Browse Category by Inspiring Stuff
Inspiring Stuff, Travel, Trip Planning

The real truth about my budget for 5 months in Asia.

I’ve had to make a lot of arrangements for this trip. All the way from the bank, post office, and final utilities, to coordinating with friends and paying potentially-sketchy internet companies on the Internet to unlock my iPhone (I’ll let you know how it goes once I’m abroad).

This usually requires giving a little context about the situation. When you ask your doctor for sleeping pills, antibiotics, and 6 months of birth control, they tend to ask what you need it for lol 😛

My typical response is “I’m leaving to travel through Southeast Asia for five months“. As soon as the words leave my mouth, I usually get a “Ohhhh I wish I could afford to do that!” “Ohh, I’m so jealous! I could never do that.” It’s a nice warm and fuzzy feeling that you too could share!

SPOILER: It’s not that expensive.


Guys, let’s have a moment together here. As friends, I have to tell you – you can absolutely go travel if you want. If you take the time to put it together, you absolutely can. It’s scary. It’s sometimes rough. It’s occasionally unstable and stressful too. Beyond all that though, it’s simply the bees knees. If you’re one of the people who says “Oh I wish I could do X”…go do it!  Make a ‘it’s all FUBAR’ plan, and go do it. Take it slow and ask questions if you have them 🙂

You can even do it if you’re super out of shape and chubby like myself, and/or have terrible, debilitating thigh chafing!

The only way to make it happen is to take the plunge!

Thanks for listening. I want you to be able to achieve your dreams. I want to empower you, be straight with you, and maybe even inspire you. Seriously, no bullshit, if little po-dunk-no-degree-out-of-shape-Zoom can do it, you can too.

Returning to the Budget:

All of you know that I’m a pretty thrifty gal. I buy used clothes and items. I’ve had the shirt I’m wearing today for at least 4 years. I don’t [often] go out drinking. I invest in video games that keep me home. My roommate and I kept a good system for groceries and cooking so I rarely have to eat out. Just having a roommate cuts down on rent and other costs of living.

My roommate and me

This allows me to save a lot of money. I save my money like a dragon hoards gold. The curse of being a yard-saler (sailor?) … “maybe I should save my money for when I find something I really, really want.” Thanks mom for only giving me $2/week to spend at yard sales – save those quarters, girl!

Show me the numbers:

There were a lot of costs I paid ahead of time. This is my number one tip to you – pay as much as you can ahead of time. 

Everything I’ve already paid:

Grand Total of Pre-paid costs: about $1,400

I just want to note that my decision to quit my job and travel was well timed around tax return season. Large chunks of cash were incredibly helpful in allowing me to pull this off. Also, I sold almost everything I own which was a nice boost.

I’ll be leaving the states with about $4,500 in hand.

I’m not sure if that’s enough for 5 months in Southeast Asia or not.

I’ll focusing on cutting costs by getting two months free accommodation by working at a Cat Cafe in Vietnam and teaching English while in Thailand. I’ve also got plans up my sleeve to make money (more on that later). I tricked myself into saving some of this. Ultimately, you learn to live with what you’ve got so I think I’ll be fine!

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I think my top costs will be.

  1. Transportation
  2. Food
  3. Lodging
  4. Entertainment
  5. Visas and other paperwork fees
  6. Re-up on supplies – shampoo, stomach medicine etc.

Naturally, my thriftiness will continue to prevail abroad as well as stateside. I’ll be staying in hostels, couch surfing, and taking my time. Essentially, a lot of busses/trains, no trinkets/souvenirs, shoddy accommodations, and street food. Also, no A/C.

It’s going to be about 122 days. Typically, most people recommend $30/day for Southeast Asia. With $4,500 that will be about $36/day. We should be good!

My FUBAR plan is a credit card with a $2,500 limit on it.

No matter what happens, I’m going to be true to my rules of the road and tell myself it’s all going to be okay – and it will.

Do you have any money saving tips for travel gear or while traveling? I’m all ears!

If you’d like to join me on the adventure,

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xoxo <3

Inspiring Stuff, Travel, USA

Burner Family Reunion in Nevada

Welcome Home

My burner family..where do I start?

Family Dinner, with all the fixin’s

They are simply the best. They are my chosen family. I would say they are my adoptive family, but they adopted me, not I them. I can show them sides of myself I have to keep shamefully tucked away around my immediate relatives.

Since I’m currently in San Francisco, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take the 5 hour drive to visit them in Carson City, Nevada. Originally, I was going to take the Greyhound there but my friend Brian was heading there from the city too, he was nice enough to spare me that.

It turned out to be quite the adventure!

Off highway 50

We followed the highway to Lake Tahoe, it was beautiful! It was my first time visiting the lake, but it was long overdue. Peaceful, clear, and serene.

Once arriving at camp mom and dad’s house, we gathered to have a thanksgiving style dinner with all the good stuff – rolls, cranberry sauce, stuffing and turkey. Good conversation, great food, and exceptional company, it was a wonderful evening – I was ‘burnin’.

Speaking of ‘burnin’, the next day my camp sis and I went out for a walk along a path leading from the back yard. We came to an intersection and (you know where this is going), decided we’d just ‘keep going around the golf course’. After quite some time, we realized that the path didn’t go around the course but rather off in another direction. We had to turn back and then take the correct turn. Our impromptu walk ended up being over 4 miles long!  Thinking it was going to be a quick 30 minute walk, my skin wasn’t prepared. Also, I keep forgetting how close to the sun we are out in the desert!

Looks worse than it is

Returning from the walk, we packed up and headed to the local Burning Man Town Hall and pre-compression events. We had packed up a picnic style lunch in a cooler that we kept in the RV we drove, using it as a home base between events. Hanging out with the family was wonderful – and the burners as a whole are so kind and open. We drank, we bonded, we laughed and we rocked out to The Bloodhound Gang’s “we aint nothing but animals”.


The next day we went back in time to the Wild West straight from the Gold Rush days. Welcome to Virginia City.

It kind of made me feel like I was playing Fallout (I would love to be playing Fallout right now). The rolling brown hills of the desert, the classic big band music, and the costumed little townspeople.

We had old fashioned root beer candy and the best bloody mary’s from the Bucket of Blood. Managing to steal the best seat in the house, we had our liquid lunches and enjoyed the view while telling funny stories.

We wrapped up the tour of Virginia City by looking at the suicide table and silver dollar lady. I laughed at the thought of everyone scrambling for them if the building were to burn down.

We parted ways with one of my camp aunts who has been one of my most avid blog supporters. I won’t say it wasn’t sad, but it’s only until we’re in the dust again in a few months!

On the way home, we got the full tour of Carson City (FYI: the capital of Nevada) including the Governor’s Mansion and wild street deer! I totally fan-girled out for a picture. Hey, I live in a city, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a deer!


The evening was a quiet night of everyone resting and getting their digital fix – the perfect relaxing end to a fun filled weekend. Camp dad even helped me become the proud owner of (more on that soon)!

Returning to San Francisco via greyhound, I am so happy I got the chance to see everyone. The warmth, support, and radical acceptance will keep me going for a long time. Until the next Fugfest.


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Inspiring Stuff, Resources, Travel

Use intentions to maximize your life!

What exactly are intentions and why are they worth talking about?

Heading to Burning Man on the #Cobrabus this summer, we stopped before the burn and did an activity called an intention circle. This was the first time I’d done one, but I’d heard of them. Essentially, everyone gets in a circle and takes turns sharing what they hope to get out of a particular experience. Until this point, I hadn’t consciously thought of what I wanted to gain from the awesome opportunity of attending Burning Man. I wanted to have fun, hang out with my friends etc.; but on a deeper level, what specifically did I want out of it? It really made me think.

Loading the #Cobrabus with a pallet (100+ lbs) of water

Doing an intention circle empowered me to take more control over my experience. To work toward goals, to be mindful, and to get the most of out the burn. For this trip, I’ve been thinking about my intentions so that I make the most of this once in a lifetime chance.

This is also something that I would encourage you to do at home! It can be something big – like Burning Man, but it doesn’t have to be that serious. I do intentions for small things too, like when I go out for the day. “I’m open to new experiences and I’d like to meet new people”. Voila! It’s as easy as that guys, and you’ll be amazed at how differently things start going for you. 🙂

My intentions:

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Inspiring Stuff, San Francisco

Side Walk Talk

The coolest thing I’ve seen in San Francisco so far!

This post is a bit shorter than most, but I felt that this particular experience deserved a special call out.

Since quitting my job, I’ve been in San Francisco a little less than a week so far! I spent the day out exploring the city, which is an absolute pleasure – more on that later. I’m not really sure which direction I went (I told you I’d get lost), but I managed to get home okay and that’s what matters!

Walking down the side walk I heard a voice saying “Who pisses you off? What’s bothering you? Let’s talk about it.” Looking in her direction, I saw pairs of people sitting across from one another in lawn chairs, talking. I had to check it out.


We chatted for a bit about the #SideWalkTalk project. Their mission is to offer no fee counseling services for those that can’t afford them. As someone who could have used a service like this a few years ago (and still?), I mentioned that I was from Chicago and that it would be great to have this back home. She happily said “oh, you can!” and pulled out some information directing me to a DIY Kit for your own city.

It turns out that Chicago already has Side Walk Talk! Friends , if you could use some love and support please check out Side Walk Talk. Once (if) I end up getting settled, this is definitely something I would want to get involved in.

Mental and emotional health are both aspects of our being that are often neglected. Not only by society and the lack of resources and education as a whole, but on a personal level as well. Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves other than the occasional salad or taking the stairs. Alright, maybe I’m projecting there, but I still think it’s a true statement to say: We could all take better care of our mental and emotional well-being.

I’ve struggled with depression myself, and anxiety is an ongoing battle for me. I have many people in my life who have been effected with either (or both) mental and emotional issues that could benefit from a service like this. What they are doing is amazing and needed!

I was incredibly inspired by Side Walk Talks and their mission and wanted to share it with you. If you need someone to talk to, I would encourage you to look for a Side Walk Talk in your area or to call one of the hotlines listed on the back of the card pictured above.

You’re not alone and you’re not broken.

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xoxo <3

Inspiring Stuff, San Francisco, Travel, USA

5 ways San Francisco is making me a better person.

5 ways San Francisco is making me a better person!
5 ways San Francisco is making me a better person

First, I’d just like to say that I love having this much time on my hands. Since I quit my job to travel, I get to take naps, make my own schedule, loaf around town, and work on my blog! Can I be retired yet? PUH-LEEZE? 

Now, on to my new relationship with San Francisco. This city has been making me a better person – both actively and passively – and it has been making me absolutely glow!

1. Walking is amped up – dem hills, man.

Whew, buddy! These hills are bitches – holy moly! I do my share of walking in Chicago, but when you add a huge incline it’s a whole new game. At one point, I had to stop and pretend to read a restaurant menu so that I could get a breather.

I was so wrapped into looking like I was very interested in ordering, that I didn’t notice the restaurant was out of business! Derp derp derp.

I’m not hating on the endorphins though! I’m feeling more energetic, challenged, and proud of how strong my body is. My two shitty knees “San” and “Fran” are getting better at the daily climbing of the four flights of stairs to my apartment. Also, I’m sleeping soooo much better.

view from sanfrancisco apartment
Totally worth the climb for this view!

2. Eating healthier – farmer’s market and produce stands abound!

When you spot a fruit stand or a farmer’s market, it’s hard to pass up the chance to stop and look at their wares. Often times, the food is healthier and cheaper! Also, you get to meet the caretakers of your cauliflower and oranges. Due to the year round lovely weather, these stands are very common throughout the city, making it so convenient to buy fresh every day!

This also makes healthy snacking much more convenient – I’ve been picking up tangerines for $.25 and enjoying them on the road. I’m eating a lot of tomatoes and roasted vegetables too – love, love, love! Not that I didn’t eat roasted vegetables in Chicago (my roommate Rachel and I made them a staple), but getting off the bus, shopping, then waiting for the next bus in the semi-chilly rain or wind is so much better than the scorching heat or freezing cold.

You cannot deny my logic.

3. Going green – public composting and pet waste bins.

San Francisco takes their waste disposal very seriously. All over town you’ll see anywhere from three to four different trashcans. Trash, recycling, compost and pet waste disposal.

The same color scheme goes for outdoor trash collection as well.

In the household of a Sanfranciscian, it’s common to have multiple trashcans and assumed that you know how to compost – I admit I didn’t know. I had to Google “what is compostable” (this adds a little respectability to my Google search history). Luckily, the little compost trashcan has images on it for those of us who would throw pizza into composting. THE PICTURE SAYS IT’S ACCEPTABLE!

I’m also getting a nice warm glowing feeling about being able to see my trash in this way. We have composting, regular trash, and recycling. You’ll notice that so far all of my waste is going to be recycled or composted. I admit that I’ve never recycled or composted in my life. First, I just wasn’t raised with it and secondly, I never thought I would make that much of a difference.

Seeing these results though, it’s undeniable that just one person can make a difference.

Do you recycle and/or compost? What about in cities that don’t offer it as a service? For example, Chicago doesn’t compost. Maybe we could learn a little something from San Francisco.

4. I’m more aware of nature.

This is one of the most enjoyable for me so far. Not that Chicago doesn’t have good parks or green spots, but, due to the weather in San Francisco, flowers are rocking here. Chicago had snow a few days ago!

Beautiful trees everywhere.

San Francisco seems to be more colorful in general. Trees, flowers, the houses – everything. You guys know how much I love color!

5. I’m nicer/less resting bitch face.

Everyone that I’ve talked to has been super friendly. This includes strangers in Walgreens, on the MUNI, at the airport – everywhere. I would describe everyone as very chill, artistic, expressive and open minded. Maybe it’s because of the huge concentration of burners here, maybe it’s the legal weed or maybe it’s all the vitamin D pouring into our systems. Whatever it is – no worries man!

Just chillin’.

The slower pace of San Francisco is really helping me unwind. Don’t get me wrong, it’s keeping the big city feel – but just so much more laid back. While San Francisco has its problems, they are more drug related than gang related. I haven’t seen anyone who is probably packing and I’m actually approached less here than in Chicago – including my last visit where I stayed in the Tenderloin. I do prefer tweakers to gangbangers.

Do you have a city that makes you a better person? If so, how? I’d love to hear from you!

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xoxo <3



Inspiring Stuff, Travel

I am strong. I am brave. I am broken. All at the same time.

I am strong. I am brave. I am broken. All at the same time.

It’s a beautiful day out, but I haven’t had a solid shit in weeks.

My nerves are causing my whole body to tremor and shake. On the positive side, I’m just one more life-altering decision away from my goal weight!

My last day at my job is April 1st (no, not fooling!). The exact day I started three years ago – the longest I’ve ever held down one job. This static life is also probably what has driven me to this crazy point.

April 1st, 2016 will be the closing of one chapter of my story. Like any good story, there is good and evil. I’ve moved to Chicago, landed an incredible job I was way under qualified for, gone to Burning Man twice, and taken a month off to be a gypsy and travel out west on a hippie bus just to bum around California for a few weeks.

I’ve also been so lonely that I’ve felt I’m never going to find that person, or worse yet, that I had and just wasn’t good enough for them. I’ve let my life waste away in front of the TV. I lost a good friend in an accident. I’ve gained the “Chicago 30”. I came very close to a cocaine addiction about a year ago. I’m walking away from all of this. I am strong.

The next few weeks are going to entail me selling everything I own in preparation to move out of the apartment that I have invested countless hours into making my home. With all my possessions in a backpack, I’ll say goodbye to my friends, family and comfort zone…to spend 5 months traveling alone in Asia. It’s my first time abroad (with a language barrier to boot), and my first time being on the opposite side of the world from everything I know. I am brave.

Many years ago in a land far, far away I was so broke that I was on what I’ve termed as the “spaghetti and weed” diet. These were the only two things I could afford and the only things I spent my money on that wasn’t bills. I didn’t have money to get fast food, much less go to burning man and travel. Money, and the lack of it, consumed my life. My goal became “acquire money so that I can acquire things” – because that is success, right? All of that changed with my move to Chicago and my new job. I got money and I got all the things – and travel too!

70,000 people every year go to Burning Man. Every single one of them will tell you “it was a life changing experience” – I am no different. This makes me feel a little cliché saying it, but really, it was a life changing experience. On the playa (where the event is held), there is no money. No possessions that don’t have a purpose. No technology to distract us. Only people, playa, and the freedom to be and do whatever you want.

Needless to say it was an experience unlike anything I’d had before. I was hungry for more which led me to many open doors. Over the last two years I’ve been processing the experience and allowing a slow change to take place. I stand before you now in a different skin than I had three years ago, and this new Zoom has different priorities.

You can imagine my parent’s reaction to this. Surely driven out of fear and concern, but raging nonetheless.

“You’re quitting your JOB?! They are so good to you, you better just stay there!” “What about money?!” “What about health insurance?!” “What about your retirement and savings account?” “What about your apartment and all your things?!” “Don’t expect to come crashing back here!”

I don’t know how to make them understand. I don’t care so much about money anymore. It’s a tool, but that’s all…just a tool. Possessions are nice, but they don’t love me back. A great job is good to have, but it is not bringing me any joy. I cannot transmute gratitude into engagement day after endless day. I don’t want any of these things anymore. I want adventure, change, connections with people, and happiness. I am broken.

Or am I? Or are you broken, Society?

It’s now one month until I leave. Between the nerves and the inevitable traveler’s diarrhea, I don’t expect having to put a lot of effort into pooping for at least the next 6 months. I truly believe though that it will be worth it to find out: ‘Is there anything out there in the big, bad world other than a 9-5, money and things?’

Come with me. Let’s find out.

xoxo <3