Low Carb Dieting and Travel

Since the summer of 2012, I’ve been doing a low carb diet on and off. It’s the only diet that’s actually ever worked for me. My body is weird when it comes to losing weight, and can’t do it in a regular way (working out and eating healthy). I tried for years to do the normal method with no success, and finally found that the low carb lifestyle does wonders for me. Obviously, there’s many problems with it. For those who don’t know what it entails, you can read more about it here, but a basic overview of a keto or low carb diet is that you must keep your carb consumption to under 50 grams a day to allow your body to go into a state of ketosis, which is a fat burning mode.

This makes life a bit hard at times. Almost all the good food in the world is full of carbs. A single piece of bread can sometimes have over 50 grams of carbs in it, meaning you basically can’t have anything with wheat in it. The basic food groups you can eat are vegetables, cheese, eggs, meat and any low carb products you can get your hands on. Creating a meal plan can be easy, but get’s repetitive due to the lack of food choices. When I’m strictly on it (like right now), my day consists of eggs with cheese and meat in the morning, some cheese and veggies for lunch, an Atkins bar as a snack, and some kind of meat and veggies for dinner. It requires a lot of cooking and pre-planning out meals.

Which leads me to the topic of this post; Low carb dieting and travel. It is almost an impossible task. It’s tough to hop around or be out all day sightseeing when you are on a keto diet, because the food options are limited for someone who can’t eat carbs. Most of the food you can buy on-the-go, unfortunately is full of carbs. If you’re lucky, you can find a grocery store, but then you still have to be picky about what you buy. Many restaurants are not big fans of altering your order to make sure it’s low carb, especially in countries outside of America. America knows most of their citizens are on some kind of diet, which is why many menus now have low calorie or low carb options, but outside of the US, most places don’t care to cater to your weird demands about the food.

So how do you do a low carb diet while traveling? It’s all about pre-planning. It kind of sucks to have to worry about food when you’re trying to enjoy yourself on the road, but if you’re stuck to any food restrictions, whatever your diet consists of, you have to plan in advance so you’re not going off with nothing. If you’re staying in a hostel or Airbnb location with a kitchen, you can cook your own breakfast in the morning. Most breakfast or brunch places with have low carb options like eggs and meat, so that shouldn’t be hard to find. Lunch, dinner and snack time gets a bit harder. Before you leave, purchase some Atkins bars or other low carb snacks you like, and then pack them in your bag. It’ll be almost impossible to find these items in a local grocery store in a foreign country, especially when you don’t speak the language. If you are starving and find a store, buying a package of meat and cheese usually does the trick for me. Most places also have pre-packaged salads now too, which are good for on-the-go. For dinner, if you do want to splurge for a nice meal, finding a steak option is usually the best way to go, because often it will come with vegetables, which are safe items.

unnamed
A salad and a cup of tea or coffee are good on-the-go items for low carb travelers.

Do I wish it was easier to travel and diet at the same time? Yes, obviously. I wish I didn’t have to worry about my weight like so many people do, but I was put into the body I ended up in, and have to deal with that accordingly. For me, low carb is the only thing that works with my system, which means I’ll always have a harder time than those who can eat whatever they like and then work out for a bit to negate the calories. I’ll always struggle, and it’s not ideal, but I can cope. I know food is one of the great delicacies of traveling, and I hate to punish myself while abroad and not eat the wonderful and tasty foods of a new country, but for now, I figure this is for the best, and I hope other low carb or keto travelers can find this helpful for their own journeys.

Anyone have any dieting tips for travel? Let me know in the comments!

Advertisements

Adjusting to the London Expat Lifestyle

expat
As I sit here in my dorm room, sipping on my favorite drink, Rekorderlig Cider (definitely try it out if you’re in Europe), I am finally settling into my new home. I’ve finally accepted that London is where I live. It’s no longer a dream. Every day, seeing Big Ben or walking past thousands of tourists, is finally becoming just a common occurrence in my life. And this is what I wanted. Imagining myself living in London is what I spent most of my time thinking about.

Actually living here is another story. I’ve romanticized a lot about the United Kingdom, and upon arrival a few years ago, the little things that aren’t necessarily so perfect about this country definitely became apparent. I could start to understand why so many of the English people I spoke to wanted to move away and to America. I told them that America has its problems too. But that’s what everyone wants; the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But even seeing some imperfections in my imagined England, I didn’t get enough time to get scared away completely. And now I’m back (possibly permanently), and I’m starting to figure out my expatriate life here in London.

All the, “Hiyah’s,” “Cheers,” “You alright’s,” and “%@*~ off’s” I’ve heard constantly, paired with accents everywhere, shopping at Tesco and taking the Tube, I know that I’m starting to be fully immersed in what makes London, London. I’m settled into my home for the next 8 months, finally registered with a local doctor, wandered around my neighborhood, enjoyed some local entertainment, and got my student Oyster card. I’m feeling more and more like a real Londoner every day. I think the only thing that would make me feel even more like true resident would be living in an actual flat, rather than something owned by my university, as well as having a full-time job.

I’m starting to memorize which bus I take to get where, if it’s faster to walk or take the Underground, realizing that going out for a drink will be a rare occasion (due to the expense), and how I need to stop converting pounds to dollars in my head (or else start to freak out about how much money I’m spending). It’s strange to think that in less than a month, I’m starting to feel at home in this gigantic city. Homesickness has not kicked in yet, so I haven’t had to deal with that yet, so in the meantime, I am going to enjoy myself.

As a bonus to this post, I’ve decided to post three (plus 1) apps every American expat in London needs:

1. Hola

Hola is an extension for the Google Chrome browser, and is a lifesaver for when you just have to watch your American shows on Netflix or Hulu. While Netflix does work abroad, the selections are different, and sometimes you just want to watch something familiar. Download this lifesaving app, and you’ll be watching everything you love again, and you can easily switch back to UK websites if you want to watch the BBC iPlayer again.

2. Citymapper

London is a complicated city to get around when you’re a newbie (and even if you’ve lived here for awhile). Citymapper will get you out of a tight jam, especially when you’re too nervous to ask for directions. Just plug in where you want to go, and it will give you the quickest routes, how much it costs, how many calories you’ll burn if you walk there, and transfers you need to take. I currently owe my life to this app.

3. BBC News

London is a major capitol of the world, and it’s really good to know whats going on, especially in such an international city. The BBC news app not only covers national news, but news from all over the world. If you turn on notifications, it will let you know when huge events take place, and that way you’ll always be in the know when something big occurs.

4. Couple (bonus)

I am currently in a long-distance relationship, and this app has been wonderful. You connect with your partner, and only you and them can chat. It shows you what time it is where they are, you can send photos in a Snapchat-like fashion, thumbkiss, draw with each other and send messages. It’s a really great one to use, especially if you’re in different countries and don’t want to use Facebook messenger to keep in touch.

Why Do We Need an Excuse to Travel?

excuse

I was having a lovely farewell coffee and chat with one of my good friends the other day, and we were talking about traveling, and she said she doesn’t think she’ll be going anywhere soon, because she needs an excuse to. That triggered me to wonder why we feel the need to have an excuse to leave our comfort zone and travel. We can’t go to London unless we’re visiting a friend there. We can’t go to New York City unless we’re on a business trip. We can’t go to Paris unless we’re on a honeymoon. Why is there this need to say that we can’t go somewhere unless we have an excuse?

I fit into this category too. After never taking any family trips as a kid, the only way I could finally get to Europe was when I studied abroad, which was an excuse my parents finally went along with. I only ended up going back the next two times because I won a contest. Since then, I haven’t gone anywhere. There’s been no excuse to until now; grad school pulled me back over to London, which I wasn’t able to do without it. And why is that, I wonder… Money. Money is what stops many of us from traveling without an excuse.

If we could all be trust fund babies or be given free trips all the time, we wouldn’t have to find an excuse to travel. We’d have unlimited resources to be able to explore the world. Money stops us from bypassing the excuse and making a trip happen. Not everyone can afford to buy plane tickets or stay in resorts. It’s easier to use the fact that you have a friend or family member living in another country to give you the drive to go visit them. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many of us poorer souls.

So, how do we overcome this? We have to start putting ourselves into a mindset that we don’t need to have a reason to travel. The reason is that you want to explore a part of the world and you should go do that. Yes, money sucks and we don’t all have enough of it to go make travel a part of our realities. But people do it anyways, and that’s what’s amazing to me. There are people who bought a one-way plane ticket and hitchhiked their way across Europe or Asia, doing odd jobs and not caring that they were broke. It’s possible, and I hope to put aside my fear on the issue and travel this way as well. So I challenge you to get rid of the excuses and reasons you need to be able to go, and to just go!

Fall Fashion Trends I’m Loving

My closest friends know that I wait all year until it’s fall fashion season once again. Who doesn’t love the comfy, stylish look that the autumn brings? This year, there are some very sexy trends coming up that I am so excited to wear. I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.46.16 PM

I can’t wait until it is cold enough outside to wear my thigh-high socks. I think wearing these over tights, paired with boots, is super sexy and shows off the leg in a gorgeous way.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.50.25 PM

Large cardigans and kimonos are making their way in at the end of the summer, and right in time for the chiller weather to pair them with. They’re cute and actually keep you warm.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.53.26 PM

I think I got on the smoking slipper bandwagon before a lot of people, and I’m glad, because they are adorable shoes, and look great paired with a rolled up skinny jean.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 9.00.09 PM

Burnt orange, mustard, purple and oxblood are beautiful colors, and usually only appropriate in the fall, which is lucky for me, because I get to wear them again!

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 8.55.50 PM

I didn’t used to be a fan of this type of shoe, but now I can’t get enough of them! They are very versatile and can be used for everyday wear, as well as for going out at night.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 9.02.59 PM

Backpacks were never my thing, and over the years, my taste in messenger bag has evolved to this lovely brown, leather-look that the recent bags have. They look good with every outfit.

What are your favorite fashion trends for this fall?

Tips for Starting a Travel Blog

travelblogtips

Blogging is a beautiful form of communication. It allows you to write, post photos and links, as well as tell stories in a short format that people like to read. There are news, lifestyle, food, fashion and political blogs, but a type of blog that seems to be popping up even faster than the others is the wide-covering travel blog, that is an umbrella term for anything one wishes to blog about, while traveling. Many study abroad students create a blog to write about their adventures and let their friends and family know what’s going on while they are away. Some are started as a way to inspire themselves to travel more, and some people just have so many tips already that they just want to share them with the world. Any type you are, starting a travel blog isn’t hard, and here are a few tips to create a eye-catching blog that people will really be excited to read.

Research a blogging platform

I used all the major blogging platforms before I finally decided to stick with WordPress. Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress are all great sites to upload your writing and photos to. Test out each of them, and see which has the features you need to create your content. Make sure you like the one you choose though, because transferring posts to a different is a task that is a bit more advanced, but is doable if you decide you’d rather use something else.

Invest time or money in a good design

If you have Photoshop or any sort of design talent, taking time to create a logo and layout will make you stand out from the crowd of generic blogs. If you don’t know how to do design, googling tutorials is a good place to start. Or, if you have some extra cash and want to have someone else do it for you, there are many designers you can find through Etsy and other freelancer websites who will help you make the best blog you can imagine. The prettier your blog looks, the more likely people will want to keep coming back to read your content.

Stay consistent with posts

No one likes to read an inactive blog. It’s much nicer for subscribers to get continuous content, which will also lead to loyal readers who come back for more. Posting once a month is not enough nowadays. If you want to stay up to date, you truly have to be posting at least a few times a week. It might seem like there isn’t enough going on in your life or your travels to create new content that often, but brainstorming new posts, posting about things happening in your local area or giving helpful tips will keep your blog fresh.

Switch it up

In keeping with the last tip, keeping your blog fresh is important. A travel blog can be an online diary of your day-to-day life abroad, but the formula of “Today I went to a castle, and then I did this, and then I did this and here is a picture of this…” will get very old, very fast. The people who care about you who read your blog might be interested, but if you want a wider audience of readers, you’ll want to be posting something a little different in-between the journaling and give some life to your content. Instead of a “Here’s what I did today,” post, something like, “Things I Learned About Greece,” are more fun to read.

Reach out to other bloggers

A lot of us travel bloggers are very happy to help out newbies in this realm (since we all started at some point). Email a blogger you’ve been following and ask for advice or a possible shout out to drive some traffic over to your site. We really do want to help, and are usually fine with giving out some tips. The blogging community is wonderful, friendly and always ready to meet new travelers who we can collaborate with.

Find a writing space

My go to place to write is Starbucks. The internet is free, and it takes me out of my comfort zone of my own house, which means I can’t just lay there and watch Netflix, I have to look productive! Maybe a good place for you is your room, but sometimes getting out of the norm can help with inspiration, and ambiance noise can be good for keeping your mind on your work. A coffee shop, a library, a train ride or a park are all nice locations to put your mind on your writing and creating.

Do what feels right

Your blog is really all about you, so post whatever you want and will make you happy. If you are a creative writer, make your posts all fiction. If you are a journalist, write in a news-like style. If you are a photographer and don’t like to write, just post photos. Your blog is your place to put the content you feel proud of sharing. Find a niche that works for you and go with it! And good luck new travel blogger. It’s a big world of adventurous websites, but with fun, unique content, you can definitely stand out from the crowd!

Packing for Grad School (video)

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last week! I’ve been pretty busy and not around consistent internet. But I am now at home for a few days and thought I’d make a short video showing what is going into my suitcases when I leave for London in two and a half weeks! Check out the video above and comment below letting me know what you always pack for a trip!

Budgeting for Grad School

When budgeting for studying abroad, it can be a task, because it’s really impossible to know how much you’ll be spending until you arrive. Thankfully I had an idea of what I’ll want to be spending my money on, after being over there already a few years ago. But this time will be a bit different because my program lasts a year, and I’m not 100% sure what I’ll be doing come next May and June. My program is strange in the way that I have no classes during May through September, which means I can work on my MA dissertation from anywhere. If I want to stay in London, I can. If I want to go live in Paris for the summer, I totally could. If I want to even move back to America and finish it from afar, that’s an option too. I don’t have to decide right now, but I want to take that into consideration when budgeting.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 3.22.28 PM

As you can see from my messy Excel spreadsheet above, I have tentatively tried to figure out some different options I can go for when it comes to what I will do after 9 months or a year. But if I ignore all that and get down to the bare basics, I’ve split up my money into months, weeks and even days. It’s the best way to kind of track where your money will go for the things you need the most. Some of the bigger things like tuition (which thankfully is all paid for thanks to a scholarship) or housing I keep separate, since those are big payments that will come out in a larger amount during different periods. The monthly, weekly and daily expenses are what I want to focus on in a smaller sense.

Food, Clothing, Phone, Transportation, Medicine, Travel and Etc., are the major categories I wanted to put down to track where the money will go. Food is super important. You need it to survive. I budgeted fairly low for this (knowing how expensive London is) mostly because I know I will be making a lot of my own food in my dorm kitchen. I want to eat healthier and really only spend my food money on coffee and occasional dinners out with friends. I am a shopaholic, so I had to put a clothing budget down, because I will be frequenting Primark a lot and I’m sure at some point I’ll get sick of it, but it will happen. I will obviously need a communication device in London, but will need the data more than the minutes and texting, so I wanted to keep it under $50 a month.

Transport with the Oyster Card will put me back a bit a month, but it’s cheaper than owning a car, and the student discount on it is very nice. I know I’ll be walking a lot, but I love the Tube! I heard most healthcare is free in the UK, so I won’t be worried too much about paying for medications, but I budgeting it in, just in case. And travel is a very large part of the budget for me because I know I’ll be spending most of my weekends on the road. The etc. category is really just for cases when I need extra stuff or go over on other aspects of the budget. I’m going to try my hardest to make sure I live within my means, but I want some room for the random things that might happen while I’m exploring Europe.

If anyone needs any help or advice with their budget, let me know! And I’d love to hear any tips others might have on how they prioritize their budgets and money matters! Happy saving my fellow wanderlusters!

I worked in an airport cafe for two weeks and here’s what I learned…

Last August, after struggling to find a job all summer, I finally got a barista job at a small airport near my university. I had previously been a barista at a cafe in my hometown and I loved making coffee drinks and meeting interesting people. I had hoped working in an airport would lead to even more run-ins with people traveling through, but instead, I got a few life lessons on the reality of how raw people become when they are faced with the stress of flying.

  1. Travelers can be vicious/Don’t direct anger towards service people.
    Just think about it; You arrive for your flight after leaving the comfort of your home. You get to the airport with your heavy bag and then have to wait through a really long line just to get your ticket and check your bag. You find out your flight has been delayed or that your bag was too heavy and you either had to take stuff out or pay extra to keep it all with you. All this anger starts bubbling up, and instead of keeping it inside, you decide to get angry at the person serving you food and drinks. Travel problems can bring out the worst in people, and unfortunately, a lot of people still treat anyone behind a register or serving them as the lowest rank of human, which isn’t fair, but it happens. But don’t do this. The people getting paid to deal with your unpleasantness don’t need your anger to add to their already stressful day. Get mad at the people running the airport, or anyone else other than the people behind the counter just trying to feed you.
  2. Assuming everyone knows what you’re saying/Use local jargon.
    Many Canadians came through the airport I worked at, because Bellingham is right near the border. Canadians get a bad rap for “being rude,” but there’s rude people of every nationality*. It making complicated change from Canadian currency that bothered me, or maybe even that “rude” nature that Americans like to complain about, but the jargon used by some that got frustrating. In Canada, a “double double,” means a drip coffee with two sugar and two creamer packets. Before that job, I had never heard of that before, so when I got a barrage of people asking for that drink, I ended up looking like the stupid one, because we don’t call it that in America. The customers looked at me like I was an idiot for not knowing. My solution to this (other than learning some Canadian words quickly to avoid more insults), is that if you are abroad, especially in an airport, where there is a menu board to look at, please order from there and use the local words for the drink you like, rather than being rude when a server doesn’t understand what you mean.
  3. Knowledgeable travel guide/Go to an info desk.
    I am not a map of Bellingham. I didn’t take the cab driver test you have to take to do to drive a taxi and know exactly where everything is. By asking a server exactly where a hotel is, or treating them like a travel guide, you’re, again, putting them into this situation of dealing with you in a way they weren’t prepared for, and in turn, makes them look idiotic for not knowing the street the nearest Best Western is on. In a lot of cases, the people who work at an airport, don’t even necessarily live in the area they are working, and can’t name off a bunch of tourist attractions without sounding repetitive when naming off the big ones. Service people are not your unofficial travel guide, they are minimum wage workers who will get crappy tips (because most foreigners don’t tip) and won’t know how to direct you to an area. You can’t expect them to memorize a map or list of brunch places just to please you. Most airports have an area with a bunch of brochures or even a desk with someone to help you with navigating around town, but using a barista as a guide who actually can’t help you is yet another traveler thing that’s so entitled.

In the end, I only ended up working there for two weeks because I went through a breakup and needed to get out of Bellingham and moved to Los Angeles. I am glad I got to see the reality of working in an airport, and even was turned on to a show called “Come Fly with Me,” which is a BBC sketch comedy, showing the ins and outs of airport life. Two weeks was enough for me though, and the moral of this story is to just always be kind to service workers! Be courteous and respectful as a traveler and never treat anyone (especially workers) as if they’re below you. Traveling is stressful, but a positive attitude and adaptable spirit will make you a good explorer.

*I swear I have NOTHING against Canadians! Bellingham just happens to be full of them though because we are 20 minutes from the border and a hour from Vancouver.

English Breakfast for One (On Traveling Alone)

I think one of the strangest things people ask me when they inquire about my journey to grad school, is if I am going with friends. “No… I am going alone…” is always my answer, to which they always act surprised and almost confused at how a young woman could go to another country by herself, without anyone to accompany her. Well, as an introvert, as well as someone who can’t keep waiting around for a “friend” to join me on an adventure, I am actually completely fine with traveling alone.

There’s some sort of stigma surrounding people going away alone. It’s assumed that we’re loners or unfriendly or something of that nature. But in reality, how long can we wait to be lucky enough to find someone who actually wants to go to the same location as us, at the same time, and can actually afford to go as well? Yes, I have a lot of friends, I have a lot of friends who want to travel, and I also share the same locational dreams as many of my friends, but there comes a certain point where I can talk all I want with these amazing people about our travel dreams, but I have to actually make it happen, whether it includes them or not.

Not everyone can afford to go on an extended trip or wants to study abroad, so in these cases, then it comes down to traveling alone, and there is nothing wrong with that. Seriously, there isn’t. Perhaps for the more extroverted personalities, the thought of venturing off alone is too terrifying, but it’s really not scary at all. When I studied abroad in 2011, I went over alone, but made friends fast and it didn’t matter that I had no one to share a flight with, because even as a shy person, I connected with other exchange students immediately, as we were all in the same, nervous, emotional-about-leaving-home, group.

All of my favorite adventures have actually taken place when I traveled solo. Not to say I don’t enjoy a friend or two to go with, but in my own wanderings and explorations, I’ve not only cliche-ly learned more about myself as a person, but I could go at my own pace and enjoy things without worrying about having to deal with someone else. I am a people pleaser. I go out of my way to make other people happy and keep the peace. In turn, if I am with other people, I usually end up putting their wishes and priorities over mine, and it makes the trip less fun for me. Being alone means pleasing only myself and being content with the choices I make on my journey.

I’ve always been that person who is too afraid of eating at a restaurant alone. What if people think I’m a freak? Any true FRIENDS fan will remember the episode where Rachel Greene takes herself out on dates, and how it backfires when a guy she likes sees her out alone and doesn’t call her again because, to him, it’s strange for a woman to eat alone at a restaurant.

Normally, for me, it feels embarrassing to go out by myself to a place typically frequented by couples and groups of friends. But for some reason, there’s something about being anonymous in a city in a foreign country that takes that fear out of me. Why would I miss out on eating at a place I’ve wanted to try just because I am on my own? I got a full English breakfast at Speedy’s Cafe in London (the location used to film 221B Baker Street on BBC’s Sherlock), and I wasn’t going to let my single status stop me from going in there and getting myself some food. And it was lovely. I could sit and enjoy my meal and the surroundings, and if I had been too afraid to do that, I would’ve missed out on a nerdy tourist opportunity.

So don’t let the fact that you are a solo traveler stop you from enjoying an English breakfast somewhere. But more importantly, don’t let the fact that you are traveling alone stop you from taking that trek across Europe, or studying abroad in that unique program in Thailand. People are important, but your dreams and ambitions need to be more important, even if people aren’t involved in them. If your friend can’t afford to study abroad with you in Italy, still go without them. You will not be lonely, you will make new friends, and you won’t miss out on creating fantastic memories.