5 Travel Tips for Budapest

Budapest is a cool city. Matt and I did a lot of walking while we were there. There’s nothing more interesting than walking around a new city. I feel that walking around allows you to see unexpected things more frequently than when you just take public transportation. Matt and I walked everywhere in Budapest and we definitely got a great feel for the city for the amount of time that we had. Here’s some tips that we collected to help you navigate the city successfully.

 

Check out the view from the Fisherman’s Bastion and get a bite to eat.  This location provides a great lookout over Budapest. You can see the parliament building across the river. It is a great place to take awesome photos of the city. Matt and I also grabbed a bite to eat at the HB Cafe which is in the structure. Once again, it was an awesome view and we had some great food.

 

Walking around to see the sites. Matt and I managed to snag a hostel in between the river and where Heroes’ Square are. These two areas of the city are in opposite directions. We split our trip in half visiting each area. Walking along the streets we got to see the true character of city. Check out all the museums, castles, bookshops, and restaurants along the way.

 

Public transportation can be confusing. Plan ahead. Matt is awesome at figuring out our public transportation routes. We typically utilize public transportation solely to get to and from the airport. Budapest’s public transportation is a beast. Matt spent lots of time working out how to get to and from the airport. It was a bit more complicated considering we had taken the train in so getting to the airport was new for us in that city and we took a very early flight. It’s definitely doable but take the time to do the research and a lot extra time incase you get lost.

 

Take the tram up to castle hill. Sure, we could have walked up to the castle. But we didn’t want to. It was fun to take the tram up the hill even though it was a bit expensive. A panoramic of the city slowly comes into view as you ascend the hill. And it was nice to not have to walk up that steep incline.


Check out a Hungarian secret box.
Matt and I found these after we got off the tram on castle hill. We collected coins for my cousin during our trip and needed a box to put them in. This type of box is so cool. You have to remove secret panels in order to get to the key. It was an awesome souvenir to bring home.

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6 Things I Learned While Backpacking

Minimalism: You don’t need as much stuff as you think you need. Backpacking teaches you that. I had everything I needed but nothing extra. It’s a really liberating experience because you aren’t weighed down literally or metaphorically by extra stuff. It has inspired me to minimize that amount of material things that I have in my non-traveling life. Admittedly, it has been a bit hard to cut back on items that I have but everyday I am closer to letting go of things that I don’t really need. I believe it will bring me closer to how I felt when I traveled. I’ll be more focused on living and have more money for experiences rather than items.

Give Yourself a Rest:I believe that in the USA people are extremely focused on working. This, in my opinion, can lead to people not caring for themselves on lots of levels: physically, spiritually, intellectually. And I get that because that’s what I did. It’s very easy to get caught up in work and sometimes you need to (thanks college debt). It’s also very important to make sure that you take time for yourself. Going on this trip I took time for myself and I was the happiest and healthiest I have ever been emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The world just felt so much better.

The Person You’re With Impacts Your Journey: I’m very much a go-it-alone type of person. So this was a lesson that I needed to be reinforced. If you have a great friend by your side, you’re good to go. Matt was a great travel buddy and he’s a great person to have with me in normal life too. Life is just one big journey. This trip really taught me that who you surround yourself with has a direct impact on how pleasant and fulfilling that journey is. It’s important to nurture good relationships in life.

People are Good: It’s pretty easy to be cynical. Overall on this trip, the good enormously outweighed the bad. I saw so many amazing creations, ate awesome food, met interesting people, and visited cities all with their own unique people and cultures. You’ve got to love the human race and what it’s capable of. So when something bad happens in this world, I try to think of all the positives. It makes life feel better and less hopeless.

You Can Be Who You Want: This trip allowed me to really figure out who I am, who I want to be, and how I hope to grow. I feel like I really want to work towards these goals because truly being who I am on an everyday basis and focusing more on my goals makes me happier. Part of that means letting go of others’ expectations for me and also making sure that I stay on track to achieving my goals when I am so easily distracted by unnecessary things. Like TV. Or Facebook. They have place but they shouldn’t consume as much of my time as they normally do. And the reward for cutting down on that instant gratification will allow for me to build a more profound and extended happiness upon the goals of who I truly am and want to be.

Exuberant Contentedness Is Possible: I can’t tell you how happy I felt on this trip. At some point everyday I would have an overwhelming feeling of joy. And everyday I had a consistent feeling of complete contentedness. Knowing that a feeling of being truly content actually exists makes me want to work towards continuing whatever it was that brought me to that state. I’d never felt anything like that before, at least not for an extended period of time. Well, except for when I studied abroad in Ireland. But it was even more profound than before. Maybe because I found myself where I wanted to be completely on my own terms rather than placed there by certain circumstances. It’s so nice to know that being completely content is a thing that can actually happen. I’d lost hope until I took this trip.

Health Tips for Extended Travel

Health can be a big issue when you’re abroad. It can stop your trip right in its tracks. In order to make the most of your time, take some precautions while you travel. Here are my top health tips for extended travel:

Go to All Your Appointments: Physician, eye doctor, dentist, you name it. If you go to them for an annual, make sure you have gone in the year before your trip. It helps to give you peace of mind that you know there isn’t anything too crazy going on.

Get Your Prescriptions All Lined Up: This one can be tricky. Insurance companies don’t like to give out medicine at the reduced rates even if you swear up and down that you are leaving the country, won’t have access to the pharmacy you need to go to, and have written proof of your trip. I had this happen to me when I studied abroad in Ireland and for my backpacking trip. Get ready to cough up some extra cash to get your meds. If you’re only going to be out of the country for a few months, it’s worth it to get your medicine in advance. I haven’t ventured into what happens when you’re gone for longer.

Get Extra Prescriptions: Hopefully your doctor will understand your situation like mine did. When I went for my annual physical, I told the doctor that I wanted to bring some antibiotics along with me just in case. She completely agreed and wrote up a prescription for them. I didn’t use them but knowing I had them at the ready gave me peace of mind.

Stock Up on Medicine You Typically Use: Bringing your medicine is a good way to ensure your health. I brought cold medicine that I typically use and was so happy to have it on hand. You shouldn’t bring a whole store with you but bring what you know you’ll need and use. I knew I would need cold medicine, Motrin, Pepto Bismol tablets, and Vitamin C packets so in my bag they went. I used them all.

Know What You’re Getting Into with Medicine Abroad: It’s good to know that you might not be able to easily obtain medicine abroad. It won’t be too difficult but it is different than the USA. Sometimes you can’t just walk up to a shelf and get the cold medicine you need without asking. (On my most recent trip, I asked for them to get contact lens solution for me twice.) In Europe, you’re going to need to go to a pharmacy to get medicine. It’s not like in the states where you can grab something at a supermarket or a gas station. Be prepared that you might have to search. This is where having your medicine already with you comes in handy. The more you travel, the more you’ll pick up on patterns on where you can find things you need.

Stay Hydrated: I would always feel worse when I didn’t have enough water in my system. It definitely is hard to stay hydrated when you travel. You constantly move around and are distracted by other things. Plus, I would drink less on travel days just so I wouldn’t have to use the bathrooms as much. But I found that to be silly after the first few times I did that. I would feel horrible and cranky. I would also occasionally get terrible headaches from it. Keep yourself hydrated. I brought a water bottle with me the whole time. It was a plastic pouch so I could roll it up and save space in my bag. It also had a clip on it so I could save room in my bags even when it was full. You can also just buy water bottles along the way and reuse them which is what my boyfriend did.

Get Exercise: This tip isn’t that difficult. If you walk everywhere like Matt and I did, you’re basically golden. When I’m active I feel much more awake, refreshed, and ready for anything. Plus, I get sick less frequently when I exercise. I did occasionally run while we traveled. I hope to add more exercise into my routine on future trips.

Get a Flu Shot: If you are into getting the flu shot and you’re leaving for a trip during flu season, consider getting this done before you leave. I asked the pharmacist if the strain anticipated in the US would be the same as in Europe. He said he was unsure but suspected not. Then he said it ultimately couldn’t hurt to get it anyway. So I did just in case. I’d rather not have the flu while traveling.

Take Time Off When You’re Sick: When you get sick during your journey, it is really, really easy to just keep going and attempt to ignore your illness. There’s so much to do and see that you just don’t want to miss anything. Don’t do this to yourself. I attempted this in Budapest. I took a day and a half off when I got a cold and then went out the next. I ended up really sick and feverish by the end of that day and had to take about another day and a half off. It wasn’t worth it. I should have just killed the cold in two days and then been able to spend more time in the city rather than effectively wasting a whole day.

Take Preventative Measures: Vitamin C helps me so much. When I feel a cold coming on, I take some. It is particularly useful when you are staying in hostel rooms where there are many other people. Ultimately someone will be sick at some point and you will be exposed to those germs. When I start to feel a tickle in my throat or feel I’ve been exposed to too much to not take preventive measures, I use my Vitamin C packets and it sets me straight. Use your typical preventative routine while you travel.

 

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.

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.

Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Money is always a big issue when it comes to travel. Whether it prevents you from your trip before it even starts or limits what you can do on your voyage, finance inevitably becomes a factor when you travel. It’s an unavoidable part of taking your dream adventure. Because it is such an issue, here are some tips that I’ve compiled on how to save some money while backpacking:

 

  1. Shop at Grocery Stores: If you stay in hostels, cook in hostels with cheap food from the grocery store. Matt and I rarely eat at restaurants because we save so much money if we buy our food from a grocery store. Additionally, pick up some portable snacks to bring with you for lunch during the day. (Matt and I usually bring cheese, bread, and apples.) That will save you the cost of having to buy lunch somewhere.
  2. Pick the Cheapest Route Possible: Matt is the master at finding the least expensive travel routes. He pulls up a spreadsheet and writes down the potential paths and checks the transportation methods. Selecting the least expensive route can mean changing the order of cities or picking a different mode of transportation (bus v. train v. plane). Add up the costs and pick the one that saves you the most money.
  3. Look for Good Hostel Prices: Let’s face it. If you want to save some money, you can’t stay in hostels with a 99% positive rating on HostelWorld. Matt and I set limits for ourselves with lodging (nothing below a 70% rating, free WiFi, access to lockers, fair location, and linen included) and then try to pick the cheapest that will match those requirements. If you are cool with staying in a room with however many people, it’s even cheaper. If you can still find a cheap private room, take it because those are few and far between. Budget to get some uninterrupted sleep every once in a while.
  4. Forgo Public Transportation: Barring cities where it is absolutely necessary to take public transportation without having to spend half the day walking (I’m looking at you Berlin!), Matt and I opt to travel by foot. This saves us money and helps us get some exercise. Double win!
  5. Find Free Museums: Sometimes museums are free. Sometimes there are reduced entrance fees. Sometimes you still have to pay full price. Matt and I are going to go to museums no matter what but if there is no entrance fee or a reduced one, you’ll probably find us there. We do have our limits though. If admission is crazy, we probably won’t cough up the cash. Occasionally you need to remind yourself that just because something is expensive doesn’t mean that it is better.
  6. Create Your Own Tour: It’s cool when there is a free walking tour (keep in mind that “free” usually means tip based so be prepared for that) but sometimes it is worth it to make your own tour. Matt and I will outline some buildings we want to see or that we know are highlights and then we’ll visit those by foot. Thanks to the interwebs, we can get all the information we need to know online. And we save money, even if it is just a measly tip. (FYI: Matt and I did this for a chocolate tour in Brussels and saved ourselves seventy dollars each. Sure, we didn’t get to do a chocolate class at the end of our tour but we still ate at all the chocolate stores that the company listed on their route.)
  7. Sleep the Whole Day: Every once in a while you should take a break from your backpacking excursions for your sanity and health. It can be rough when you are constantly moving. That day you take as a break every few weeks is also a day when you will have only the expenses of your cheap hostel accommodations and some food you bought from the grocery store. Score!
  8. Reserve Ahead or Don’t: It’s a game that you have to play. Do you reserve ahead or wait until the last minute? Both can potentially yield cheap results. If you see a deal early on and are able to book in advance, I say why not. You just saved yourself some money. If you wait until the last minute and find a deal, great. It’s really a crap shoot. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Look for those deals and take them when you see them.
  9. Pick and Choose Your Experiences: You are traveling for your enjoyment even if you do need to stick to a budget. Plan for experiences that you know you’ll want to do. For example, I have money that I’m willing to expend on going to restaurants and taking the occasional pricey tour that gets us out of the cities we visit. Pick what you know you’ll love and never forget.