Planning A Year-Long Urban Backpacking Trip

Planning A Year-Long Urban Backpacking Trip

You might just be surprised how possible it is.
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Traveling is often something that people see themselves doing in their lives, but not everyone actually takes the jump and buys a plane ticket. Maybe traveling is just a dream because of barriers such as time commitments or money. This article is about overcoming those barriers, taking that jump, and experiencing the life you want to live today.

#1. Free Your Time

If you're not free, find a way to be free! Just graduating college, I find myself in the perfect situation to travel because I don’t have a job or any commitments. I was just talking to my father on the phone, and he mentioned, “This is the first time I've taken a week off in the last 10 years.” The concept that we need money is so that we can support a life that we want, but when will we start living? Many people will never take the time off to give themselves a chance for adventure.

#2. Buy a Plane Ticket

I guess there's no going back now! Buying a plane ticket makes the commitment real, and everything else you technically could figure out once you are there. Although, if you do like to have a little more foresight, there is still plenty of time to plan prior to the date of your flight. So here’s what you do: Go on to google flights. Type in a major airport as a starting location, select a date you might be able to leave, and hit “explore destinations”. This is how I started getting hooked on traveling. I bought my first random flight as a late night decision of a round trip to India. Some people considered that really unsafe, but I am much more curious to experience the world than I am afraid of it. India has a much lower crime rate than the U.S., so I’m just as unsafe walking the streets here as I am walking the streets there. However, I was much more cautious and aware of simple safety measures simply because of being out of my comfort zone and being alone. The next ticket I have is one way to Thailand ($317), and after a month, a connector flight to India ($48).

#3. Packing

There are several big questions to consider when packing such as, what is the climate of the place I am going? Am I going to be spending time in the wilderness or mostly urban areas? Will I be documenting my trip through photography and blogs? What do I need in order to be able to find my way around? This could be a whole article in itself, and I probably will make it one. But in short, I’ll share some of the ways I tackled these questions. I decided not to bring a sleeping bag because I was going to be in urban areas and sleeping outside really would not have been safe. I did bring a sleeping bag liner, which is warmer than a typical sheet but functions as one. For my upcoming trip to Thailand, I will bring the sleeping bag liner again and a mosquito net because the environment demands that. Clothing-wise, I plan to bring one pair of jeans, one pair of leggings, 5 plain 5 shirts, a medium jacket, 5 pairs of socks, sandals, hiking boots, 15 pairs of underwear, and 2 fabric bras. I only want to bring a day pack size bag since I will be going everywhere with it. Also, the cost of a new shirt is so low in Thailand (~$1), that the cost-burden ratio is in favor of just accumulating things as I might need them. As far as documentation goes, my iPhone serves as the jack of all trades. I am purchasing a Bluetooth keyboard that plugs into my iPhone for blogging, and am using it as my camera. Although it would be wonderful to have a better form of taking photos, I would need a computer to be able to download my photos to, and both of those things would increase the valuables I am responsible for and the weight to carry. One of the good things about photos on an iPhone is that I can upload them directly. Also, my phone can run blogging websites and essentially function as a computer.

#4 Finding Your Way

Depending on where you’re going, language barriers could potentially be a struggle. I think it’s useful to have a phrase book. It’s as easy as just downloading one on your smartphone. I wished I had one when I was in China, but in India, I could find someone that spoke English no matter where I was. I recommend that everyone have a travel book. My favorite brand is Lonely Planet because they are focused on a budget friendly backpackers guide versus the more tourist focused guides. This was very useful in identifying a plan for the day and I had a map of each city I went to. This made it easy to ask for directions and made me feel comfortable with the spontaneity of not having things planned out. If I needed direction, I could always just refer back to my book to see where to go next.

#5 Funding Your Trip


There are actually an amazing amount of scholarships and organizations out there that offer scholarships for gap years. Many people are deterred by the potential cost of a year long backpacking trip, but a combination of work, fundraising, and savviness will make your trip a reality. I worked all the way through college, part-time during the semester and full-time during the summer. Even though my wage was low, I was able to live simply and save a few hundred dollars each month for the last three years. But if you don't have savings, that's okay too! You can work abroad. There are opportunities for teaching English, job placement programs for college grads, and tons more opportunities out there if you look. Personally, I went in the direction of studying while I'm there. I applied to a language emersion program and scholarship to learn Hindi in India. I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to do so, because the scholarship of $1000 will more than pay for my flight, and the month-long emersion program means I have a home and food for my first month in India, all the while learning a new language! This program will really help me plant my roots and give me a strong start for my year-long trip. But there are so many scholarships out there! The American Gap Association has a list of over 20 scholarships, and another near 20 scholarship search engines that are centered around funding a gap year of travel.

All in all, traveling is possible in every way. We tell ourselves that we are working so hard to have the life we want. But what if we could live the life we wanted today?

Cover Image Credit: Raleigh LaCombe

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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
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Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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10 Things I Wish I Brought To College

All the things you wish you brought to college!

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Everyone loves moving in to a luxuries high rise dorm. Decorating and planning out your dorm is the first exciting thing you'll do in college. After my first three months of living in a dorm, I hauled 3 boxes of things back home that I just didn't need. In the meantime, there are so many things I completely forget to bring to college that I need on the daily. Here are 10 things I wish I brought to college!

1. More socks 

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I swore I brought enough socks when I moved in, but now I am down to two pairs. I can never find socks when I need them. With each load of laundry I do, more and more socks seem to disappear from the earth. Make sure you bring plenty of socks.

2. Hangers

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You can never have too many hangers. I have bought at least two more packs this month. Space is limited in your dorm so make sure you use up as much closet space as you can.

3. Medicine 

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I actually came to college with no medication. Not even a single Advil. The first few weeks of school, everyone is getting sick. You will thank yourself later if you load up now on cough drops, pain reliever, and any other medicines you might need.

4.) My dog

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I miss my dogs. Ok, I know I can't take them with me to college, but that doesn't mean I don't wish I could!

5. My sister 

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The first months of school can be exciting and lonely. I always wish my sister was here to rant to about my day. You will wish everyday that you could bring her with you.

6. Yoga pants

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We all think that we are gonna leave the yoga pants in high school and look like goddesses at our colleges. This is false and you will soon realize that even changing out of pajama pants for class is a miracle. Dress cute in August, but come fall you will thank me for telling you to bring your comfy pants!

7. Dry shampoo 

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Showering is important, but sometimes time slips through our hands. Make sure you are prepared for those in between days by stocking up on dry shampoo!

8. Self control 

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This can apply to many situations. Spending, homework, and parting. This is the first time in your life that you can make your own rules, so please bring a little bit of self control with you. Your bank account and GPA will thank you later.

9. Money 

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Save your money before college. If you spend all of the money you earned in high school or got for graduation in the first month of school, you should look back to item number 9. Money is important and is a scarce resource in college. Spend and save it wisely

10. Phone chargers 

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Like my socks, my phone chargers disappear every day. Make sure you bring a few and keep up with them!

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