Whether you’re flying international or just taking a quick trip home for the holidays, you only need a carry on bag. Stick around and I’ll not only explain why, I’ll teach you how to pack it like a pro.
I was recently nominated for the Liebster Award by Sarah of The Wandering Welshie, so today’s post is going to be all about that.
What is the Liebster Award?
Great question. I didn’t know what it was either, until Sarah messaged me over Facebook. She let me know that she’d found my blog, liked what I was doing, and wanted to nominate me. Pretty nice of her, right?
So, this award isn’t anything tangible or even super exclusive. It’s just a way for bloggers to reach out to each other and say “Hey, great job, you’re making the Internet a better place with your content!” A bit of community camaraderie.
Here’s the Rules:
- Post the award logo to your blog.
- Shout-out to the fellow blogger who nominated you. (Thanks, Sarah!)
- Answer the questions they posed in their nomination post.
- Nominate 3-5 people with fewer than 1,000 followers.
- Set new questions for them to answer as well.
Unfortunately, I’m a rule breaker.
Okay, so here’s the deal. I love the idea of an award given between bloggers as a virtual pat on the back. Validation always feels good and it’s sometimes hard to come by as a blogger. Especially just starting out. In the spirit of the award, I will still give a shout-out to Sarah’s blog (because it’s awesome and now one of the ones that I read on the reg) and answer the questions. I’ll also let you know which small (and not-so-small) blogs I keep tabs on, because sharing fellow bloggers’ work is what the Liebster Award is all about.
But I’m not going to nominate anyone. I’m uncomfortable approaching other bloggers about this for the same reason I don’t participate in the “like for like” campaigns on Facebook or Instagram. It feels inauthentic. Not only that, but I’m a very small presence in the blogosphere right now, and it might come off as spammy.
I told you yesterday that I will never lie to you, and that includes about which content creators I think are worth your time. I would much rather recommend a few bloggers I truly admire, drive some traffic to their sites, and miss out on the reciprocal traffic. Call me crazy.
A huge thanks to Sarah, The Wandering Welshie!
Now that I’ve got all that icky stuff out of the way, I do want to extend a sincere thank you to Sarah for nominating me. As her blog title indicates, she is a Welsh gal out and about in this big wide world. Right now she is in South East Asia on an extended post-graduation trip. I know, I know. Everyone is doing South East Asia. But in a sea of travel bloggers flooding Thailand and Cambodia right now, Sarah stands out. Her site is engaging, informative, and entertaining. And she’s not just doing “the banana pancake trail.” Check out her travel plan page to find out where she’s headed next!
Let’s break some ice, shall we?
How’d you come up with the name for your blog?
- Expedition Limitless is both a promise to myself to never stop traveling and a reminder that there are no limits to this expedition we call life. Every moment should be part of the expedition, and for that I need to be present in every moment.
What made you decide to start blogging?
- So, I’ve always been a writer. Creative writing, essay writing in school, poetry, journal-keeping on my travels, you name it. I love it. I started this blog because there are some things that travel makes you feel that can only be written down. Also, there are a lot of things about travel that I wish someone had told me, so hopefully this blog will help even a few people on their own expeditions.
What has been your best travel experience so far?
- Oh, what a question! So hard to choose. I’d have to say that exploring Rio Secreto during my trip to Playa del Carmen last summer was the most impactful. I haven’t written about it here on the blog, yet, although I plan to soon. You can read my article for Travelicious World, though.
Where’s next on your wishlist?
- Italy is always in the back of my mind (and also the middle and front of my mind, haha), but I have to say that what I’ve really been dreaming of doing for about a year or so now is a heritage trip to Great Britain and Ireland with my sister. We’re Irish, Scottish, and Welsh on our Dad’s side and I’d really like to dig down through history, maybe using Ancestry.com or a similar site, and then take a road trip through the islands with her. Either starting or ending on the anniversary of our Dad’s passing.
Who is your favorite person to travel with?
- My sister is a great travel buddy, but we’ve got different travel styles. Basically, I’m game for anything and the more it terrifies me, the more I want to do it. She’s a little less insane. Mostly, I love to travel with my boyfriend, Chris. He’s the kind of guy who just doesn’t make plans and while that drives me crazy sometimes, it’s a great quality in a travel companion, that flexibility. Plus, he’s fun and pretty cute.
What’s your favorite aspect of travel?
- The wonder of a new place. I think that we often miss that childlike, wide-eyed awe in our day-to-day life and I crave it. It fills my soul up to the top and then overflows it.
Are you more of a city or wilderness person?
I’m not sure? I’ve definitely been in some cities that I adored, but I’ve also been captivated by rugged landscapes, natural rock formations, white sand beaches, and thick jungle air. Probably a toss-up, although I definitely prefer old cities. And, as always, I want to stay long enough to experience the local flavor of a place. Perugia, Umbria and Lecce, Puglia aren’t the most fascinating or tourist-worthy spots in Italy, but I love them so completely because I truly lived there. Damn, now I’m homesick for those old cobblestone streets. Isn’t that the craziest part about travel? You can be homesick for a city that isn’t yours.
What useful item do you always take with you?
- Burt’s Bee’s lip balm. Planes are brutal on my skin and lips and I don’t mess around with that shit. I’m also a lip biter, which doesn’t help. So, yeah. Lip balm, always.
Who are your favorite bloggers?
- I’m gonna skip this for now, because my recommendations list below is going to answer this more thoroughly.
What advice would you give new bloggers?
- Well, I kind of am a new blogger still. But I would just say focus on the content for now. There’s a lot to get hung up on when building a blog, and the really successful bloggers that I admire all have one thing in common. They put out quality content on a consistent basis. Don’t worry about the numbers game right now. I know I don’t have the emotional or mental capacity to constantly be checking my site stats or my Instagram following. Just focus on what you love, which hopefully is writing and traveling!
Spread the Liebster Award Love
Like I said, I’m not nominating anyone, but I do want to keep this inter-blogger appreciation and support going. So in that spirit, here are the blogs I highly recommend you add to your reading list.
- The Wandering Welshie. (I’m sure this is no surprise at this point. I’ve been pretty transparent with how awesome I think Sarah is!)
- Migrating Miss. Sonja is the expat running this charming blog. I don’t know any expats personally, so her take on things is exciting and fresh. She’s also getting married this year (congrats!) and is laying out all the messy details on her blog. So if you’re getting married as an expat, to an expat, or even just in a foreign country, check out her posts for some insight.
- Backpacker Banter. An Aussie backpacker with a list of destinations that encompasses pretty much the entire South Pacific, Chris gives great advice and I really enjoy his tech reviews. As a not very tech savvy person myself, I enjoy having someone break down the pros and cons of things like drones and cameras. Plus, his videography is on point.
- Oneika the Traveller. If you’re anything like me, your travel blog reading list might be a little, well… white. When I discovered Oneika’s blog, I realized that I was missing out. She is informative, funny, has been to SO many places, and is not afraid to remind people to check their privilege at the door. It’s important to diversify your sources, because you can learn so much from people outside of your own culture and comfort zone. Sure, she has some articles that don’t pertain to me (like her awesome series on traveling while black), but so what? Not everything’s about me. Seek out YouTubers from other countries, bloggers who write to a different niche than you do, people who look and think differently than you, because that’s how you grow. And isn’t that what travel is all about?
That’s all for now. Thanks again to Sarah for pulling me into this big, warm, virtual group hug from the blogging community!
I’ve spoken briefly about solo travel before, but I haven’t talked about solo female travel. It’s a little bit different for us girls.
I would never want to discourage a fellow traveler from finding her bearings on the road: solo female travel is probably the most inspiring thing I’ve ever done. But it can be nerve-racking as a woman to journey alone. I mean, I still get nervous. To help combat those nerves, I follow the Three Golden Rules of solo female travel. Now, I know that there are a lot of guidelines to follow as a solo female traveler: don’t draw attention to yourself, don’t go out after dark, be alert, etc., but in my opinion, the Three Golden Rules cover all your bases.
Rule 1: What they don’t know, can’t hurt you
Once, while visiting a castle and the attached museum in Assisi, I was detained by a member of the staff. He blocked the exit with his body and began pelting me with questions. Now in general Italy is a very safe place, but this man made me uneasy. He asked if I was in Assisi by myself for the day, which I was. Instead, though, I said that I was meeting a friend for lunch and really needed to be going.
You can do that, by the way. Lie. There’s no rule stating that just because you are traveling solo you must announce it to everyone who asks. Thinking you have somewhere to be and someone who will miss you if you don’t arrive might be enough to stave off ill-intentions.
Part of the joy of solo travel is meeting new people, chatting with them, and broadening your perspectives. Be careful not to overshare. This isn’t true of everywhere you go, but in Italy at least the men are very solicitous. During my day and weekend trips, I was asked numerous times where I was staying. After a couple of times mentioning that I was studying in the nearby town of Perugia, I learned not to give that information away anymore. “Oh, I should come into town and we can get drinks together,” “Oh, what part of the city do you live in, I go to Perugia often,” “Let’s party together, Americana!” While I’m sure none of these men were up to anything nefarious, it’s easier to just circumvent the question altogether. A simple, “Just traveling through the area with friends” usually does the trick.
And, hopefully, this goes without saying, never give out the address of where you’re staying.
Rule 2: F*ck Politeness
Here’s the thing: being polite is great. You can accomplish a lot with a kind word and it just feels nice to treat others with respect. Bearing that in mind, it is never worth compromising your safety for the sake of being polite.
Sue Anne, a dear friend of mine that I met while in Perugia, taught me the value of this. One day we were eating lunch outside and a man selling bracelets or sunglasses or something came up to our table. This is common in Italy and they are relentless. I told the man that we weren’t interested and turned back to my food. He continued to push his wares in front of us, taking Sue by the wrist. She exploded up out of her chair and shouted – in perfect Italian – that we said no and he needed to leave.
Now, this might not seem like a scenario of life or death and maybe, just maybe, Sue overreacted? Well, here’s the thing that I learned from Sue Anne. When you are a woman traveling alone, you must draw a line in the sand. Acting timid and letting people bully you, even into something as harmless as buying a bracelet, is the kind of behavior that predators look for. Be confident and don’t stand for any BS.
Rule 3: Trust Your Gut
There’s this little thing called intuition, and when you travel, it’s on high alert. Listen to it. I have done some crazy stuff on my adventures: got drunk with strangers on a bar crawl in Rome, walked around Milan alone at midnight to get a hamburger, and convinced a tour van driver to give me a lift to the train station during his lunch break (I mistakenly assumed he was a shuttle service). But even though all of those things had the potential to turn out poorly, I never had that niggling feeling in my gut telling me that I should be worried.
I’ve had that feeling before. Like when that man in Assisi cornered me in the empty museum. And I got the hell out of there.
Solo Female Travel… pretty simple, right?
Don’t overshare, be confident and unafraid to offend, and most importantly, listen to your instincts!
If you’ve found this guide to solo girl travel helpful, don’t hesitate to get bizzayyy in the comment section and let me know! Also, hop on over to Andrea’s blog, All the Rooms, and check out her take on it. She’s got some good tips to share, too.
Perhaps it was the weather that dampened my enthusiasm: a high of 69 F and wind speeds reaching 20 mph doesn’t exactly scream “tropical island.” Or perhaps it was being packed into a ferry with a large crowd of senior citizens that kept saying helpful things like “Oh, this isn’t even winter weather!” Or perhaps it was the nagging voice reminding me that my windbreaker was sitting at home in the closet, useless, while I died of exposure (the voice belonged to my mother-in-law).
I used to have this fairy tale image of Europe in my head. Everyone is wealthy and fashion forward and they welcome bright-eyed American youths into their homes and hearts with generous abandon. Fortunately, my first time staying with a host family pretty much dispelled this fantasy.
I was staying in Puglia, Italy while taking classes at the local university. I felt like I’d won the host family lottery! Francesca and Quintino lived in a penthouse apartment with marble flooring throughout, a wrap around balcony overflowing with well-tended potted plants, thick Persian rugs in every room, and a wrought iron spiral staircase leading up to the master suite – which I can only assume was equally lavish as I never saw it. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: an honest-to-God live-in maid.
Leave It for the Maid
Now, I know that there are families in America that have maids and nannies and other household staff. I’m not from one of those families. So for me, this was a unique and often unsettling experience. Marianella, the maid, did pretty much everything in the house and it was constantly catching me off guard. Before class, I would leave my bed unmade and my nightclothes on the floor before rushing out the door. That afternoon, I’d find that the room spotless. Marianella had made the bed, folded my dirty laundry, and probably vacuumed or dusted for all I know. She also washed all of my laundry (and subsequently hung it out to dry on the balcony for all the world to see my knickers), prepared my lunches, and cooked dinner for the whole family.
Dinner at Downton
My first night in Lecce, I was exhausted and went straight to bed. But the second night, well, that was a different story entirely. We were seated in the family dining room which, unlike the formal dining room, felt cozy and normal. Casual, even. Apparently for Dr. Quintino and his family, a casual meal is a four course affair eaten on hand-painted ceramic. That probably isn’t too out of the ordinary for an Italian family. The formal lay out of a soup bowl and two plates, three different forks, two knives, a dessert spoon and a soup spoon, as well as two glasses… Well, all of that might be a little more than normal.
None of that prepared me for the Downton Abbey-esque dining experience that ensued. Marianella brought in platter after platter of delicious food, course by course, bringing each platter around the table so that we, the petite bourgeoisie, could serve ourselves. I later found out she was eating alone in the kitchen. We finished it all off with a dessert of fresh fruit, eaten with a fork and knife (which was very difficult and confusing for me). All we were missing was a tiny bell to ring between courses to remind the staff downstairs they were keeping us waiting.
How the Other Half Lives
It only took one lunch with my friend Abby’s host family to realize that this is not the norm in Italy. Antoinetta and Osvaldo didn’t own any Persian rugs and instead of marble flooring, they had two fat and sassy cats that left their hair all over. But their tiny apartment felt more like a home than Francesca and Quintino’s cold, marble clad penthouse. Antoinetta’s small, brightly tiled kitchen didn’t have a maid. Instead, Abby and I were given various tasks to do and together we prepared a simple but delicious lunch that I honestly still daydream about: a huge bowl of pasta with a side salad of arugula, fennel, and green olives.
In the end, though, it really had nothing to do with the maid or the big house. More and more I struggled with the feeling that my host family didn’t really want to get to know me. I was a guest in their house, I wasn’t a guest in their home. Four weeks later when we all left Lecce, it was Antoinetta who wrapped me in a bear hug. Francesca and Quintino were not there for the tearful goodbyes, or actually any goodbyes. The maid dropped me off at the train station.
A Host Family that Feels like Family
Of course, I’m grateful for the lovely home that I stayed in. I mean, my bedroom had a balcony with a view; that’s hard to beat! But I’m still slightly wistful for the experience that my friends had. Most of my friends stayed in touch with their host families but I didn’t get that cozy feeling of belongingness. If I were to do it again, I would trade the marble floors, fancy plateware, and the Dowager Countess for a warm, friendly family that makes me feel like one of their own.