10 Stocking Stuffers for Travelers

Christmas stockings can be a real pain. When Matt and I decided to exchange stockings one year, I found out that I actually had to fill a bottomless pit. It started to get expensive too. Nonetheless, it is a fun tradition to continue. In the spirit of the holidays and to help you fill that black hole, here’s a list of stocking stuffers that you can give to the traveler/backpacker in your life. All items listed are geared towards utility.

 

An eye mask and earplugs: Give the gift of sleep! Hostels can be noisy and bright. People are in and out of the rooms frequently. For times when a traveler wants to sleep, both items will come in handy.

 

A small quick dry towel: Not all hostels provide towels. At the very least hostels will charge a fee to rent a towel. A compact quick dry towel will be used when towels aren’t provided to travelers. And it will save them money from renting a towel.

 

Travel size toiletries: Toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, brush, floss, deodorant, perfume, etc. These items will get used up by your traveler.

 

Small LED flashlight: This little gift will help your backpacker navigate the hostel at night or in the early morning without disturbing sleeping roommates.

 

Spork: You’d be surprised at how often a utensil will be used. Travelers might end up at a hostel without a kitchen or need to eat something on the go. Having a spork handy is always helpful.

 

Medicine: Motrin and tablet form Pepto Bismol will be used at some point on an extended trip. Buy some medicine to help ensure your loved one’s health.

 

Extra SD card and battery: Do you know what kind of camera they’re bringing? An extra SD card and battery can let them always get that next shot.

 

Pens and small pad of paper: These will be super helpful when a traveler needs to jot down directions, do a bit of research, or remember a travel tip. They are items that will get almost daily use.

 

Bungee clothesline: These compact and helpful gadgets can ensure that a traveler’s clothes get dried quickly when they don’t have access to a spot to hang their clothing.


Cash:
Money always helps a traveler. To make it a bit more meaningful, give them some money with the stipulation that they use it on something fun for themselves rather than using the cash to pay for essentials.

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5 Ways Travel Helps You as a Person

Traveling is a lot of fun but it also can serve as a tool to help develop yourself personally. Here are the top five ways that travel can help an individual grow.

 

Freedom.

 

Backpacking feels like possibility. Everyday is wide open, fresh, and undetermined. It gives you the freedom to be who you truly are, the time to think about what you want, and the opportunity to enjoy life in an unburdened way. Your responsibility is to your personal growth, education, experience, and wonderment. Travel reminds you that magic still exists in this lovely world that can seem so stagnant when you’re at home where you often forget to look for magic.

 

Independence.

 

You rely on yourself (and your travel buddy if you have one). You dictate your day. You aren’t subject to the whims of your superiors. You are the person in charge. This independence reminds you that you are an individual in control of your own destiny at all times. That’s a practice worthy of taking back to your non-travel life.

 

Discovery of Self.

 

With all that freedom and independence, you can spend your time however you like. The lack of burden and responsibility allow you to connect with the real you. You choose to do what you love to do because that’s how you want to fill your time when there is literally nothing on the agenda. Travel can reveal to you your true self.

 

Sense of Accomplishment.

 

You made all this happen. You figured out how to get from A to Z and everything in between. You dictated the path and found success along it. You did it right. All of these experiences lead to a sense of accomplishment. It also reminds you that accomplishment and success can be defined in a myriad of ways. You find it is true that you should never devalue the sense of accomplishment you feel by comparing yourself to others.

 

Personal Development.


With realizations popping up everyday about your true self, your accomplishments, your desires, you can begin to formulate a plan to continue on your path of personal development. You can work on being the better and best version of you and the person that you want to be. You find greater self esteem through your travel accomplishments but can be honest with yourself about how you need to improve. There are no threats to your personal development, no outside influences. You can become the person you want to be or at least get yourself on the path to it.

10 Things I’m Thankful For As I Travel

I’m quite used to missing Thanksgiving due to schooling or work. I always find my own way to celebrate Thanksgiving while I’m gone. Usually my celebration involves a large box of Annie’s macaroni and cheese because I can. This year I thought I would honor the holiday a bit more thoughtfully by creating a list of things that I’ve been thankful for during my trip. This list ranges from the material objects to the intangible but it’s all something that I’ve found myself being grateful for while I’ve been backpacking. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

A Nice Hostel: Choosing a hostel always feels like a crap shoot. No matter how  much research you do, you still feel like you might end up with bad lodging. Matt and I take the risk of not staying at perfect hostels in order for our trip to be more affordable. We’re thankful every time we end up with a good, safe place to rest our heads.

Support of Loved Ones: Matt and I have incredibly supportive family and friends. It would be hard to do this trip without knowing we have people back home to help us out if we got stuck and, at the simplest level, accept that we’ve decided to take this journey. This is a dream fulfilled for me. I am so thankful that those important people in my life understand why I wanted to do this and are happy for me. It gives me something to come home to because I know those people understand me as a person and accept who I am rather than scold me for taking a risk and following my dreams.

Cheap Food: Finding good cheap food can sometimes be difficult. Occasionally eating pasta is the only way to keep costs down. From time to time we’ll find ourselves in a country where good, cheap, quality food is the norm. That’s always a happy location that we’re grateful to have stumbled upon. It means not having to compromise the healthfulness of our meal for keeping money in our pockets.

Freedom of Travel: Backpacking around Europe has revealed to Matt and I how lucky we are to be able to travel. Matt and I were able to get on a plane and just go because of the good relationship between the US and EU. No visas required. No hassles. It has been a freeing experience that not everyone we met were able to say they also enjoyed so we’re thankful for the freedom we’ve experience.

Quiet, Nice, Friendly Roommates: Part of staying in a hostel is sharing close quarters with strangers. My best experiences have always been with friendly, respectful roommates. They keep their space clean and are quiet so everyone can sleep. You don’t always get good roommates as a backpacker so it’s a relief every time you learn that you’ve lucked out and the hostel gods have answered your prayers. It makes the journey that much better.

First Hand Experience with Other Cultures: It’s a great opportunity to be in another culture and experience it first hand. You can read books but it’s not quite the same. I recognize that not everyone is in a situation that would allow them to have this experience. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn about other cultures in this way.

Inexpensive Flights at Reasonable Times: Very early morning flights are doable but they are rough. Matt and I have had our share of experiences in which we must catch a 7am flight in order to be able to even afford it at all. A 7am flight often means a 3am wake up. Those days can be tough and test your sanity. When we can find a cheap flight at a reasonable hour, we are so thankful.

An Awesome Travel Buddy: When I’m down, he reminds me of the good parts of our day. When I’m sick, he makes sure that I get everything I need to feel better. By coming on this trip with me, Matt has helped me fulfill one of my dreams. While I could have done this without him, I wouldn’t have ever wanted to. Matt’s made my experience infinitely more fun and multi-faceted. He makes me think of things in ways I never have or suggests experiences I never would have considered. I’m thankful that my boyfriend and awesome travel buddy helped me create positive memories that will last a lifetime.

Good Weather: The sun doesn’t always shine but it also doesn’t always rain. We hope for sunny days. When we’ve had a few days where the rains is so bad that it soaks through our clothes while we visit the city, we are infinitely more grateful for the sun.

The Kindness of Humanity: Traveling has restored my faith in humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I see some sad, horrible things when I travel. There’s still plenty that humans need to work on. But for the most part, people are good. To be honest, Matt and I haven’t had one bad experience with people while we’ve traveled. Everyone has been helpful, courteous, and, the vast majority of the time, friendly. The world can be a scary place; it is easy to become cynical and disappointed when you hear about all the things that are happening, especially when you feel like you can’t do anything about it. But I try to remind myself of all the good people I meet. I’m thankful that I’ve been given the enlightenment that humans are generally good. It’s something I might have to work to remember from time to time but it is something worth not forgetting. It makes the world seem a bit brighter.

Mind Blowing Architecture: Hundertwasser in Vienna

While Matt and I visited Vienna, we made sure to check out the Hundertwasserhaus and the Kunst Haus Wien. The Hundertwasserhaus is an apartment complex that Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed. People still live in the building. Hundertwasser is an architect that favors having humans connect with nature even in the city. Undulating floors provide your feet an experience that you have never felt before; Hundertwasser describes it as a symphony for your feet and I couldn’t agree more. Tree tenants populate the building in order to promote cleaner air, quiet, and bring nature into the city. You can’t go in the interior of the Hundertwasserhaus but you can visit the outside. It’s interesting and definitely worth your time. Plus, it is very, very close to Kunst Haus Wien. Hundertwasser designed this museum that houses an extensive collection of his works on paper. The museum is a piece of art in itself. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures of his work but I was able to photograph some of the interior, specifically the museum cafe. If you use the museum cafe you’ll get an opportunity to sit and soak in Hundertwasser’s architecture a bit more while enjoying some typical food from Vienna.

 

Entrance to Tian Bistro in Kunst Haus Wien

                                                                       Entrance to Tian Bistro in Kunst Haus Wien                                                                          (It’s a bit difficult to see but the floor isn’t flat.)

 

Although I tried to get as many photos as possible, it was difficult to get much at all because of the museum’s policies. If you’re ever in Vienna, take the time to stop at both the Hundertwasserhaus and the Kunst Haus Wien. Both are experiences that should not be missed. In the meantime, read a few quotes from Hundertwasser to get an idea of his thought process.

Entrance to Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna

Entrance to Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna

 

“The straight line leads to the downfall of humanity.”

 

“You are a guest of nature – behave.”

 

“We must at last put a stop to having people move into their quarters like chickens and rabbits into their coops.”

 

“Today we live in a chaos of straight lines, in a jungle of straight lines. If you do not believe this, take the trouble to count the straight lines which surround you. Then you will understand for you will never finish counting.”

View of Hundertwasserhaus from the Street, Vienna

                                                               View of Hundertwasserhaus from the Street, Vienna                                                                  (Notice the tree tenants that are growing out of the building.)

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Note One: The featured image for this piece is a look at Kunst Haus Wien’s facade details.


Note Two: I found the above quotes on Brainy Quote, Good Reads, and IZ Quotes.

Cool Art at the East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall

The East Side Gallery hosts over a hundred paintings by international artists. The paintings have been directly applied to a portion of the Berlin Wall. These massive murals are both interesting and eye-catching. If you ever find yourself in Berlin, check out this monument. I think that it is a great use for remnants of the Berlin Wall. Here are some pieces you might find interesting:

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The Story of Two Greek Restaurant Hosts

The Background: Traveling around Europe has taught me how to avoid people selling items. Matt and I have honed our skills so well that we rarely have to deal with anything. Steel faced and determined, we walk past seating hostesses, souvenir sellers, and people who give out items for “free.” Beware of people who like to tie “free” bracelets on your wrists or those who give you a rose “just because you’re beautiful.” They want money either from you or your significant other; how could a guy say no to paying for a rose after their girlfriend is so happy that someone gave her a flower just because she’s pretty? We started to learn about four years ago when one of those guys kept pushing a rose on me no matter how much I would nicely refuse. He kept assuring me it was for free. I eventually took the flower. Unfortunately for him, I saw him ask for money by rubbing his fingers together in the direction of Matt. I hate it when people lie to me. I turned to him and forcefully stated, “I told you no.” Then threw the rose back at his chest. I was not impressed with that annoying tactic. You have to be strong willed. I’ve developed that over time. I can easily feel bad about turning people down so I’ve learned how to avoid it and/or stand strong. I go into situations with intention.


The Story:
Athens was a completely different restaurant culture than I had experienced up to this point in Europe. You still have the hosts and hostesses attempting to get you to come to their restaurant but it is very laid back and not pushy at all. If you refuse, they’ll hand you a card and tell you to check them out on Tripadvisor. I think it works to their advantage by making visitors comfortable in Athens. I want to go back to Greece anyway but I definitely want to visit Athens again during my trip. The people were warm and welcoming. Matt and I had a number of discussions with shop owners and restaurant workers. Granted, they are doing their jobs by talking with us but I hadn’t experienced this level of friendliness before during my trip through Europe. One of my best memories of this trip has been two Greek restaurant hosts that we talked to. It was a quick exchange but it made me laugh and puts a smile on my face whenever I think about it. Matt and I had just finished shopping; I needed new pants because I managed to wear holes in mine from all the walking we have done. As we hurried back to our hostel to drop our purchases off before heading over to the Acropolis, Matt and I were stopped by a host for a restaurant that was somewhere in the labyrinth of side streets. He asked us if we wanted to stop for lunch. We told him that we had already eaten. He said, “Here’s my card. Check us out on Tripadvisor.” He then asked us where we were from. Matt has taken to saying Boston to make things easier for us to explain; no one seems to known where New Hampshire is. The owner said, “Really? Where in Boston?” He immediately knew he caught us in a white lie so I told him we were really from New Hampshire. He happened to work in a Greek restaurant in Boston in the past and wanted to know if we ever had heard of it. Unfortunately we hadn’t. We told him we had to get going so he said, “You should come back for dinner. We have traditional Greek food and wine.” He turns to Matt and says in an even more charismatic voice, “Bring your baby back tonight. You can buy her some wine.” I started laughing. It was just a funny sale. It was genuine, humorous, and effective all at once. As we start to walk away, the restaurant host from across the street comes running over to us. He starts quickly and jovially saying, “Don’t listen to him. Take my card. Come back here for dinner. That other place is no good. You can even check on Tripadvisor. Our rating is much better.” Then I started laughing even harder. You could tell that the two were good friends simply competing with each other. Although Matt and I never ended up going back to those restaurants as we often cook our own food, I will never forget that exchange. It was so much more effective and refreshing than our other experiences which felt like they bordered on harassment. At the end of that experience, I immediately said to Matt, “Greeks are awesome people.” They’re just cool. And that makes me want to visit their country again. No one should ever underestimate the power of being kind, friendly, and funny even if it is just for a moment to some random person on the street.