Rio De Janeiro: A Guide / What To Expect

Rio de Janeiro had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. There was a mysterious sex appeal that followed this iconic city in my mind since I met my first Brazilian. Thus, when I found myself in South America for the first time, I knew I had to make a trip to Rio happen one way or another.

Travel / Visa:

I had not realized that I (along with Australian, Japanese, Canadian and other US citizens) was going to need to apply for a tourist visa before getting to Brazil. Originally I thought the only way to do this was via a Brazilian Consulate. However, after some research, I found out that I could apply for my Brazilian tourist visa via iVisa, a website that allows you to do the entire process far quicker and online. 

*I expedited my process, so it was a bit more expensive, but I’ve learned that plans can change last minute, so I just wanted to get this done asap. This should be your number one priority when planning your trip to Brazil, so be sure to check out this website, iVisa, or the laws that abide for you when traveling to this beautiful country.

Three days later I had my Brazilian tourist visa emailed to me, and after having my hotel in Iguazu Falls print it out for me, was set to cross the border into Brazil. Some other blogs and websites had mentioned that you may need to present your exit flight when entering Brazil, but my border crossing at Iguazu Falls, which I did with a car, was super easy, and they didn’t ask for anything besides my visa. 

*Pro Tip: When you look like you’re backpacking most custom agents are far nicer, and put up less interrogation because it’s basically understood that you just want to come and see their beautiful country. Thus, don’t feel the need to be flashy at borders. 

After a two hour flight from Foz do Iguaçu International Airport (IGU) to Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport (GIG), I found myself in the airport of Rio with access to the airports free wifi. This made getting an Uber to my Airbnb, which was located about 45 minutes away at the border of Ipanema and Copacabana super easy and efficient.

Accommodation:

I would recommend staying in Ipanema if you want to have quick and easy access to the most beautiful beach, but also access to Copacabana, its neighboring beach and cute little town. Santa Theresa is another amazing neighborhood that is artsy, has a fantastic bohemian vibe, and is far closer to the proper nightlife that starts around 1 AM in Rio.

I decided to get an Airbnb while in Rio because I wanted a bit of more privacy, security, and comfort than most hostels could have provided based on the reviews I read. Hotels are another option, but I personally like to feel like a local as much as possible while traveling, and I love having access to a kitchen if I want to cook. Additionally, I got sick while in Rio and having AC, my own bathroom, and a clean apartment made me feel more like a human than being in a hostel, which I am a fan of for places like South East Asia and Europe.

The Vibe:

Driving from the airport to Copacabana I was overwhelmed by how much beauty and color flow through Rio, but also how much poverty exists in this once thriving metropolis. The favelas that hang over the city are a huge reminder that Rio de Janeiro struggles with a massive wealth divide and political corruption. However, this should not stop you from exploring this South American dream.

My first mission once I was settled into my Airbnb was to wander over to Ipanema, which was about a 15 minute walk from my Copacabana residence, and find Claro. Claro is one of the many phone service providers that you can buy a SIM card and data package through. All you need is your passport and some money. This is something I do in every country I visit. It’s far cheaper than using most American global services, and takes away all the guessing work. My package and SIM card cost around $20 US and gave me access to wifi and phone services for a month, even though I was staying for just 1 week. 

Then it was time to see the world famous Ipanema Beach. Walking up to this beach and seeing the mountains juxtaposed against the city, I instantly understood why Brazil, and more specifically, Rio, had been a place so many travelers spoke so highly of. It truly is one of the most stunning beaches. It’s full of gorgeous people of all sexualities, backgrounds, and sizes. Color, skin, and an attitude of ease instantly infiltrate your mood. Everything and anything you could need from bathing suits, to drinks, to food, to whatever else you can imagine can all be found right on the beach. What makes it even easier is that the goods come to you with amazing Brazilian characters.

However, as many locals pointed out to me, you must be on your guard as pickpocketers and thieves are prominent throughout the city and beaches. They are just waiting for you to give them the opportunity to run off with your things. If you are alone, tie your bag to your beach rental chair, which cost $1 US dollar, and make sure it’s in near you at all times. I was by myself a lot, so when I did want to go for a swim, I asked people close by, who I could feel weren’t about to dart off with my things, to watch them for me. This meant I physically brought my bag over to these people and had them put it in front of them with their things. Everyone I asked was super kind and helpful. You shouldn’t feel weird doing this as this is something many locals do as well. 

As a whole Rio is dealing with a lot of political issues, like many other cities and countries, so there is a fair bit of perigo, aka danger. However, as I’ve traveled all over the world, you learn that you have to be smart no matter where you are, and abide by local rules and codes. Don’t walk around in sketchy areas late and by yourself. Don’t wear anything expensive or flashy in general; it just isn’t worth it. Don’t be loud, drunk, and screaming that you are a tourist. Stick to these type of rules, and you’ll be fine in most situations.

Wellness:

Something to note is that the Brazilian tap water is not safe to drink, so make sure you either drink from bottled water, or have a good filter attached to whatever you are getting water from. I’ve heard of Bali Belly, Montezuma's Revenge, Dehli’s Belly, and a few other Traveler Bowel Movement “issues,” but I had never heard of anything like this in Brazil. Well, even though it may be TMI, it’s important to note that this is also a thing in Brazil, and I experienced intense bodily issues for almost my whole week in Rio. 

Thanks to a Brazilian doctor friend I have and these drugs, which you can get over the counter in Brazil, I wasn’t held hostage to my Airbnb for more than one full day. 

Drugs/Things To Help:

Simeticona Gotas - 35-40 drops every 6 hours / for at least 3 days

Buscopan Composto - 1 pill every 6 hours for abdominal pain

Vanau Flash 8mg - if you start to vomit or nauseating 

Dipirona 1g - for pains and fever 

Tylenol 750 mg - for pains and fever 

Drink lots of liquids (3-4L of water/day)

Drink Gatorade or coconut water for electrolytes 

Avoid:

Greens

Fiber/Cereals

Alcohol

Places that just look a bit off

Hospitals / Free Clinics:

*Below are the two top rated hospitals in Rio. I have traveler’s insurance, so these costs would be covered, but I chose to go to the free clinic as I wanted to experience what that was like for the locals and travelers who don’t have private insurance. This was also completely free for anyone. These three places are all walking distance from one another, so if one feels off you can easily get to another.

Copa Star - R $900 (around $250 US) for the initial consultation fee and first one hour, and then R $500 (around $150 US) every other hour you stay in ER, basic medicine included.

Copa D’Or - bigger and less fancy, but has more diverse medical staff. Price may be slightly cheaper. 

UPA 24H Copacabana - not fancy, free, and feels like a lower income clinic. Did everything I needed them to. Wait time was 2 hours to see the clinic doctor, and there is no AC, so be mindful to bring bottled water with you.

The Neighborhoods:
Once I found myself somewhat managing my stomach issues, I forced myself to explore Rio. I could not stomach, literally and metaphorically, sitting in my Airbnb all day, so I ventured for half days with the help of an Uber to Santa Theresa and Centro. Two neighborhoods that are about a 30-45 minute car ride from Ipanema / Copacabana. 

Centro

Centro is home to more traditional city life, some beautiful old buildings, many churches, and the Portuguese Reading Room, which I happened to just stumble upon. This neighborhood has lots to see, and is worth checking out if you plan on heading to Santa Theresa. 

Santa Theresa

IMG_6115.jpg

Santa Theresa, which is walking distance and right next to Centro, is a more bohemian neighborhood with awesome street art, the famous Escadaria Selarón, aka the Selaron Steps, and super stunning vista points at places like the Cultural Center by the Museu da Chacara do Ceu.

Definitely head to this neighborhood, get lost, and just enjoy exploring. Be mindful of the favelas, but don’t get stuck on an expensive and unnecessary tour. I also headed to these neighborhoods on two different nights. Once for a gay party that happens on Saturdays at the venue The Week. Expect to find hot men, some women, and an overall big big big party that happens later in the evening all within a giant venue. I got their around 1 AM. It was a bit late for me, but perfectly on time for Rio standards. On Sunday I headed to La Carmelita, which has locals dancing and living it up to classic Forro music. Strangers dance cheek to cheek, and it’s not your standard tourist bar. You can also get some of the cities best pizza there. I can’t vouch for this as I avoid lactose, but multiple reviews seem to validate this.

Ipanema

Ipanema is where I felt most like a Carioca, which is what the locals call themselves. My first morning there, I woke up super early thanks to jet lag, and wandered into the main part of this neighborhood, where I stumbled upon a big farmers market. Fruit, meat, veggies, and some local goods decorated the main square, and really made me feel like I was finally in Rio. This same market on the weekends becomes a full day affair with silver, home goods, clothes, and so many other super cool local Brazilian goods, so make sure to check this out. The exchange rate currently makes everything super cheap, and I always think it’s important to support the locals when visiting any city in any country, so don’t go overboard, but treat yourself.

My favorite restaurant in Ipanema was a place called Rayz. It’s got live Samba almost everyday, delicious food, and locals that transport you back in time to when Rio was in it’s prime. I fell in love with this place and it’s overall vibe, and you will too. I guarantee it!

Another spot that you must find when in Ipanema is a place that for the very first time made me understand the obsession with coconut water and acai. I had had these things before, but they were complete imitations to the real thing that you find in Rio. A local guy I befriended showed me this hidden gem, and I’m letting you in on this super cheap, but insanely awesome secret. I couldn’t find the name, but it’s a bohemian store attached to a buffet, and located on R. Barao da Torre with the cross street R. Farme de Amoedo. The acai is on the left side of the huge shop, and the delicious and amazingly fresh coconut water you can get by walking right up to the “bar” on the right side. Find this spot, and be sure to tell me how amazing it is! Again, I did not like either of these things before, but having them fresh, served perfectly chilled, and in Rio made me a convert. I’m also convinced all the fresh coconut water is what makes everyone so freakin gorgeous! You’re welcome.

To round out your trip to Rio de Janeiro, you must stop at these world famous spots: Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado, Sugarloaf Mountain, and The Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro). 

Christ the Redeemer is one of the seven man made wonders of the world, and it comes as no surprise when you arrive to this giant structure why that is. If you have the ability to go during the week then I recommend going then because the amount of tourists at all of these spots is pretty insane. I used the Trem do Corcovado App to buy my ticket and schedule my time ahead of time, and I highly suggest doing the same. 

I was able to get a picture with practically no one in it at Corcovado by being there on a rainy day, being beyond patient, and using my iPhone X’s panorama feature turned sideways. Definitely try this pro tick, but good luck getting no one in your shot.

Sugarloaf Mountain, or Pão de Açucar which is located in Urca, and at the mouth of Guanabara Bay, is another must. You can buy your tickets ahead of time, but I bought mine there. It took maybe 10 minutes of waiting in line on a sunny Saturday. The views are breathtaking, it’s not too crazy with tourists, and there are many different vistas to wander to and from while enjoying this beautiful mountain top. Another pro tip is to go to the back side of the air trams and watch them go up backwards. You get an incredible view, and most people run to the front, so go against the grain and be rewarded.

Finally, commit to 2-3 hours if you are in a crunch for time and head over to Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro. This stunning garden houses fauna and flora from around the world, but mostly things that thrive in Brazil’s tropical climate. The city itself is the most amazing combination of urban and jungle life, and the botanical garden does not disappoint. Entry is super cheap. I would recommend just getting lost once inside, but make sure to head over to the back edge of the garden, where you can find monkeys living their best life.

Some other things that I was told to check out, but ran out of time for are:

Restaurants:

  1. Sushi Leblon - Sushi

  2. Mee at The Copa Palace - High End Sushi

  3. Sawasdee Bistro - Thai Food

  4. Oteque

  5. Fasano Al Mare - High Seafood Cuisine

  6. Balada Mix

  7. Delirio Tropical

  8. Ella - Pizza

  9. ORG - Healthy and Veg

  10. Prana - Healthy and Veg

  11. Iraja

  12. Sud O Passaro Verde

Bars:

  1. Belmonte

  2. Jobi

  3. Astor and Riba

  4. Oscar Bistro

Others:

  1. Smart Fit Gym - think Equinox in Rio. Around $8 US a day.

  2. Beach Gym by Santander - at the beach, built by Basque bank, and free if you download the MUDE App.

  3. Porto Maravilha - renovated for the Olympics

  4. Santiago Calatrava - Museum of Tomorrow

  5. MAR- Ri Art Museum

  6. Parque Lage

  7. Forte de Copacabana

  8. MAC in Niterio - Museum designed by Oscar Niemeyer and overlooking Rio

And that my friends is my travelers guide / tips for a week in Rio. Again, I got sick, so lost a day just trying to rest up. It also rained a bit, but it kind of helped get rid of the masses at the big tourist spots. The city can be quite wet as it is jungle climate, so some days I spent resting and then exploring, but I definitely saw enough to know I will come back at some point very soon to experience Carnival, and explore this city and country even more.

Let me know what tips and tricks you have for Rio in the comment section below. Let’s make this the ultimate guide for this stunning city.

Much Love,

Barrett

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my instagram posts and highlighted stories (@barrettpall) of Rio, and all my other travels as a guide to help you navigate, get a feel, and understand the cities I travel to.

Posted on April 9, 2019 .
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12 Pro Ways To Travel On A Budget

As someone who has picked up and traveled the world for months at a time, many times, I’ve come up with a few life hacks to make my travel experiences more sustainable, cheaper, and in many ways, more of an adventure. I’m all for living a high-low experience, but there are just some things I refuse to waste my money on, especially when there are alternatives that fulfill all my needs.

Below are my top 12 ways to travel cheaper, easier, and like a pro, so that when you are ready to say yes to life, your adventure will be far easier and last longer than you could’ve ever imagined.

1. Travel To Countries that Offer More Bang For Your Buck

The biggest and most important part to traveling is understanding how far your currency goes in other countries. This will completely change what you can do, where you can go, how long you can stay somewhere, and the type of experience you will have.

My first big trip for more than a month was completely unplanned, but after being in South East Asia for 2 weeks, and falling in love with the energy, I knew I couldn’t leave as soon as I had originally expected. The fact that my dollar went even farther than I had realized, and that life was beyond affordable, made the decision to miss my flight back home even easier. 

Being able to spend $5 dollars a night on accommodation that was safe, clean, and offered me everything I needed made this decision even easier. Being able to spend $1-$2 on food that was delicious and nutritious made this decision even easier. The fact that I met incredible people who were also traveling on a budget made the decision even easier. 

Traveling through a country like Turkey, I was shocked at how much the dollar was worth, and how affordable life was in general for the local people. I had not planned on coming here either, but after learning these things, I quickly extended my trip, and did two weeks in Turkey instead of just a few days.

Looking into exchange rates, the standard cost of things like food and accommodation, and not being dead set on going to a specific place at a certain time, will allow you to travel and see things you thought you would never see.

Never let money be an excuse as to why you cannot travel.

2. Travel To Countries Off Season

My second big tip to make your travels more affordable is to travel to countries off season. This one may sound like an obvious tip, but for many people, they often think about traveling to places only during high season because of weather, time off, or many other variables. Something I like to remind people is seasons vary in many ways between different countries, so don’t get stuck on what you think the weather will be somewhere.

While traveling through South East Asia, I unknowingly traveled during rainy season, which meant that it rained for a few hours some days, if at all, and then would clear up and become gorgeous out. Yes, this can be a bit risky, but I had an incredible time, had amazing weather, and was able to treat myself to experiences that would’ve cost triple the price had it been high season. You can literally find deals on incredible places that normally go for $250 a night for as low as $30 a night.

I actually splurged once and spent $70 a night on a private little bungalow on Coral Island in Thailand. I wanted to experience the island without all the crazy tourists, and the only way to stay on the island past 5 pm is to rent a room, which I could’ve done for as low as $20 a night had I not treated myself to a beach front view. I almost never treat myself, but I said fuck it, and gave myself this present, which turned out to be incredible because from 5 pm until 11 am the next day, I basically had an entire island to myself to read, do yoga, and enjoy an incredible sunset and sunrise.

Weather can definitely make or break a trip, so do a little research when traveling during different seasons.

3. Stay In Hostels

I know this can sound super scary, gross, or undesirable to many travelers, especially ones who have never stayed in a hostel before. However, once you pop your hostel virginity, you actually find they are super fun, a great place to meet people, and offer beyond affordable ways to stay in cities, beach towns, and cute country areas all over the world.

I’ve literally paid anywhere from $4 (in Cambodia) to $22 (in Turkey) to stay for one night while traveling. The amount of money you save while staying in a hostel will allow your trip to last far longer than if you are staying in a hotel or other type of accommodation. To really add bang to you buck, many hostels will include a meal, often breakfast, with your stay. 

Apps like Hostel World make it beyond easy to see what you are getting for your money, where you are staying, and what other type of experience you will have while staying at each specific hostel. As I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve definitely found myself not looking to share a room with 14 people, although this can be super fun, so I usually look for a room that sleeps no more than 4, and places that have social common areas, but aren’t driven by late night parties and loud music.

More than anything hostels offer an experience that you won’t find while staying at a hotel or at an Airbnb because you are basically guaranteed to meet other travelers, which for me, as a solo traveler, is the biggest reason I chose to stay in a hostel when traveling to a new city. Having interesting conversations, meeting people of all ages from all over the world, and making friends like your back in elementary school will add an incredible amount of value to your travels no matter where you end up.

4. Travel Light

Not only will traveling light make physically moving from place to place far easier, but it will also allow you space to grow as you travel.

The amount of times I’ve thought I packed light only to realize I’ve brought way too much stuff is pretty much 100% of the time. There is nothing more annoying than shlepping around a bunch of stuff you don’t even use in the end, so what I encourage is to pack, and then cut half of what you have, especially if traveling to countries that are big on the export game when it comes to material goods like clothes and shoes. Remember that just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s something you need, or that it is being made fairly or sustainably, so still be mindful of this when traveling to countries like China, Turkey, and Cambodia. 

Traveling light also makes flying cheaper as you’re not paying extra for multiple checked bags. I can’t fully explain how freeing it is to move without a wheeler bag dragging behind you. I highly encourage getting a big ole backpack from a company like Osprey, which offers lifetime warranties, and can hold way more than you realize.

After hiking / camping for 45 days on the PCT, I realized how little I truly need on a daily basis, so don’t be afraid to travel with a lot less than you think you may need.

5. Barter, Bargain, And Ask For A Better Price

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve saved money because I simply asked for a better deal. Companies, hotels, and businesses need you to spend your money, and often that means they don’t mind cutting a little off, so that you still spend some.

Of course there is a time and place for everything. You can’t walk into a department store and expect the sales person to cut the cost of your items in half, but more times than not, you can get 10% off in even regular stores. If you are a student there are countless ways to save money, so don’t be afraid to ask if there is a student discount when buying your ticket to a museum or even shopping in regular clothing stores.

Additionally, there are often local prices and travelers prices. 

Don’t be afraid to call it out when you feel like you are being ripped off or taking advantage of. Often times the locals aren’t even being rude or difficult, it’s just that they know they can do this, so they do. I’m all for paying fair prices, supporting local businesses, and spending my money on local goods and services, but that doesn’t mean we have to pay more than someone else for the same thing.

If you are staying at a hostel, hotel, or Airbnb for a week there is often a discount that you can get simply by asking.

I know to some it sounds entitled to ask for a deal or discount, but you never get what you don’t ask for, so don’t be afraid to ask. The worst thing that can happen is someone says no, but again, I can’t stress how many times you will hear yes. People like to help, and if you don’t tell them you need their help, there is no way for them to know you need it.

So speak up and ask away.

6. Eat Like A Local

You wouldn’t eat out every meal when you are at home, so why do it while you are traveling?

Everything from eating the street food, which I have never had a problem with anywhere in the world, except in my own beloved NYC, to buying groceries and cooking at your hotel, hostel, or homestay with allow you to save so much money. Get adventurous, think of it like a game, and ask locals where they go for amazing cheap food. Pick one or two spots that you are dying to try, and let yourself enjoy, but don’t get hung up on eating at the poshest and fanciest spots. These type of places are usually overrated and often get a lot of their ideas and recipes from smaller more affordable local spots.

I’ve had so many amazing encounters when eating at street carts, chatting up locals to get some ideas about where to eat, and just getting lost in neighborhoods that aren’t on the list of tourists hotspots. 

Lastly, while I am a bit of a foodie, I am someone who travels to places to experience the people and see the rich culture. While that 100% involves eating local cuisine, I can’t stress how much money you will save, if you make smart eating choices. Don’t stress about hitting every trendy restaurant, instead enjoy eating like a local and getting flavors from all aspects of the places you travel to.

7. Create Your Own First Aid Kit / Stay Healthy 

Before I leave for any trip, I make sure that I create my own little first aid kit just incase I get sick. 

There is nothing worse than getting somewhere and not speaking the language, not understanding what packages say, or not being able to get what you need. With that said, many countries have amazing, and sometimes better, options for dealing with specific symptoms than the US does, so don’t be afraid to ask a local pharmacist for help if your body starts to break down while traveling.

Things I always makes sure I have on me when I travel are:

Allergy Medicine

I’m a big fan of Zyrtec D as it totally kicks my allergies fast and effectively, and as someone who suffers from seasonal allergies, I know how annoying they can be. I actually found off brand version of these types of American products in Europe for $5 dollars, so I would suggest hitting up a local pharmacy when traveling abroad.

Charcoal Pills

Any brand will do. I first discovered these when I got Bali Belly, something every traveler will likely get while in Indonesia, and they were magic. These things are bodily gold if your bowels start to fight you, as they will regulate everything in the matter of a few minutes to a few hours. The amount of times I’ve given these to people for the first time to only have them be skeptical to then being blown away at how effective they are is beyond countless. Imodium is also something else I recommend keeping on you, but honestly, I’ve found the charcoal pills to be even more effective. Trust me on this one if nothing else because there is nothing more frustrating than having stomach problems while you’re trying to enjoy your time traveling.

Bandaids

Whether it’s for a small cut, blister, or something totally different, having some form of bandages will come in hand at some point, so make sure to always have a few on you. 

DayQuil / NyQuil

I know this one some people may fight me on, but I swear by these things if I’m starting to feel the slightest bit sick. I will take the standard dosage, chug a ton of water, and then get a big nights sleep. Usually by the next morning I am back on track and feel beyond better. I suggest bringing these with you from the states because you will have a hard time finding something similar when abroad.

Ibuprofen 

Having some sort of painkiller is just smart. As I get older my aches and pains are becoming more of a thing, and Ibuprofen can help in a number of ways.

Tissues

These are just smart to have always on you, as there is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere having to blow your nose and not being able to. Tissues can often double as toilet paper, a quick bandage, and many other things.

Lip Balm

Mother nature’s elements can be totally unpredictable and vary in big ways in different countries, so make sure to keep some sort of lip balm on you. Whether or not you are someone who uses lip balm on a daily basis, I promise you will be grateful to have it on you at some point will adventuring out in the world.

Hand Cream 

I personally find it super uncomfortable to have dry skin, especially on my hands and feet. Not being able to fix this problem is something I have found myself frustrated by because I simply didn’t keep a little bottle of moisturizer on me, so I highly suggest keeping even just a little tube of lotion on you.

Eye Drops

You don’t want to fuck around with your eyes, so eye drops are a smart thing to have. You may not need these your whole trip, but more often than not, you most likely will, so save yourself the discomfort, and have them in your first aid kit. 

These are the major things I suggest having on you at all times, and do not take up a lot of space; however, there are definitely other things you will personally find you are happy to have on you while traveling and feeling below the weather.

Overall, you want to treat your body like the temple it is, especially when traveling because you will often find yourself not sleeping normal hours, sleeping lighter as you adjust to different time zones and different beds, and not exercising like you do when back home. Make sure you drink a lot of water and avoid other types of beverages. This will also save you money. Eat healthy and nutritious foods, and stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing.

I’ve found all these things save me a lot of wasted time and wasted money when I am traveling. Be prepared and keep your body a priority, so that you can continue your travels smoother, cheaper, and for longer periods of time. 

8. Take Local Transportation / Walk

Whether you are traveling in NYC or in Tanzania, taking local transportation usually ends up being far cheaper when getting around. A subway ride in NYC is now about $3, and will usually get you to your destination in half the time than a cab or uber, which cost far more especially during rush hours. The same is true of most public transportation systems around the world. 

If a country has a metro system than I highly encourage learning and using the system, which is often quite easy to do, and if for some reason you end up confused or lost, as I have many times, all you have to do is ask one of the locals around you for help. Most people have no problem giving you directions, pointing you in the right way, or even walking with you to where you need to go to make sure you are back on track. 

Walking is an obvious way to save money, but I’m always shocked at how many people avoid walking when in new places because they are worried about getting lost. Walking is a fantastic way to find hidden treasures, see amazing things, and save a ton of money. One of my favorite ways to acclimate to a new place is to put on my running shoes, go for a run, and get lost. You can easily backtrack your steps, or turn on google maps whenever you decide it’s time to head back to where you are staying.

I also highly suggest finding out if a country has public transportation to and from whatever airport you are using, as these rides will almost always be the ones you save the most money on. A ride on the public bus from Istanbul to the Airport is 18 Lira or about $1.50, but a taxi can cost you anywhere from $15 dollars and up depending on where you are coming from. 

Not only will you save a ton of money using these systems, but you will also get more of a local experience as you ride in a Matatu, a crowded bus with 30 Kenyan men and women, or sit on a tram in Amsterdam. There is something very humbling about being amongst the local people, and the interactions you find yourself having will sit with you forever, and make a lasting positive impression on you.

9. Get a Local SIM card

While many service providers now a days have international plans or a set amount that you can use your phone while abroad, you will actually save a ton of money by buying a local SIM card. You can find these at local service providers while in the airport, and usually close to where you are staying. You will spend closer to $20 dollars for a week of using your phone instead of $70, and more often than not, I am able to go even longer than I realize with the local data I end up buying.

I switched over to Verizon from Sprint in the US because I wanted to be able to easily switch out SIM cards, and Verizon keeps their phones unlocked, so before you travel abroad look into if your phone is locked or not. 

Another pro tip is to freeze your service while traveling abroad, which is super easy to do and will save you a lot of money, especially if traveling for longer periods of time.

It is inevitable that you will be using your phone, so make it work with your budget not against it.

10. Say Hello To New People / Make Local Friends

Whenever I get to a new place, I find myself slightly overwhelmed because everything is new, and as I’ve said before, I don’t do a ton of planning. However, something I always force myself to do is suck up my pride, nerves, and fear, and say hello to new people. Whether it is strangers in my hostel, who are also traveling, or locals at a bar or cafe, I fore myself to say hello, and ultimately make new friends because this is where you will always find the most value out of your travels.

Not only will you walk away with incredible new friends, fresh perspectives on life, and a ton of new understandings, but you will get the scoop on where you are. Other travelers will often have incredible tips and tricks to save money in whatever place you find yourself in, and locals know all the ins and outs of their home city or town.  

I consider myself an extrovert, I actually scored a 100% extrovert once when I took the Myer Briggs personality test, but I still get shy around new people as we all do. The unknown is scary, but as every experience has shown me, the more I get out of my own way, and do the things that scare me, the more I find everything I was looking for on the other side, so smile and say hello to new people wherever you go. 

11. Wash Your Own Clothes

This is something that most people overlook, but one that saves me time and money everywhere I go. Washing your own clothes whether it be at a local laundromat or in the sink at wherever you are staying will save you money. 

I always travel will a very long piece of sturdy string, it’s actually plastic string I recycled from when I was in Thailand and doing humanitarian work with elephants, so it even has sentimental value attached to it, and makes me smile every time I whip it out to hang my laundry up.

Make sure you carry something like Dr. Bronners natural soap with you, as you can use this for everything from washing your hair and body to doing your laundry with just a small amount of it. I will even use the shampoo or body wash I find in a hotel if I am in a pinch.

Being able to wash anything anywhere is something I have found to be super helpful when traveling all over the world. It’s also super fun to set up a clothing line and dry your clothes in you room when traveling as it adds a touch of home, which is always a comforting feeling.

12. Travel For Longer Amounts of Time

I know this tip sounds like the complete opposite of making your traveling cheaper, but when you give yourself more time to travel, you actually will be able to hit more places at once, which is cheaper than going back home and saving up for your next adventure.

If you follow all the other tips listed here, you will find that traveling in general isn’t as expensive as you may think, which means you can stay away a bit longer. Even if adding just an extra week onto your travel time, you will be able to save so much money on flights, which I have always found to be the most expensive thing when it comes to traveling. 

Side note: You should 100% get yourself a credit card that is linked to one of the big airlines, which will give you miles to fly every time you use it. Be responsible with this credit card, as the last thing you want to do is end up in thousands of dollars in credit card debt. But if we are being honest, when I was 19 years old and studying abroad in Paris, I put myself $5000 in credit card debt. It was an experience I knew I not only wanted, but needed as I have never been outside of the country before, and what better time to be abroad then when you are in school? You actually have far less responsibilities when you study abroad, and the debt I found myself in was definitely stressful at 22 when I was graduating from college, which was stacked on top of my student debt, but after years of hard work and paying it off, I can fully look back and say it was beyond worth every cent. 


Once you get to a new continent travel instantly becomes far less expensive because you are traveling shorter distances. I’ve taken night buses in South East Asia for $5, which means you avoid needing a room for a night and you wake up in a new city. I’ve found a last minute flight from Paris to Stockholm for $0, yes you read that right, $0. All I had to pay was just $14 in taxes. 

The amazing thing is this isn’t rocket science. I by no means am the best traveler or planner. I often wait till a day or two before deciding where to go next, but thanks to apps like Rome2Rio, SkyScanner, and blahblahcar, traveling around the world is made super easy and simple. I highly recommend downloading these apps, they will save you serious money, and keep you wanderlusting far longer than you could ever imagine.

Remember every cent counts, so be flexible, don’t have a super strict plan, and give yourself time. I can’t stress how many people tell me they wish they could do what I do, but the honest truth is, anyone can do what I do. You just have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone, and get creative when it comes to traveling.

I know this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but for anyone who wants to get the most for their money, travel more, and meet incredible people, these tips will unlock new adventures and set your soul free in ways that will change how you look at the world and yourself. Don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t let money be an excuse, and go, go now because the world is changing faster than we can control it. Our earth is truly a magical place, and the more you see of her, the more you will want to help protect her and our fellow human inhabitants.

Happy exploring my gorgeous human beings. I can’t wait to hear how far you go, and how much you see, so remember to share your tips with me here, and lets keep the adventure going. Anddddddd most importantly, don’t forget to hike your own hike!

Much Love,

Barrett

Posted on October 22, 2018 .
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Mt. Kilimanjaro: Why I Had To Hike To Africa's Highest Point

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The dust has settled metaphorically, and physically it has been washed off after a week of one of the most demanding experiences of my life. I’ve said goodbye to all ten of my newly found tribe members, and I am once again left solo in a country that was once foreign, but now holds an incredibly momentous moment in my existence. 

Tanzania is a country I had never thought of traveling to. I had never dreamt of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free standing mountain that stands at 19,341 ft / 5,895 m tall. I didn’t know where it was, how tall it was, or what it would entail, but when a friend mentioned it to me, which then lead me to mention it to another friend, I found myself standing at the base of Africa’s highest point less than 36 hours later.

If you had asked me why I decided to climb one of the world’s largest volcanoes that takes you through 5 different climates in the matter of a few days, I wouldn’t have had an answer for you. To be honest, up until this point right now, while writing this piece, I don’t think I fully knew why I decided to push my body, mind, and soul through one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. What I do know is that I told the universe what I wanted, and it delivered, as it always does, so I said yes to life, and ultimately this adventure.

As I slowly begin to process the incredible feat I have just accomplished, my subconscious thoughts are summiting their way to my consciousness, and my hike’s ultimate purpose is becoming clearer than the cloudless blue skies that I saw at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. As I often realize, the journeys I find myself on are less about what I see, but who I meet along the way, and this adventure proves no different.

When I quieted the excuses as to why I couldn’t take part in this adventure, and agreed to go on this once in a lifetime experience, I didn’t know any one of the ten human beings that I would end up sharing the next week with. However, as we hiked, ate, slept, and shared a poop tent together, I began to understand why the universe brought me to this transformative mountain, where the element of fire would push me to proliferate a metamorphosis of my ambitions, dreams, and desires. 

Kris, Ben, Jeff, Jon, Emily, Erin, Sierra, Hollis, Dani, and Adam are names that may mean nothing to you, but to me they represent people that will forever be a part of my journey, and who woke me up from a long dream come true. In getting to know these ten extraordinary people, I found myself sharing my story, listening to theirs, and in more ways than they will ever know, discovering truths about myself that I don’t know I would have admitted to myself, if it had not been for our time together.

Each one of these superheroes acted as a mirror; forced me to look deep within myself; and realize that I have recently been coasting in life. Writing this down, and knowing that my intentions are to share this publicly, forces me into a level of accountability that I have not felt in a very long time, and quite frankly, scares me. However, I know I must say this for my own peace of mind, and because I know so many of you will relate to what I am about to say.

I am not as happy as I want to be, or at least I wasn’t.

Over the past few years, I have found myself living out my dream, but I now understand my dream, all dreams should, has evolved, and what I thought I once wanted is not necessarily what I now want. I’ve achieved the dream of living a life that is free of most restrictions and allows me to be beyond independent. I’ve created something from scratch that is purely mine and facilitates a lifestyle I have always wanted. I’ve made incredible friends around the world, who I can say are my family. I’ve done away with false notions of security, and have matured into an adult that understands how insane it is to think we are ever fully secure, especially because of money. Conversely, I have finally found myself in the most comfortable place I have ever been financially, and while it alleviates more stress than I frequently allow myself to process, it’s created a dangerous comfort zone where a lack of growth is present.

 

As someone who grew up in a family that was evicted from every family home we ever lived in, I say this with complete gratitude and appreciation for the position I now find myself in, because I truly know what it is like on the opposite side. However, Africa as a whole, has been beyond humbling in a way that I could have never imagined. I’ve never been so aware of my own skin color, my privilege, and my gender. I’ve been aware of these things, but Africa has truly pushed me outside of myself to see myself, and further recognize certain things I often don’t have to think about because of where I live, and the privileges that innately are gifted upon someone who is white in a first world country, especially white men. I’ve said this a lot over the past two years, but I think a lot of gay white men forget that we are still white men, and how much privilege comes along with those other two identifiers. Yes, we still have plenty of hate, discrimination, and unjust behavior directed towards us, but I don’t think enough of us understand how much harder it is once you remove the white or male card.

This experience, and seeing everything from the lavish night life of Nairobi to going inside the largest slum in Africa, Kibera, with an incredible local Kenyan woman who lives there with her 6 children, niece and nephew has been beyond humbling, and has facilitated some essential epiphanies. 

I’ve always subconsciously knew I needed to visit Africa, but since my 800 mile hike along the PCT, I’ve felt a conscious burning need to make my way to here. From the expats to the locals, every person I’ve met in Africa has forced me to look deep at my own narrative, and question who I am, who I tell myself I am, and who I want to be. It’s a process I was not fully prepared to marinate in, but one that I know I must move polé polé (slowly slowly in Swahili) through with the utmost intentions as I continue this new decade of life. 

And it is exactly this concept of intention that has become even more profound and prolific in understanding the next step in my life’s plan. I no longer feel like a kid, who has no idea what they want, and where they are going. Yet, I am more aware now than ever that being an adult doesn’t mean the adventures have to stop, and that I have to “grow up.” 

Because what does it even mean to grow up? 

Rather than grow up, I’d rather evolve up, and take what I’ve learned thus far to enhance the next chapter of life. I no longer feel unsure about the things I fundamentally want, and I refuse to apologize for finally finding my confidence in who I am, speaking my truth, and continuing to spread a message of love, peace, and questioning the authority that many of us have been fed when it comes to western culture. Over the past few years, I’ve traveled deeper into the world, and thus my own identity, which means I’ve been forced to question notions surrounding what it means to be gay, or as I now prefer to say, queer, as I believe this is far more encompassing.

For a long time I’ve felt detached from the partying side of gay culture, and after dancing the night away in Madrid at Pride, which was an incredible experience, but reminded me that I’ve outgrown the need to see and be seen. I actually rearranged my travel plans to skip other Prides and festivals as I wanted to experience cities in their truest sense, not for special occasions that are specific to one weekend. This doesn’t mean that I won’t partake in festivities around the world, but it does mean that any sense of fomo I’ve been carrying around since I was a bullied kid, and left out when it came to making Friday night plans, has been exfoliated off of my truest truth. It is a slightly overwhelming feeling, but one that also feels beyond freeing.

I’d rather trade in late nights, circuit parties, and traveling to the same destination over and over with the same gay crowds for my person, who is also ready to venture to other parts of the world, where we will be forced into culture shocks that electrify our souls in the most important of ways. I’d rather trade in another photo of myself on social media for a picture of something else that makes my heart explode with joy and passion, but receives less likes. And as I recognize this in myself, I want it to be clear that I am not judging anyone who wants things differently than me, I’ve just finally come to feel ready, truly ready, more than I’ve ever been to be done dating, and find my one and only, and really start my life with someone else. I’m beyond ready to say goodnight to someone every night, and have that someone be the same person. I’m ready to sit in bed and discuss the little things, the big things, and the little things that become big things with my lobster. I’m ready to get married, and maybe be a parent, and give a little bugger a better life than the one I had while growing up. I’m ready to push my mental stimulation, and possibly go back to school, so I can better help the world evolve into the place I know it can be. I’m ready to learn again, and expand my thinking beyond the things I know I know, and find out more of what I don’t know. I’m ready for my 30’s, and what many people I’ve met have explained them to be. 

It’s wild to sit here and write this all down. It’s even more wild to fully process that the ten people on my trip triggered all of this in my thinking because I know they have no idea they have done this to me. It’’s overwhelming to understand these fundamental life shifts, and in many ways know I have to pursue them without any guarantee of achieving these goals, but the idea of working really fucking hard to make them happen is exciting, and if the next 30 years of my life are anything like the past 30 in terms of growth, understanding, and spiritual awakenings than I say, “bring it on.”

In this one week, I’ve seen a grown man in the fetal position look like he was about to die, but push himself to the top of one of the world’s highest peaks because he so badly wanted the “Roof of Africa.” I’ve seen a couple smile and make each other laugh like it was their first time meeting after 12 years together while stuck in a tiny tent and having their bodies betray them. I’ve seen a beautiful woman break free from an addiction she doesn’t have, but has to live with, to find if she is addicted to a love that she knows is unhealthy for her own life’s dreams. I’ve seen sisters share the shirts off their backs to make sure their common goal of reaching new heights and discovering new things about themselves was achieved. I’ve seen a grown man grin from ear to ear because of a heart felt note his beloved gave him to read when he made it to the summit because his girlfriend knew he would, and wanted him to know she wanted to be there for the next adventure. I’ve seen cousins get sicker than sick next to one another, but carry out a family tradition of drinking Sambuca at 19,341 ft in the air to carry out a family tradition. I’ve seen a man hike his own hike and make it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro on his own because that’s what he needed for his own journey. I’ve seen a 23 year old show maturity and leadership in a way that many people twice his age lack, so that he could be a positive role model and butt of jokes to lift some of the hardships that come from hiking Africa’s highest point. 

In this one week, I’ve seen every struggle I’ve had thus far, and the answers to why we all push our bodies, minds, and souls to new heights even when we don’t know why we are hiking. I’ve seen my past, my present, and my future, and I couldn’t be more grateful to know that life is continuing to be more perfect than I am often aware of. 

To me, Mt. Kilimanjaro was just some random thing that existed in the world before this week. However, as I sit in a barebones hotel room by myself with my laundry hanging up all around me because, as a child that grew up poor, I still can’t bring myself to pay the $10 it would have cost to have someone else do it, I am so supremely aware that I am moving into this next phase of life with more direction than I have ever had. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I found the reminders I will need as I journey through my 30’s while hiking the final 250 meters in elevation, and at my lowest point out of the entire week, a mantra that came out of nowhere and makes more sense than when I first started chanting it to myself, “I can. I am. I will.” I truly know more now than ever that these words will guide me and remind me that I can, I am, and I will achieve whatever I decide to in this next phase. 

If you’ve managed to make it to his final moment than I hope you too remember that you can, you are, and you will do whatever it is you dream of. Just remember it is going to take dedication, persistence, and letting go of every excuse you can think of to make your dreams become your reality. Lastly, to Kris, Ben, Jeff, Jon, Emily, Erin, Sierra, Hollis, Dani, and Adam I can’t thank you all enough for being yourselves and sharing your lowest lows and highest highs with me, it truly was an honor.

Posted on October 22, 2018 .
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Madison Square Park, NYC

Summer is here in NYC, and a park that often goes over looked, but should 100% be checked out this summer is Madison Square Park. With an interactive performance piece, sculptures, and views of the flatiron building, if you are visiting New York City this summer, make sure to check all of this out! Not to mention if you plan accordingly you'll have an amazing view of the sunset through the buildings.

Posted on May 31, 2018 .
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Lisbon, Portugal

One of the coolest capitals in Europe.

Lisbon has recently become a popular destination for travelers from all around the world and it’s no surprise why. Named one of the top 10 friendliest cities in the world, Lisbon is not only charming, rich with history, and full of cultural diversity, but also a great location if looking to venture to other parts of Portugal.

Think San Fransisco meets Barcelona, and that is Lisbon. Hills and and a breath-taking coastline dominate Lisboa, which create stunning views at all different parts of the city.

It’s easy to get lost in any number of the different neighborhoods that Lisbon has to offer as there is so much beauty and color encompassing this European city. 

I tend to be a last minute traveler, which means I don’t have a ton of time for researching where I’m going, so when I decided to embark on my 3 day journey to Lisbon, I knew I wanted to stay somewhere central and get to see as much of the city as possible.

Here is a breakdown of my trip.

Accommodation:

I stayed at Destination Lisbon Hostel, which is located in Rossio Train Station and about a 30 minute bus ride from Lisbon’s airport. The bus cost 4 Euros one way or 6 Euros if you buy a round trip ticket. Just make sure you check that your travel times fall in-between the operating times.

A lot of people have misconceptions about hostels, but places like Destination Lisbon put all those fears to rest. This perfectly located hostel is: full of cool people, a fully loaded kitchen that guest can use, an awesome breakfast that is included, eco-friendly showers, and a ton of group activities. 

My total stay for the 3 nights was $98, which for Europe is super cheap. There are a ton of other options if looking to do things on a tighter budget, but what you get, where you are located, and the activities offered make this place super worth it.

Eats:

I highly recommend wandering around Lisbon and just venturing into any little hole in the wall restaurant as the food is delicious, but definitely check out Time Out Market located two minutes from Cais do Sobré train station. This awesome market brought 5 of the best chefs in Lisbon together to give tourists and locals a taste of their incredible cuisine, but not break the bank.

Make sure you try Ginja in a chocolate shot cup, Cataplana de Marisco, and Bacalhau Fritters!

Scroll through my slide show above to see what I saw and get the vibe this city has to offer. Lisbon offered me a very welcomed culture shock of colors, patterns, and way of life. Remember never stop traveling!

Posted on November 7, 2017 .
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