Thanks for stopping by! Here on BECOMING LOLA I share stories on becoming minimalist, as well as living a pure clean life as a style-obsessed digital nomad with a no BS approach to ethical fashion + travel. Grab a glass of wine and start here: Building A Minimalist Wardrobe.


how can I travel the world on a budget solo

What do you want to be when you grow up little Jane? Jane said HAPPY.

You know what I found myself doing yesterday? Searching google hardcore for a solid twenty minutes tracking down something I absolutely had to have that moment after seeing it by way of TV. Was it a bird, a No, it was the new Katie Couric produced documentary titled Fed Up which was all too fitting since fed up is my perpetual state of being these days after watching one too many documentaries this month that had me questioning - "What the friggin hell is wrong with this country??" No one knows what's in their food yet they're incomparably obsessed with dieting and looking like Gwenyth Paltrow. Companies secretly take out life insurance policies on employees to make a profit off of death, like, the company you work at right now is doing it. Speaking of insurance, health insurance here is a joke and the fact that it took 65 years to progress only an inch is so laughable it's not even funny. We're bored, depressed, fat, envious, and a slave to devices with bright loud sensory overload like a newborn is to a mobile in their crib. Life here is to go to school 9-5, get a 9-5 job, swindle our way out of school debt to buy a mortgage and a car and afford to have kids that we will raise and train to do the same 9-5 grind. Vacations if we're lucky, health costs covered if we're fortunate, and happiness...well. And no questions this systematic tradition. We're American after all, this is the best country right! So yeah, nomad travel for free is in my future again. Period. Where does that leave me? Well, packing my bags to finish what I started last year with my RTW solo trip. Traveling around the world. For free. As minimalist as possible. 

Why now? Is it giving up? How can it be free? Don't I have responsibilities? Am I, cough cough, privileged? Yeah if you call living below the government-officiated poverty line in a 600 square foot apartment eating carcinogenic packaged foods a privilege! How funny then, that I can trade "poverty" in my own country for laying out in a hammock on the beach, indulging in unfathomably delectable gourmet food, releasing baby turtles into the woods, or taking a solo stress-free cruise down the Duoro river only to be dropped off onto dry land where the world's best Porto wine awaits my supple lips. Yeah, that was my summer last year. What was yours? I tease, I tease. It's your turn! It's easier than you think, truly. The hardest part is social constraints and the barriers of judgment.

Let's be real here. I'm not cut out to rant and complain for days on end. As a woman, especially a woman of color, there is a propagated notion that complaining is all we do. Bitching about shit that has potential to be changed is not in my DNA. Stagnant life? Try something new. Dead-end job? Start a location independent business like I did. Bored to death due to a lackluster, inauthentic, big city social life? Make friends away from home. Have a bucket list? What the heck are you waiting for? Get a plane ticket and let's start this show. I'll do it with you. I PROMISE. But in all honesty, the real reason I simply cannot stay in New York, much less America anymore, is because the corrupt broken system bubbling over with subliminal messaging of be this race, this size, this profession, this wealthy, this has completely suffocated who I was just ten years ago. I need to discover the real me and my untouched passions. I don't have kids or sick elderly parents and that is the ONLY two reasons you should ever be held back from traveling the world. How do I know? Because last year I left my boyfriend who didn't believe this was true and had a middle class traditionally conservative family hovering over his thoughts. It was a deal breaker for me so I left him and everything I knew, as I refused to selfishly force him into my lifestyle. Hence solo travel. But now, after being begged to return home, and trying to exist in this abysmal society together this past winter made him realize it's not worth it. You're only young once. He came to me, wanted out, and gave a two weeks notice just a week later. Besides a chair and mattress, we've sold everything and booked tickets to Mexico with a final destination of Southeast Asia. So this is for my solo gals with major cojones or those who might be joined by unexpected companions - I did both. Excuses to not try something new is real, but it's not tangible. You know what's tangible? Exploring a country that American media paints as a communist third world country and discovering the people are some of the most lovely in the world (who so happen to enjoy universal healthcare). Seeing sunrises over caves in the middle of the ocean. Cooking a meal from food you've grown with your own two hands in the French countryside. This ain't no Eat Pray Love bull crap. Just do it. The problem is we have so much more freedom than many other humans can dare dream to fathom. We don't know what to do with it. How to cope with the fact that no one is demanding we stay in America, or work for the industry we got that expensive college degree in, or fulfill happiness independently. Minimalist travel is a good start. Here's how!

It's no surprise that I am on the “Hell Yes!” train when it comes to promoting stylish and exciting world travel. Obviously, fashionable photo ops in front of historic landmarks is a plus, but before you close your browser muttering, “What a materialistic wench!” let me be the first to establish that solo traveling is about more than an Instagram brag journal. Traveling can be packed with inspirational, life changing experiences. It can leave you with new friends and a deeper appreciation for other people's culture, beliefs, and values. As long as you let it. Most importantly, we need to rid ourselves from the idea that travel is just travel. This is not a vacation. I haven't actually ever had a job with paid vacations. Travel is a profound experience to try a new vocation, new cuisine, new language, or a new lifestyle altogether different from the one you're forcing yourself to live now. For those that utterly content and have no wanderlust, I still love you!

I find that being unprepared though, can be a huge determent to fully experiencing a new and uncharted place. Can you really enjoy the scenery when you are out of money, out of underwear, and stranded without a flying clue how to manage a simple collect call? Have no fear. Seriously, travel fearlessly! With a little bit of planning and a lot freaking guts, you can make it around the world with a smile on your face and a pair of panties around your rear.

Coming To Terms

There is a lot to be said about changing your life purely for planning a life-changing experience. Before extracting that roller luggage from the basement, a conversation needs to be had and life as you know it requires reduction. My exact advice to you is converse with kindred spirits. Again, the key word here is kindred. No haters, no naysayers, no parents for right now, and definitely not your besties who have never left the country. I tried that year after year and all it takes is other complacent people to inspire further complacency on your part. Join a travel forum. Ask questions on your instagram posts or Twitter. Write a blog post about these secret fantasies of yours. The PG-13 ones. It took my boyfriend six months...half a year! Sometimes that's what it takes, but in the end a conversation can have the power of a civil movement. So start. Feel it out, then see if it's right for you. Once it is, time to sell your crap! The legwork of listing things on eBay, fashion apps, and Craigslist is enough to make a girl wanna stay home. Don't allow room for excuses. Make an appointment right now for a donation pickup so you don't even have to leave the house. This step is huge because its on the books, someone is coming, and now its time to evaluate the state of your consumerism over the last few years. Give away what you don't need, save what can fit in two bags, and sell the rest. It goes by superbly quickly and efficiently if you do this chore room by room like a ritual. I started with my closet and instantly knew I had to donate every single piece of shit that wasn't worth the tiny real estate in my carryon luggage, along with pieces that didn't fit or were pragmatic for travel. My bathroom was brimming with crap I didn't need like flat irons that barely heat up anymore, ten kinds of face cleansers, I mean really. All that can see its way out the door and into a home that otherwise couldn't afford it. I then attended some swap parties, sold books to a used book store, packed a box of cant-part-with investment wardrobe pieces and sentiments to go to my family for storage, and devised a plan to eat my way through a stocked pantry. Voila!

Arranging Your Passport and Visas

So without further adieu, let's get down to business. First things first, get your ass to the nearest drugstore to get your passport photo. Seriously, don't leave this task until the last minute. There is nothing worse than having to reschedule all your awesome travel plans because you didn't factor in the processing time for your passports and visas. It is needless stress that will leave you in tears at the post office screaming, “BUT I LEAVE IN FOUR WEEKS!” I went through this, paid a hefty fee for expediting, and cannot allow myself to continue without begging you to learn from such a petty mistake. Passports take anywhere from 4-12 weeks, and cost about $130. Get yours now here. Like no joke, this is not for you to bookmark and do another time. I did that. Don't do that. You will miss your flight and try an Oscar winning performance to gain sympathy.

They don't give a crap.

Get it done.

Arranging visas is another excellent reason to sketch out your potential route. If you are planning a trip that is less than 30 days in any given country, you will more than likely not require a special visa. I am not the visa messenger, and I can only relay my own experience. So do your due diligence after mapping out a desired route. If you want my personal opinion, I live by the ethos of slow travel and free travel when possible. One way to accomplish both in a single swift is plan minimalist travel 90 days at a time. Most countries will take you in without purchasing a visa if you leave after 89 days, and you'll also absorb the locale instead of country hopping like frowned upon vacationing Americans stumbling onto many a promenade with fanny packs, hydration visors, and frothing map guides in tow.

I don't plan on going back to Europe right away, so I use this handy dandy visa wiki. Europe is a good start though, for my fellow bourgeois readers, so the Schengen Visa lets you into 25 European countries (including ALL of Western Europe), allowing you a total stay of 90 days in the applicable Schengen countries. These countries include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Exhaustive, I know. But it helps to be prepared.

Speaking of preparations, you are going to need money. Sorry love, things cost money, even when it's free. To put it bluntly: You are going to need a way to access your funds overseas should an emergency arise or you decide to ditch frugality and pig out on Parisian pastries after all. I would highly recommend a card that has a Visa or MasterCard logo to avoid any hassle of being rejected by certain international merchants. The real problem occurs when big box bank cards trap you with numbing fees to deter you reliably accessing your hard earned green. These fees include:
  • Foreign Currency Conversion Fees
  • Cash Advanced Fees
  • International Transaction Fees

It's robbery but you will have to deal. I personally use and recommend getting a local credit union account before leaving (I miss you Chase!) and signing up for the Walmart Money Card which is the only walmart item I own (raise your damn minimum wage guys!) because the fees are amazingly competitive.

Passport? Check!
Visa? Check!
Other important papers? What?

First of all, if you are a student, bring your student ID! There are student savings everywhere. Other papers might include:
  • Printed ticket confirmations
  • A small book with important numbers and hot line numbers for lost or stolen cards
  • Printed color copy of your passport

A general note about your passport: It is always a good idea to leave a color copy with a few trusted friends or family at home. God forbid something happens, you can have someone stateside with your information. If you really want to cover all your bases, it isn't a bad idea to look into travel insurance. Yes, that sounds totally uninspiring, but if you are prone to losing personal items or falling off mountains, this might not be a bad idea. Before purchasing travel insurance make sure to:

  • Read everything
  • Make sure you covered completely for medical transport
  • Understand how much you will actually be paying if you make a claim
  • Check for promotional codes or discounts

Don't be afraid to shop around for the best travel insurance quotes. After researching the pros and cons of travel insurance for weeks last year, I didn't find it necessary like many others don't and at the end of the day it was an extra expense for something when I don't even have health insurance in general. No matter how you cut it, you will be spending at least some cash on your trip. Based on my personal experience, your budget should be set up around how long you will be gone, what accommodations you are looking for, what meals you want to eat, and what transportation you are willing to take. To make it simple, you need to factor in how much it will cost to sleep, eat, play, and transport. I never plan on fancy meals because I value hole-in-the-wall local gems that are budget friendly and generally delicious. As a rule of thumb- if it is crowded with locals, it is probably worth a gander.

At this point you might be throwing your hands up in the air exclaiming, “But I just want to wing it!" And you can. Just remember, you need to do what is best for you PERSONALLY. I am a planner. I always have been. As a trained writer, research is my middle name. But these past few years has brought out the hippie in me and there are many pros and cons to winging your route. If you don't have solid plans, you can be up for anything. The con? Flights or travel might cost more closer to the date of purchase which I've seen happen to me time and again. Winging it will leave you with opportunities and stories. Planning your trip will leave you with awesome memories too. You just need to gauge your comfort level.

Budget Travel Route

Well this is short and sweet because its a pretty self explanatory hidden secret in the travel world. If you want to have a free trip around the world, you betta work!! Um, yes. Will work for food. Will work for travel. My sign is always on. How do I do it? Work exchange dolls. Its nothing new. I use a handful of websites to constantly stalk new unbelievable opportunities at places to volunteer doing everything from assisting a fashion designer start a new collection in LA to harvesting organic tea in Nepal to renovating future bed and breakfasts in Mexico or cooking Jamaican cuisine at a quaint eatery in the south of France. You heard right. So stop fretting over hostels and hotels and pitching tents from Home Depot. Purchase your ticket, save money for emergencies, and figure the rest out later. Let this mode of free travel open your eyes to what can be. This is how I have and will always determine my routes. I just go with the flow, choose something exciting, then compare which location has the cheapest plane, train or bus in a month's period. Simple. And just so you know, Mexico set me back just $263. I'll go into more detail on traveling for free with work exchanges in a new series called Workaway Wednesday where I curate amazing opps all over the world, share tips on how to get there cheaply then stay for free, all starting this week! If you want your specific questions answered, ask in the comments now or forever hold your peace.

A Minimalist Packing List

One thing you probably don't want to wing is your packing list. See dirty underwear. In seriousness, I am going to assume you know how to dress yourself. Obviously, dress for the weather. Second to that, pack some comfortable shoes. Other items might include: a small flashlight if you are staying amongst nature, anti-fungal cream (seriously, you never know), water bottle, and a journal. I'll be doing a minimalist travel packing list and travel gear guide later this week, but in the meantime help yourself to my method of madness from my first solo trip here.

And now here is the part where I get serious - my female readers need to always be careful when planning their accommodations and travels. Now don't get me wrong, men have some equally daunting worries when it comes to solo travel and I am all for the strong fearless female traveler, but you are just being plain stupid if you don't keep your wits about you. For example, the rules that applied to you at college frat parties still apply to European dance clubs. Don't leave your drink unattended or follow a guy outside to see something in his car/scooter/donkey cart. If you are a female solo traveler and want some added sleeping comfort, it isn't hard to find all female dorms at hostels or work exchange opportunities. Seriously, just use your common sense. It is a good idea to arrive in new cities during the day so you have plenty of time to get your bearings. If you feel uncomfortable, you can always duck into the nearest store to call the police or ask for help, should it come to that.

This post is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it offers you a good place to start. If you are thinking about a solo trip around the world, let me be the first to say, stop dreaming and go now. Reward yourself with enriching experiences, beautiful scenery, and a chance to meet other wonderfully and inspiring people.

The Mexican Fisherman Parable

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village.
An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
"Not very long," answered the Mexican.
"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, "But what do you do with all your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs...I have a full life."
The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!
You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.
Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant."
"You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."
"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.
"And after that?"
"Afterwards? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stock and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?"
"After that -- and this is the best part -- you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends!"

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