyone has different things they do to try to cut back on spending. It will never be the same for anyone. This also won’t be applicable to everyone because not everyone spends money on unnecessary things. Some people just don’t have money to spend in general. Fortunately I’m at a point in my life where there are unnecessary things I spend money on occasionally, that I can cut out of my budget.I have no hard or fast rule for trying not to spend. What I’ve been doing is taking a day to think about what I want to buy or only bringing a certain amount of cash with me if I go out or shopping, etc.

  1. Selling stuff

Fortunately, I live a block from Plato’s Closet. I’ve been consistently taking old clothes there to earn extra cash and have been buying my clothes there as well. I’ve also listed things on craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

How much do I have to save?

My current goal is to have $2,000 USD saved before traveling. This number might change as I continue to research. My goal amount for the entire trip is to keep it below $17,000 USD. Meaning each day on average will cost an average of $50 a day. There will be some days that are more expensive than others and there will also be days where I won’t have to pay for accommodation (i.e. WorkAway, volunteering).

Why is my savings goal so low?

  1. Remote work

Well, I’m hoping to be able to work remotely from my computer while traveling. While searching through the Girl LOVE Travel Facebook group I came across a recommendation to teach English via video chat. The company is called VIPKid and pays between $14-$22 per hr. I have signed up but still have to schedule my video interview. My thought is, that if I can work remotely, I can finance the trip with that income while also having my savings to fall back on

  1. Earning amount > Cost of living while traveling

If I average 25 hrs. per week with this job, I will be bringing in approx. $350 USD weekly and that’s low-balling my income potential. So if I make $350 per week or $1,400 per month I believe I can comfortably get by. Again, that’s if I low-ball my earning potential. It’s also important to remember that while traveling I will not be responsible for rent or any bill other than my student loan payment, which is what makes this earning amount doable.

  1. Working for Accommodation

I’m also not planning on having to pay for all my accommodation. While researching, I found a site called Workaways.com. The goal of the site is to connect travelers to people or organizations that will host people in exchange for work. The type of work varies, and includes farming, house work, or immersive volunteer opportunities that allow you to learn about a subject or an injustice. There are Workaways in almost every country! This site will be vital when I’m planning my trip. Not only will I receive accommodation and save money, but I will be able to interact with locals, and volunteer my time to a worthy cause.

Sounds good on paper…

Hopefully this pans out in real life…

The very beginning

I’m a 24 year old woman considering leaving life in Chicago to travel around the world for a year or more. Follow me on my journey from the true beginning to end. At this point the trip has only been thought about, not research or planned in anyway. My intention is to record the entire planning process, my thoughts and feelings about it, and the trip itself so I can hopefully help others in the future plan similar endeavors. It’s scary to start something like this from scratch and I hope that blogging about this will hopefully show others that though something like this may be a daunting task at first, it can be doable if you take your time to plan and have the will to make it happen.

I am starting completely from scratch regarding this trip. At this point in time I have no departure date, no list of countries, no funds to make this happen, and haven’t told anyone else about this idea.

Let’s see if I can figure out how to make this happen.

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