Category Archives: travel planning

250 Days

What a beautiful journey this has been and continues to be, every day… As I’ve recently passed the 250-day mark in my travels, I figured it was time for another update.

When I wrote my 100 Days update, I tried to dispel the myth of travel being so expensive by giving you a breakdown of costs from my first few countries. Although they have gone up slightly in the time since that update ($46 per day now vs. $40 then), they’re still solidly less than what it would cost to live in Hawaii, which reaffirms my decision to take my work on the road. In fact, everything still comes in around $1700 per month, even allowing for bus and air travel, sightseeing, and a few splurges here and there. The following sections will further break things down by country, for those who might be interested.

>> For cost breakdowns from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, please visit my post from my first 100 days.

Bolivia Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $14.33
Lodging – $18.16
Transport – $2.90
Sightseeing – $2.76
Personal – $2.47
Misc – $2.73
Bolivia cost per day: $43.35 (22 days)

Notes: My food costs in Bolivia were on the high side, in part due to a major splurge to take part in the 7-course tasting menu at Gustu. Without that splurge, food was quite reasonable as I often went for set menu almuerzos or inexpensive food at the mercados. Thanks to my friend Freddy, I was also able to keep my sightseeing and transport costs low by really exploring like a local.

>> Bolivia Destination Guide
>> Bolivia Photo Galleries

Chile Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $18.80
Lodging – $16.89
Transport – $9.69
Sightseeing – $10.31
Personal – $3.29
Chile cost per day: $58.97 (9 days)

Notes: Everything in Chile was quite expensive, although I did luck out in Santiago with a hostel that had fast wifi, a good location and a great price. Whenever I make my way through a city or country quickly, the costs really add up and don’t have a chance to be distributed over a longer number of days. This is a perfect example of why “slow travel” really lowers your overall costs and allows you to dig deeper into the experience of a place.

>> Chile Destination Guide
>> Chile Photo Galleries

Argentina Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $14.38
Lodging – $18.83
Transport – $7.76
Sightseeing – $2.87
Personal – $4.28
Misc – $0.18
Argentina cost per day: $48.31 (29 days)

Notes: Lodging was my biggest cost in Argentina, as I splurged on a hotel for a few days when I was sick. Transport is also a bit high because I splurged on the “suite” category for the overnight bus between Mendoza and Buenos Aires. Staying in a hostel meant I was often surrounded by people who were on holiday, which meant eating out a lot since it was always someone’s last night, which can get expensive quickly. It would have been easy to lower food costs if I’d taken advantage of the kitchen a bit more, but the steak (and wine! and coffee!) in Argentina was so tempting that I ate out much more than I should have! Although I don’t regret it one bit. 😉

>> Argentina Destination Guide
>> Argentina Photo Galleries

South Africa Cost Breakdown

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFood – $11.29
Lodging – $24.00
Transport – $3.94
Sightseeing – $2.67
Personal – $5.78
Misc – $0.20
South Africa cost per day: $47.87 (58 days)

Note: My lodging costs in South Africa were significantly higher than anywhere else I’ve been in the world. Even a dorm bed in a hostel ran about $18 and although I did have some good luck with Airbnb, I also splurged on a hotel room before and after the Two Oceans Half Marathon and as a treat for my birthday! Another note is that if you are counting on access to free wifi, it’s extremely limited in South Africa. I ended up getting a SIM card with data and rates were quite expensive compared to other countries.

>> South Africa Destination Guide
>> South Africa Photo Galleries

What’s next?

I’m still working at freelance writing, social media consulting and various partnerships with brands I trust. While I can’t say that it’s enough to live off, I am not ready to give up the dream yet and I’m considering this an exploration of a new career path. I’ve also had a few semi-serious offers to work in exchange for accommodation or food here in Cappadocia, which are quite tempting as it’s quite a magical place!

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugMany have asked me and the answer remains that I am not tired of this new nomadic life, yet. I have learned so much about the places that I’ve traveled and I believe even more strongly today than when I started that the best way (for me, at least) to learn about the world and its many interwoven cultures is through food. It’s a common thread that gives me somewhere to start, even in places where I have no frame of reference and know so little of the history, language or culture of the people. Seeing variations on similar dishes, ingredients or cooking techniques really helps me to learn the ways that people have moved and interacted through history and it is endlessly fascinating! Nearly every place I’ve been is proud of its food and traditions. Eating together and handing down recipes through generations reminds people of family. These things are universal, no matter how different we are.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me! :)

Managing Your Money on the Road

(null)I opened my eyes and looked out past the lace curtain on my time-capsule 70s hotel room. Without needing to leave the warmth of my bed and its four layers of thick blankets, I could watch the morning fog roll down the side of the mountains surrounding my hotel in La Paz, Bolivia. My eyes strained to make out the silhouette of the teleferico station perched at the edge of the plateau where El Alto begins, and the tiny cable cars rolling up and down the steep hillside, like toys.

My time in Bolivia was drawing to a close and I was contemplating how much money I would need for my last few days in the country. It’s always a tough balance – you never want to have too much, but of course you don’t want to run out either, so I in my sleep-haze I began attempting the mental addition to figure out how much I’d need to settle my hotel bill, book a tour in Salar de Uyuni to see the famous salt flats, and to get myself to the Chilean border in the next few days.

I reached down to the floor to rummage around in my purse for my wallet to see how many Bolivianos I had left after dinner the night before.

My heart nearly stopped – my ATM card was missing!
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100 Days

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New Year’s Day 2015 at Machu Picchu

Today makes 100 days since the day I landed in South America.

A whole new continent, a whole new language and a whole new world of adventure. I’ve learned so much about the people, places and of course food culture of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and now Bolivia. I’ve made friends from all over the world and I have left pieces of my heart in so many places.

I’ve watched the clouds swirl around the ancient ruins at Machu Picchu, climbed 700 steps to the top of La Piedra in Guatape, spent Thanksgiving with new friends in Ecuador. I’ve filled my belly with ajiaco, choclo mote, ceviche and empanadas. And surprisingly, I’ve done it all in my limited – but improving – Spanish and I’ve learned to get by on a daily basis out in a world where things often feel quite foreign.
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Lost in Translation

Learning the word "delicious" and how to ask "what do you recommend?" are two of the easiest ways to break the ice doing something you do every day - eat!

Learning the word “delicious” and how to ask “what do you recommend?” are two of the easiest ways to break the ice doing something you do every day – eat!

One of the things I love best about traveling in a foreign country is the feeling of being out of my comfort zone. When I’m in a place where I don’t speak the language, every day tasks such as finding a good place for lunch, catching the right bus or trying to buy shampoo become learning experiences. Although it can be challenging at times (and I often feel like an idiot) it forces me to be humble, to ask for help and to use more of my brain every day.

In 2008 when I was in Laos, I wrote a post about the language barrier and how it was frustrating when it prevented me from doing simple things like getting where I wanted to go. In Asia, being half-Japanese worked to my advantage because I didn’t stand out as obviously as being foreign. It’s the same here in Ecuador until I open my mouth and I’m forced to show how bad my Spanish is!
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Where to Eat in Portland: Food Carts

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Portland’s unofficial motto. Love it!

When I mention to people that I’ve never been to Portland, they’re always surprised. It’s one of the great food cities of the West Coast, and it’s been on my radar for years but I had never gotten around to making an actual stop there for one reason or another. My cousin Daniel moved up there five years ago, so I even had a place to stay. So this year, I found a way to fit it into my plans.

I’m so glad that I finally did!

Although on this trip I had a very limited budget, it was no problem in Portland. The variety of inexpensive and creative food found right on the streets blew me away. Plus I always love the chance to support local businesses, so food carts are right up my alley.

Portland was really one of the first cities to truly embrace the food cart craze, and I’m happy to report that it’s still going strong – it’s reported that there are over 600 food carts in operation. You can find just about every type of ethnic food to match any craving. And I’m not just talking about your standard gyros, korean fusion tacos, or grilled cheese trucks – although you can find excellent examples of all three. When I asked for Portland recommendations, I was told to seek out a Mauritian, a Georgian (the country, not the state), and a Transyvlanian cart. How cool is that?

Sheryl, my foodie partner-in-crime for the day.

Sheryl, my foodie partner-in-crime for the day.

Needless to say I was in food heaven just thinking of the possibilities. So on my first day, my old friend Sheryl was kind enough to meet up with me on her lunch break so that we could try a variety of trucks. Two girls + five food carts in a little under two hours = full bellies and lots of leftovers! That’s my favorite kind of math. 😉 Here’s a look at some of the things we tried.

My (Current) Favorite Portland Food Carts

*I have to put the disclaimer here that this is my current list of favorites – I’m sure that given a few more days I’ve have a bunch more to recommend. These were my highlights from my first visit to the magical land of food carts, better known as Portland.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai

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Chicken & Rice ($8) from Nong’s Khao Man Gai

One of three locations, the Downtown cart for Nong’s Khao Man Gai is in my favorite food cart pod at SW 10th & Alder. This was my cousin Daniel’s recommendation and the only cart that I loved so much I had it twice!

The menu is short – they do one thing, and they do it well. Order the chicken & rice and it comes tied up with a rubber band along with a container of light soup to wash it down. So simple & delicious, although a little messy to eat unless you’ve got a table to sit at. In fact, their website has a tutorial video on how to eat Khao Man Gai. Be warned – it will make you hungry!

Nong’s Khao Man Gai (Downtown)
SW 10th & Alder St.
Portland, OR 97205
971-255-3480
Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Yelp

Kargi Gogo

Khinkali - stuffed beef & pork dumplings ($6)

Khinkali – stuffed beef & pork dumplings ($6) from Kargi Gogo

Owners Sean and McKinze wrapped up over two years in the Peace Corps in Georgia in 2012 and opened Kargi Gogo to pay homage to the people, the food, and the recipes they fell in love with while there. I’d never had Georgian food before, so I had to ask for recommendations – I wish I had more time to try them all!

We ended up going with the Khinkali, stuffed beef & pork dumplings, and loved them. I expected the wrapper to be thinner like asian dumplings (they are shaped like Xiao Long Bao), but the outside is more doughy, and for me the taste reminded me of a chow funn noodle.

Kargi Gogo
950 SW Washington Street
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 489-8432
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Yelp

Delicios

Mici from Delicios ($8)

Mici ($8) from Delicios

My friend Jay is the ultimate foodie. We jokingly call him a “food snob” but really, what it means is that he has high standards for food and everything about it. The ingredients, the preparation, the love that goes into the final product, the experience of eating and the enjoyment that can come with sharing it with good company. So when he declared the Transylvanian cart, Delicios, his favorite food cart in Portland, I knew I had to seek it out – and we weren’t disappointed!

We ordered the mici on Jay’s recommendation and chatted with the cart owners are we waited. They were so sweet and even remembered Jay from his visit a few months ago. As the mici are grilled to order they do take a few minutes, so they also passed out samples of their popular chimney cakes, which were delicious. Or “delicios”, as they’d say in Romania. =)

Delicios
521 SW 10th Ave
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 887-9779
Twitter | Facebook | Foursquare | Yelp
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