Awesome Gift Ideas for Adventure Travelers

gift adventure traveler

Awesome Gift Ideas for Adventure Travelers

Happy upcoming Chrismahannakwanzika everyone! (and festivus, or whatever you may celebrate, or not celebrate)! Not keen throwing elbows with the other crazy asses at Black-Friday later this week? Me neither- I’ll be sleeping . So you got an adventure traveler on your hands eh? Sorry, we’re a bit of a pain to shop for… But you’ve come to the right place! Here’s some cool gift ideas for adventure travelers.

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.

The Inreach Explorer +

If you read this blog, then you probably already know I am a huge fan of this item. Of all the gadgets I carry with me this is one of the most important ones. The Inreach Explorer + allows me to send out text messages, GPS track my treks, and has an SOS beacon in case an emergency arises. It’s small and easily clips to your backpack.

Waterproof Camera

A waterproof camera, like a GoPro is a handy item for most adventure travelers who want to document their travels through photo or video.

Lightweight Backpacking Tent

Shopping for that person that goes on multi day treks who needs a tent that isn’t back-breakingly heavy? Check out the MSR Hubba series of tents, this is one of the best investments I’ve made in my gear kit.

Water Filtration System

You’re gonna need clean drinking water if you plan to venture out into the wilderness. The Platypus Gravityworks is a handy water filtration system in the wilderness or even if you’re staying in a hostel room and just don’t want to create more waste by constantly buying bottles of water.

Scrubba Washbag

Want clean clothes when you’re on the go? This simple to use washbag will surely make your life easier on the road. Just fill the bag with water, add soap, load the laundry, clip it shut, release the air and massage the clothes using the built in washboard and finally rinse and hang to dry!

Secret Pocket Scarf

Not into carrying purses, bags or backpacks? Try a Secret Pocket Scarf.These nifty scarves have a pocket built into them where you can easily hide your important items, like passport, credit cards, cash and more!

Portable Hammock

Looking to relax in the afternoon sun? Grab one of these portable hammocks! They pack up small and can be rolled up and set up just about anywhere.

Portable Multitool

A friend bought one of these for me years ago and it has saved me so many times on the road. With a hammer, axe, pliers, screwdriver, knife, bottle opener, and hand saw, it really is an all-in-one gadget!

Travel Towel

These lightweight, packable microfiber towels are great for those always on the move!

Gorillapod Flexible Tripod

Shopping for an adventure traveler that also loves taking photos? The Gorillapod is a great gift for them- they come in several sizes to accommodate different sizes of camera. This tripod is super lightweight and can be used just about anywhere imaginable. They also make them for GoPro!

External Battery Pack

You need a way to keep those travel gadgets charged on the go. Grab an external battery pack for one your friends always on the road.

Headlamp

These come in handy more often than not. From camping, power outages, taking photos at night… anytime you need light and want to go handsfree a headlamp will surely be useful.

Hiking Backpack

Got a friend or a loved one just getting into backpacking? Check out these great backpacks that will serve you well on the trail or just zipping hostel to hotel or city to city!

Daypack

An item that is quintessential in any traveler’s kit is a trusty daypack. Whether you’re exploring in the mountains or monuments in the city this is a must have!

Water Reservoir

Don’t wanna carry a water bottle while visiting the sites or hiking? A water reservoir that easily fits in a daypack is a great gift your adventurer!

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Travel with Me to China, Tajikistan and Pakistan in 2018!

*This post contains affiliate links.

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Travel with Me to China, Tajikistan and Pakistan in 2018!

Finally the bus to hell* is scheduled and someone’s delusional enough to let me drive it. Okay, just kidding, I don’t think they’ll let me drive it (the entire time) but I’ll be leading it.

*And by hell I mean the absolute most beautiful corner of the world… Where the Silk Road meets the Pamirs!

So what that means is:

I’M LEADING A PAMIR AND SILK ROAD TOUR!

solo female travel in tajikistan, female travel in tajikistan, Pamir Highway, Tajikistan, Pamir, GBAO, Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast, Badakshan, Pamir Travel, Pamir Travel Guide

I’ve had some of you guys asking about joining me in my travels, particularly my travels in Central Asia and I’ve finally made it happen! Join me this coming June for the adventure of a lifetime through one of my favorite regions and even to a few pockets I haven’t explored yet either!

Click here to see the itinerary and sign up!

What are the highlights?

Uhhh, the whole damn thing! But here’s a few draws…

The Silk Road

Jipek Joli, Jadeh Abrisham. Where the orient meets the occident. Famous explorers and conquerors from Marco Polo to Chenggis Khan, Alexander the Great to Ibn Batutta all have been drawn in by the exotic allure of the ancient Silk Road (or the desire to conquer it). This leg of the Silk Road is one of hardest stretches of it to reach making it an intriguing expedition. I’ll be taking you to the pounding heart of Central Asia- where the Silk Road crosses high altitude passes into the Orient.

The Hunza Valley

Surrounded by giants- many mountains over 6,000 and some over 7,000 meters in one of the most visually stunning corners on Earth. This Valley is a world away- claimed by India, governed by Pakistan, filled with inhabitants that are far removed from either country. Predominantly Ismaili in faith and some of the most warm, welcoming people on the planet. Languages spoken are hardly known on the outside- Burushaski, Wakhi and Shina, however no translation is needed for a chai and nan bread invitation.

Kashgar

Uzbekistan, Central Asia

One of the most important trading centers of the ancient Silk Road, even so to this day. Where several ethnicities meet to exchange goods in the western part of the Taklamakan Desert in the western reaches of China. We even have the unique opportunity to be in Kashgar on a Sunday- every Sunday the livestock market brings in people from all over the region to trade, buy and sell sheep, camels, goats, cows, horses and donkeys at the Sunday bazaar.

Living with Kyrgyz nomads in remote Tajikistan.

The country you guys all know I’ve spent a good chunk of time in trying to understand it and falling for the dramatic sceneries. From China we’ll go up and over the Qolma Pass to enter Tajikistan and after a pitstop in Murghab we will continue deep into the GBAO (Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast) to live with Kyrgyz nomads for a few days. Sleeping in yurts, horseback riding, food preparation and herding are a few things we’ll get to experience out here. Life is tough in the high pasture and the experience will leave you blown away by how hardy the people out here really are.

Oh and did I mention that Pamir Sky? During the day I swear the sky is a different blue than anywhere else I’ve seen on Earth, but the nightsky… Join me for some world-class stargazing and I’ll even show you how to shoot the stars, only if you love cameras and are a night owl like me… otherwise I’ll let you sleep.

The Karakoram Highway

Also known as the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway. This is one of the highest highways in the world (some will even try to argue that it is the highest paved highway in the world, but I’m not here to argue that claim). We’ll exit China over the Khunjerab Pass and cross into the Gilgit-Baltistan areas of Pakistan. This is one of the most scenic drives in the world- glimpses of some of the worlds largest glaciers, peaks that scrape the outer reaches of the atmosphere, beautiful little villages and more.

Want to read up more? Or are you sold and ready to book? Click here to see the full itinerary and/or reserve your spot!

Off the beaten path adventure

Leave those floppy hats and flowy maxi dresses at home. This isn’t your standard tour. At times it can even be a challenging journey. Temperatures can be boiling in the desert areas around Kashgar and downright freezing in the high mountainous areas of Tajikistan and Pakistan we’ll be exploring. Altitudes can get pretty high, Like damn near 5,000 meters so air is thin and adjusting to the high pasture is very real. Most western amenities are nowhere to be found, meaning squat toilets are the norm and there’s not a Starbucks in sight.

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It’s not all bad though, the unreal sceneries, unique cultures and hospitality that literally knows no bounds will outweigh every discomfort of traveling this remote area. This is a rugged expedition likely very different from anything you’ve ever done before and you’ll not soon forget.

Oh yeah, then I’ll be there…

Solo woman in Afghanistan, solo woman Afghan Wakhan

Showing you why I suck at being a travel blogger. (I’m not looking for sympathy, I know I don’t fit the mold. I don’t #doitforthegram, I’m not a fashionista, I don’t try to sell you a destination without mentioning the downsides, and you’ve probably already noticed I don’t often appear in my own Instagram posts).

However, I am here to show you some nifty tricks with your picture taking devices from cell phone cameras to point-and-shoots to DSLRs. If cameras aren’t you’re thing I’m always here to provide entertaining (and usually crude) commentary, I can even regale you in tales of my idiotic life so far, so really ASK ME ANYTHING.

Okay, okay here’s the fine details:

When:

June 9-24, 2018.

Start and Finish:

Kashgar (Kashi), Xinjiang, China.

Group Size:

We will only be taking about 8 passengers, so sign up quick before all the slots are gone!

Cost:

$3,200 cold hard US Dollars.

So what does that $3,200 include?

Accommodation, food, transportation, visa invitations, guides, and most all activities.

What it doesn’t include:

Airfare, visa fees, travel insurance (yes, you’ll be required to carry travel insurance).

So join me in Central Asia next year!

You can click below to read the itinerary and all the details!

CLICK ME! CLICK ME!

 

How to Visit Sary Chelek, Kyrgyzstan

Sary chelek, Sary-Chelek, Sary chelek Kyrgyzstan, kyrgyzstan, Central Asia

How to visit Sary Chelek

Kyrgyzstan really is an up-and-coming destination. The only downside of destinations coming to prominence is that, people know about it and then you have to share the sites with them. Kyrgyzstan is still far from crowded, and it is still possible to have many corners of the country to yourself. One of which being, Sary Chelek.

I’ll show you how to get to Sary Chelek from the two most obvious places: Osh and Bishkek.

How to get to Sary Chelek:

With a direct mini bus (nearly) to Sary Chelek, Osh is actually is the easiest to reach the lake from.

From Osh:

Osh, Kyrgyzstan, Osh Kyrgyzstan

Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

Everyday at 7:45am a marshrutka (minibus) departs the new bus station on the northern outskirts of Osh to Sary Chelek (expect to pay 150-200 som for taxi from the city center to the new bus station). The minibus makes stops in Jalal-Abad, Kotchkor-Ata (not to be confused with the other Kotchkor near Issykul) and Toshkomur in route.

A ticket from Osh to Sary Chelek will set you back 450 som.

Buried in luggage. The marshrutka turned clown car at about Tashkomur.

Word to the wise: Get to the bus station early! The minibus arrived at around 6:50am and quickly filled up. We pulled out of the station by 7:15. So if it’s a busy day, it may leave earlier than scheduled.

Expect it to take about 7-8 hours to reach the village of Arkit. Arkit is the village nearest to Sary Chelek.

From Bishkek:

(as well as other cities and towns) get a shared taxi to Tashkomur.

Expect to pay 800 som for a seat in a shared taxi from Bishkek to Tashkomur. Shared taxis only leave when full unless you are willing to pay for the remaining seats, so just keep that in mind when budgeting time.

Next you will take the mini bus from Tashkomur (same bus mentioned above that comes from Osh). It will arrive around noon. The bus will drop you off in Arkit village roughly 3 hours later.

I wasn’t kidding, it gets crowded!

Once you arrive in Arkit:

From Arkit it is possible to get a taxi to Sary Chelek but expect to be asked a pretty hefty price. At the time of visit (September 2017) the price was 1500 som and the driver wasn’t really willing to negotiate.

You can, however walk the 15 kilometers (9.4 miles) or plan to hitchhike. Hitching was easy in September, although deeper into fall and outside of summer I wouldn’t count on hitchhiking as a viable option. You will find cars full of locals and tourists alike heading out to picnic at Sary Chelek that will likely stop for you, although some will expect some kind of small payment. There are people in the area with work trucks that may be willing to pick you up as well.

Info for those planning to camp at Sary Chelek:

Sary Chelek, Sary-Chelek, Sary Chelek Kyrgyzstan, camping at Sary Chelek, camping Kyrgyzstan

Morning views!

There is a park gate for Sary Chelek. This is where you’ll pay your 400 som entrance fee. Ask for a receipt. This is also where you can pay for camping. The fee is 500 som per tent per night. If no one is at the gate you can just continue in. There is a ranger posted at the lake. He will come to you when he spots your tent/s and ask for payment. If you’ve already paid, show him your receipt. If you did as I did and didn’t even think to ask for a receipt he can call back to the gate to verify you have paid.

Camping Facilities:

For being a fairly unvisited spot Sary Chelek does have nice camping facilities. There is a public toilet, a few rubbish/garbage bins, as well as covered picnic areas and grills to barbecue on.

There are a few places to set up tents near the lake shore.

Don’t want to camp?

There are a few guesthouses and CBT homestays located in Arkit You can contact CBT for more info and to book.

Getting back from Sary Chelek.

Unless you’ve arranged a taxi to bring you back to Arkit or beyond, get to walking. You could ask around the parking area if anyone is willing to take you back but if not, or no ones around just start walking back toward Arkit on the road and hitchhike.

Once you arrive back in Arkit there are a few CBT guesthouses and homestays, so plan to spend the night after you arrive back from the lake. The bus from Arkit to Tashkomur departs the village at 6am. Once you arrive in Tashkomur around 9am, get dropped off by the bridge if headed for Bishkek or other communities. Here you’ll find shared taxi drivers headed to a number of places. If you’re headed to Osh, Jalal-Abad or other communities toward the Ferghana Valley stay on the bus.

Have questions about Sary Chelek?

Ask in the comments below!

Need some more inspiration to convince you to travel to Kyrgyzstan?

Check out some photos from my travels to Kyrgyzstan in 2016 here!

Need travel information on Kyrgyzstan’s beaut of a neighbor Tajikistan?

Look no further, start here!

Asalaamaleykum from Tajikistan!

Asalaamaleykum from Tajikistan!

Let’s play catch-up, where I tell you the story of the fuckshow of a month that’s ensued.

I left home on July 30th and since then I have visited the lovely airports of Frankfurt, Warsaw and Moscow-Domododevo (hell), and visited the countries of Moldova, Transnistria and Tajikistan. I’ve fallen in rivers, turned down marriage proposals, hiked well over 100 miles, puked all over trails, been broke down on the Bartang Highway, shit my pants and even have had to yell at and slap a few pervy men. Oh and there was the time where I nearly murdered this drunk twat Mongol rally racer in a Dushanbe hostel, and trust me that shit was fully justifiable.

Even though I’ve been to hell and back over the course of the month I’ve gotten to do and see some awesome things… So here’s the highlight reel:

Getting to visit Lake Sarez.

This is one of of, if not the most difficult place (well, talking Permit wise) to visit in Tajikistan. The Lake is located about 14 miles from the village of Barchidev, which is way up the Bartang Highway. Getting up The Bartang Highway is a feat all in itself, let alone this being the second time in a week I had to travel it. With the help of Nurumuhammed who runs Sarez Travel I was able to secure the elusive Lake Sarez permit and visit the lake. Nurumuhammed even guided me to the lake (yes, foreigners must be guided and have permits to visit here. And yes, I highly recommend Nurumuhammed).

Some background on Lake Sarez: The Lake was formed in 1911 when an earthquake shook down an entire mountainside, damming off the Murghab River and eventually filling the valley with water. The dam destroyed the villages of Sarez and Usoi, the latter which the dam is named after. If the dam were to ever breach it will send a wall of water down the Bartang Valley wiping out everything in its path speculated clear into Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.so that’s why now there’s a station there that carefully monitors it.

Revisiting the odd breakaway territory of Transnistria.

I went to Moldova and Transnistria back in 2012. The way it worked out flying to Tajikistan this year I ended up with a 3-ish day layover in Moldova. Immediately after I arrived in Chisinau I hopped on the next marshrutka to Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria. It was a fun day I ended up having out there. A guy named Sasha ended up showing me around the city and all the sights.

Outside the House of Soviets.

Hiking up to the Khafrazdara Valley.

Last year when I was traveling in the Pamir I came across a photo on the back of a map of a beautiful lake and knew I had to get out to. The only identification I could find of the photo was the name Khafrazdara. After scouring the internet over the winter, I finally figured out where this place was and added it to my to-do list. A 7 hour turned 11 hour taxi ride from Khorog, and an annoying 20 year old who repeatedly kept telling me that ‘my eyes were calling him‘* the entire ride there later I arrived in the small village of Pasor to begin my hike.

*Like Dude, I was wearing fucking sunglasses.

One of the series of lakes in the Khafrazdara Valley.

Of course getting such a late arrival into Pasor I couldn’t start the trek immediately and was taken in by a family for the night and subsequently fed to death. Over the next 2.5 days I hiked about 30 miles round trip to reach the lakes in Khafrazdara Valley. I had originally had ambitions to go all the way to Grum Grijmailo Glacier but in the end decided not to tack on the extra mileage for it… Plus I’ve seen countless glaciers in my life.

Trekking the Fann Mountains, again.

I think the Fann Mountains are one of the most beautiful places in the world. So naturally I had to go back this year. I did two different treks out here this year and one went well although being puking sick the entire 25 miles and the other, well it didn’t go so hot. The first trek went from the small village of Mogiyon through some wild canyons to the village of Rogich and finally up and over the Komichura Pass to the Haft Kul. My second trek started from Artush to Kulikalon, over Alovaddin Pass to Lake Alovaddin. At Alovaddin I was met with a pervy porter who kept insisting on sleeping in my tent with me. I had to throw out the ‘No and that’s inappropriate’ line a few times. He also seemed to think I was going to pay him to go on a leisurely stroll with me and not porter a damn thing. Anyways the trek set off and we were accompanied by a couple who were being guided over Kaznok Pass. We in the end were guided over the wrong pass that ended at a steep cliff side and had to turn around and come back. This is probably what I get for not thoroughly researching a trek and trusting guides that come to find out rarely go over this particular pass.

Lake Alovaddin

Drinking sparkling wine and exploring the underground cellars in Cricova.

The tour to Cricova? Totally worth the $25 (450 MDL) trip out to the nearby town to check out the miles of underground wine cellars underneath the town of Cricova. The place is massive and just a short trip from Chisinau. PS if you don’t want to spend $25 you can visit the cellars at 9am and you get a fat discount. You are welcome (yes, I did just say that aloud like in the ‘Can I Get Yo Number’ MadTV skit).

Wine, glorious wine!

Finally getting to meet the lovely Munira at ZTDA.

Munira was a huge part in planning my treks in Tajikistan last year, however I never got to meet her. The ZTDA office is located in Khujand, which I didn’t visit on my first trip. So of course on this trip I had to make it up there. Munira is amazing.

Things I learned this month:

1) Do not ever have a long layover in Moscow Domododevo airport (especially if you are one of the unlucky countries that needs a visa). There is fuck all to do these. Death would have been a sweet release from the 8 hours I spent there.

2) Hot dogs are probly the easiest food to come by in Tajikistan. You thought Qurutob was the national dish? Well there’s a good chance that the next place I walk into will have nothing but hot dogs left.

3) everything in Tajikistan is ‘no problem’ until it’s a catastrophic disaster that is fucked beyond any fixing. And even then they’re optimistic.

4) there’s a whole different definition of ‘something not working’ in the post-Soviet world. Shower head is broken off the wall and only 1 sprayer on the showerhead works and it’s dripping about 1 drop of water every 2 seconds? Yeah, it’s still working.

So what’s up for September?

I have a few more hiking trips planned before I finally leave Tajikistan. But guess what? My plans have changed!

I have to be in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) before September 22 to catch my flight to Myanmar. I will be spending two weeks there traveling around with my classmate from college Treva, who picked up and moved to Sydney 5 years ago. After our travels in Myanmar I will be heading to Georgia. Not the state, the republic. From there I am headed off on a press trip to Abkhazia, yet another breakaway territory… But wait I’m getting ahead of myself because Abkhazia isn’t until October.

I have some more posts on shooting the Aurora coming up for September, otherwise I’ll be out here in bumfucknowhereistan. See ya next month!

Hey, wanna go high five the Lenin statue? YES!

PS: Sorry I’m too lazy to link my posts from this month on here like I normally do. Blogging from and iPhone SUCKS.

I’m Going Back To Tajikistan! (and Moldova too)

Just wanted to drop everyone a mid-month update to let you all know I booked my ticket last week and Tajikistan is happening again! Everyone seems so puzzled as to why I’m going back, rather than somewhere new but I think they must have missed all those photos and posts about my travel there last year……

10 reasons to visit Tajikistan, Tajikistan, Fann Mountains, sunrise lake, morning, alovaddin lake, alauddin lake

Like this beaut.

On the last day of this month I’ll be taking off to Tajikistan, but with a twist. I’m stopping off in Chisinau, Moldova for a couple days before flying to Khujand, Tajikistan. Yep, I’m headed back to Europe for the first time in over 5 years! Oddly enough when I began looking at flights between Anchorage and Khujand I saw a layover on the itineraries in Chisinau. I visited Chisinau in 2012 and had an absolute blast there. A few clicks and a little flight searching later I was booked in route to Khujand with a couple days to spare back in Moldova (oh, and not to mention a $3,900 cheaper flight!). I’m actually really excited to return to Moldova, to see what it looks like now and if it’s changed much. I also speak a whole hell of a lot more Russian since my last visit to Moldova, so that should make things a bit easier since Russian is still widely understood even though Romanian/Moldovan is the official recognized language. I’m just hoping it’s not overrun by visitors since Lonely Planet went and named Moldova in its ‘Best in Europe’ for 2017, which I am doubtful of my fear since no one knows where the f*** Moldova* is anyways.

*I wrote that post almost two years ago exactly. It’s probably a train wreck of an article.

So what am I gonna do for my short visit in Moldova? Not sure yet. I’d like to just kick back and have fun in the city, maybe make the jaunt over to Tiraspol and check out the little capital of the country that doesn’t really exist (Transnistria), visit Cricova, maybe make some time for Orhuel Vecchi and of course spend some time enjoying Chisinau.

For Tajikistan I have a lot on my agenda and a 45 day visa. Of course I will re-explore the Fann Mountains, Khorog, and Dushanbe. I’ll visit new places like Khujand, Istaravshan, Isfara and Zorkul that I didn’t get to last year. I’m trying to secure a damn-near-impossible to obtain permit to visit Lake Sarez (wish me luck!), and I am hoping to explore more of the Bartang Highway area this year (fingers crossed the road is in better condition, but I’m not gonna hold my breath), and of course check out more hiking in the Pamirs. And of course, so far, this will be a solo go again.

After Tajikistan I’d like to make it back into Turkmenistan to re-visit the Door to Hell since it’s just so strange and well, rumor has it that the government is trying to put it out. Ultimately I will end up in Cyprus after my time in Central Asia to visit a friend who is moving there, which is pretty exciting to me since I have never been!

I’m not entirely sure when I’m going to be returning home yet, but don’t worry! I’m making valiant efforts to not completely abandon you all and leave you high and dry like I did for most of my travels in 2016. I have a load of Alaska and photography posts scheduled to keep you entertained while I’m gone, plus I am going to try to make a better effort to get on here and update you on the happenings in my travels. I know, I’m a terrible travel blogger. I just have a penchant for far flung places where you may go for days on end without cellphone service, let alone internet connection. Realistically I should change my title from ‘travel blogger’ to ‘some girl who likes to travel, and keeps a website where she writes about some of the places she goes at later dates, or sometimes never’, but that’s kinda long. I’m a traveler at heart. Not a marketer, not a writer, not a blogger just trying to sell you shit. As far as this website is concerned, travel will always come first, getting information for you all to read and use on here comes second and trying to re-coup the damages to my bank account in meeting goals #1 and #2 come dead last. I’m not willing to sacrifice exploration and having the best time possible in a destination to stay within the constraints of a press trip budget that can’t afford me to hardly leave the hostel dorm they’ve graciously put me up in and then sit in a room on a laptop lying to you all about how great ‘fill in the blank’ is!

So get ready to tag along for another weird and wild adventure. And lets just all hope I can trim some more weight from my backpack because my god, is that motherfucker heavy.

In Dushanbe last year.

Travel The World Longer: Couchsurfing

Pacific Mission Aviation, Palau, flight seeing Palau,

Travel the world longer through Couchsurfing

*This post contains affiliate links.

Sign up for your very own Couchsurfing account here!

You don’t need a trustfund and rich parents to travel the world. One of the best ways to cut down on costs on the road is via Couchsurfing.

Most people have heard of it by now but in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t yet…

Couchsurfing is a website designed to help you find a free place to stay while traveling (or offer up free accommodations if you want to host).

It’s simple: all you have to do is sign up for an account, get verified, punch in where you want to go and start scrolling through the couches on offer and start messaging away (or where you live and what accommodations you have to offer if you’re looking to host).

Couchsurfing

I’ve Couchsurfed a number of times as well as have hosted travelers from all over the world (back when I owned my own house). There is quite a bit of negative press out there on it, but I have not yet had a single bad experience.

More so than the free accommodations my favorite thing Couchsurfing offers up is the chance to meet people who have local insights on the place you’re visiting. Not to mention the countless friends I have made over the years hosting and surfing all over the world. Also if I’m on a budget, I’d prefer to spend money on activities than on hotel rooms. Plus, hotel rooms can get a bit lonesome.

While Couchsurfing in Moldova I met so many people through my host that I couldn’t walk the streets of Chisinau without running into someone who I had met through her and being invited in for a coffee. I was invited to surf with a couple in Odessa, one of which worked in Alaska the year prior and couldn’t wait to host someone from the place she grew to love. And even one of my surfers has become a close friend that I’ve traveled to Juneau, Alaska and clear to Palau to visit. And these are just a few of the cases and well I still keep in contact with all of them!

Couchsurfing Odessa. Odessa Ukraine

Galya and I, my host in Odessa.

You don’t need tons of money to travel the world, so what’re you waiting for?

sign up now!

Need more convincing? Read my post on Couchsurfing safely.

 

How to Start a Blog in 10 Steps

How to start a blog in 10 steps, start a blog

How to Start a Blog in 10 Steps.

This post contains affiliate links. 

So you wanna be a blogger, eh? Here’s a simple idiot proof guide on how to start a blog. Whether it be travel, underwater basketweaving or whatever weird little passion you have you can set up any blog using these easy methods. Trust me, I’m a computer illiterate moron and I’ve figured it out. There’s hope, I believe in you!

Obviously I run a travel blog, but these steps can of course be applied to most nay kind of blog.

Step 1: Pick a Name.

Muy Importante! And pick something that isn’t lame and already overdone. Meaning don’t do what I did and pick Adventures of… there’s so many adventures of… out there. But I picked it, whatever.

You’ve probably been thinking of what your website name is going to be for a while now. Probably before you ended up here you had an idea. I pulled the trigger and went with the Adventures of Lil Nicki. I actually do not like my domain name. I had originally wanted to be An Alaskan Abroad, but some tool already took that URL and has written one post and never done anything with it. Whoever you are, you suck.  But at this point I’ve created a brand with the Adventure of Lil Nicki so I’m sticking with it. Plus it’s versatile. It’s my adventure and not anyone else’s. I’m a travel blogger, but maybe one day the adventures of Lil Nicki will be about birding around one destination or about my day job where I scrape dirty teeth, or weird concoctions I cook up… because it’s my fucking adventure, not your adventure, mine. What I’m getting at is choose carefully. I wanted to pick a name that can go with me as I evolve. If you go with something like ‘JimbobGoesToSpain.com’, ‘somecuntyfashionblog.com’, or ‘SarahAmandaMarieSallyJessicasTravels.com’ you might get cast as only being able to blog about one thing or one place. Think about where you want this to go one day.

Remember that your blog name is going to most people’s first impression. You want to stand out in the kabillions of blogs out there.

Step 2: Getcha a Host.

If you want to get your blog up in front of readers who aren’t your Mom and three best friends your first step is to get hosted. Getting hosted will open you up to the possibility of monetizing your blog on down the road as well.

There are a number of hosting services available online, but the best of the best is of course BlueHost. Their customer service is amazing and I have zero complaints. Plus, you get a lot for their low prices. $7.99 per month for 12 months is the going rate for their least expensive plan. Of course if you sign up right now there is a 50% off New Year 2017 deal going on where you can get hosted for as little as $3.49 a month!

how to start a blog, bluehost

Ready to start your blog? Start here!

Once on the BlueHost page, click the big button that says ‘Get Started now’.

Step 3: Enter Your Domain Name.

how to start a blog, bluehost

This is where you enter the domain name for your website. Choose well, my friends. I am so effing indecisive that it’s borderline a mental disorder. I pulled the trigger and went with adventuresoflilnicki.com. Like I said in Step 1, I don’t like my blog name but I’m sticking wit hit because it does fit, and rebranding is an expensive nightmare later in down the road. So pop in that domain name and see if it’s available, if it is, great! If not start then get to thinking again.

Your domain name should usually be your blog name. So if your blog is called ‘The Broke Ass Backpacker That Loves Haggling Over $0.03 Equivalent in Thai Baht For Bangkok Tuk-Tuks’ your domain shouldn’t be ilovenachosandhookers.com. You want the blog title and the domain to match up because let’s face it, it make it easier.

So once you choose that domain name you will be brought to the next step:

Step 4: Choosing you account plan and add-ons.

how to start a blog, bluehost

You will then be brought to the account plan page where you pick out your package and add-ons.

Choosing an account plan: You have the option of 12, 24 or 36 months. You do save month to month by signing up for a longer plan, but remember that many blogs get abandoned. I’m not saying your going to quit, but the odds are against you. If you aren’t sure if you’re going to stick with it then sign up for the 12 month plan. That’s what I did, but I’m still here. However I’ve had plenty of ‘fuck this shit, I’m out‘ moments with blogging.

Out of all the options, I’d say the MOST important one is ‘Domain Privacy Protection’. Spend the $9.99 a year on it. If you don’t pay for this anyone, and I mean anyone can look up your (the site owner’s) name and mailing address. This prevents your crazy stalker/s from looking you up and turning you into some blogger version of the Selena story…. too soon?

‘Search engine jumpstart’ is exactly what it sounds like. Site backup pro will backup your site, although you can always choose another site back up plugin later on and do it yourself- it’s really up to you.

Now that you’ve made your plan and add-on choices it’s time for the next step…

Step 5: Setting up WordPress.

how to start a blog, bluehost

BlueHost offers a simple one-click WordPress setup. So why wouldn’t you choose WordPress? For the love of everything holy, choose WordPress as your publishing platform. It’s so easy. Of course there are other options for publishing platforms but none are more widely used and more simple to set up. The one-click set up also saves you the headache, the time, the stress, and the hassle of trying to navigate setting up a publishing platform on your own or the money you’d pay to have a professional set it up for you.

From you BlueHost Control Panel Page, under ‘website builders’ click on WordPress.

how to start a blog

Once on WordPress it’ll hold your hand through the whole process. I’m not shittin it guys, it’s easy. Follow the instructions and once you get to the point where it asks where you’d like to install WordPress, type in your domain name. Once you install WordPress you’ll be promoted to log in. Log in and you will be brought to your WordPress Dashboard.

how to start a blog

Step 6: Plugins, beautiful, beautiful plugins.

Plugins are what bring your travel blog to life! There are kajillions of plugins out there. Many are free, many free ones ask for donations to use them and there are some premium plugins that charge a fee.

Here’s the Plugins I use:

WordPress SEO by Yoast– Holds your hand in SEO, SEO is search engine optimization. Basically what this does is help your posts rank higher in Google.

Jetpack by WordPress.com– Does a number of things including allowing you to view stats from your Dashboard.

Akismet– Filters spam so you don’t have to. Trust me you are gonna get spammed up the ass if you don’t.

Sumo Me– Makes your images and blog posts easily shareable on social media by your fans.

Ultimate Google Analytics– This installs Google Analytics on your site. Google Analytics is the industry standard for tracking your website traffic. If you plan to monetize and pitch brands and companies in the future you NEED Google Analytics set up.

Contact Form 7– Installs a contact form so that people can e-mial you through your website. I get asked a lot of questions through my contact form.

Simple Follow Me Social Buttons Widget– Install, pick which social media icons you want displayed on your site and enter in you social media handles. Now your fans can follow you everywhere!

FD Feedburner Plugin– Allows people to read your posts on feedburner.com

Step 7: Choose a Theme!

Now choose the layout of your website. Of course there are a few free options to choose from on WordPress, but the ability to customize them is fairly limited. These free theme options are a great place to start out before you get comfortable blogging and have an idea of how you want your site to be laid out. I had a blog for about 5 months before I decided on a theme I wanted to shell out $59 for. Check out my theme here, I use WPVoyager which is specifically designed for travel bloggers.

Step 8: Get Social!

Choose your handles for the social medias you want to promote your blog on. I personally use Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. There so many nowadays it makes my head spin. A huge one that I outright refuse to do is Snapchat, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s so popular right now, and almost on a weekly basis I am asked to do a Snapchat takeover for a brad or company even though I do not have a Snapchat.

Choose wisely and where you want to focus time. For me, Instagram is my #1 as I am best with visual content. My #2 time vacuum is Pinterest, I’ve just recently really started focusing on this social media and you can drive a ton of traffic using Pinterest. Everyone’s been saying Twitter is dying out for a while now. I have one… not my forte, whatever. Then there’s Facebook. It seems like you need to have a Facebook to actually exist out there, but let’s face it: Facebook is incredibly difficult to be seen on unless you want to shell out big advertising bucks, which is sort of a sham for what you get out of it anyways. I really do not focus my time here. The heyday is over. So chose where you want to be represented and focus really on just one or two. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Step 9: Set up an e-mail list.

I, myself use the free version of Mailchimp. It’s pretty simple and walks you through the whole process. There are other options for mail lists, another popular one is aweber. I’ve not tried aweber, but I’ve heard good things. I am content with Mailchimp at this point. If you go with Mailchimp make sure to do install the Mailchimp for WordPress Plugin! This way your fans can sign up to your e-mail list. Mail chimp is a free service until you gain more than 500 e-mail sign ups. I usually send out a monthly roundup to my e-mail list, sometimes I don’t. Most marketers will tell you that an e-mail list is the most valuable thing you can have for your blog. I’m sure that’s arguable to some extent, but it’s probably in your best interest to start one.

Step 10: Get to blogging!

Write, write and write some more. This is the only way you’ll get good at it and develop a voice. How do you think I’ve been able to write whatever the fucking fuck I want to on here and people actually read this stupid blog? Because I’ve developed this obscene voice in my writing. I write exactly as I speak, which is best described as Ralphie from ‘A Christmas Story‘ speaks of his father’s colorful language, “In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.” My posts are a tapestry of fuckery and the misadventures I’m led on as I travel the world. What’s your tapestry going to be and where is it going to hanging in space over? The only way you’ll figure it out is by practicing your craft. So write! The worst that happens is two or three years later you go back and read your old posts and say to yourself what the hell I was I thinking and delete all those old embarrassing rubbish posts and take a moment to appreciate the fact that you invested time into your writing and have clearly improved.

Developing your voice is probably the most important thing you can do on your blog. People will appreciate that. And don’t start hawking only listicles. Throw in one for fun every here and there, but don’t soley write listicles. If you don’t know what a listicle is, it’s those ‘Top 10 reasons to visit Thailand’, or ‘ 7 reasons to blow all your money on travel’. It’s painful to see that’s where the internet has gone, realistically this is the evolution of readers, they want short snippets written under bold fonts with a number… You know, kinda like the way this post is set up. Listicles are the reason that I think blogging has turned into a massive joke. I mean look at Matador Network, all they produced is ‘Top _ insert destination’ posts, I used to think they were an authority and now I realize that Matador is trash…Just sayin.

If you don’t find that you have a passion for blogging, then this isn’t for you and that’s okay. But if it is:

Just keep at it, it’s not easy. Not everyone with a blog is making millions, or even thousands for that matter. You gotta start somewhere.

Good Luck!

 

One Week Into Bolivia: Still Not Dead or Mugged

Tay and I are a week deep in Bolivia and are still alive! We haven’t been stabbed or robbed like just about every guide I had ever read on Bolivia had us convinced we were going to be. But, we still have a couple more days to go before Peru… so anything is possible.

La Paz

La Paz, Bolivia, graffiti

I’m not sure why everyone hates this city. Almost everyone we’d talked to on the trip said it was not worth spending any time in. I like how it was built up in a mountain valley. Although it is dusty and the pollution sucks, I still had fun there. One of my favorite parts was riding the cable car up over the city. My one complaint about La Paz is the daily government protests, demonstrations and blockades going on. Getting a taxi to certain parts if the city was impossible because no driver would take you to the city center, as they wouldn’t be able to ge back out for hours. Or later on when returning from the death road trip protesters had blockaded all the roads leading into the city, leaving us stranded in a bus for hours longer than we were supposed to be and finally all bailing off and walking back into the city late at night. I did know this coming in, as strikes, protests and demonstrations are regular here, but it still blows none the less. It did force us to explore much of the city on foot, which is a good thing.

Uyuni

The thing I wanted to see the most in South America overall! It didn’t disappoint either, while being amazing and miserable at the same time. We headed straight to Uyuni the first evening in La Paz after arriving at 5am the same day. And when I said miserable before it wasn’t due to altitude sickness, I could feel the altitude but luckily I didn’t really get sick from it. The miserable part was due to how dry it is down there and the fact that my sinuses HATE extreme dry, and then when my sinuses aren’t happy they make all of my upper teeth hurt (thanks long roots).

So overall the Salar was freakin amazing, most so at sunset. It really reminded me of the colors out at White Sands National Monument. However when we visited Incahuasi (the island in the salt flat) I had to resist the urge to club this idiotic girl over the head with her own goddamn selfie stick. We get it, you’re a narcissist, BUT STOP HOLDING UP THE MOTHERFUCKING TRAIL TAKING THE THOUSANDTH PHOTO OF YOUR STUPID DUCKFACE! No one cares, snap a photo and move on asshole. I will say Incahuasi was the only part of the salt flat tour where I really felt jammed in with a bunch of other tourists or travelers or whatever people want to be called since apparently so many think there is a distinct difference.

We made several other stops, the two main ones being Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde. Laguna Colorada was beautiful, Laguna Verde didn’t live up to it’s name because of course the one site that you need wind, it’s dead calm… The wind blew for the entirety of the 3 day trip, except there. The wind causes this whole process that stirs up the water, turning it a bright green.

The Death Road

After Uyuni we returned to La Paz in order to bike down the death road… which you all probably have heard of. We had an absolute blast. It wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it might be, but it isn’t exactly a safe road to zoom down very steep mountains on. So if you’re a dumbass, and/or easily distracted then skip this one unless you really want to be picked off by natural selection.

Copacabana

Right now I’m sitting looking out my GIANT front window of my room at Hotel Cupula, watching the sunrise over Lake Titicaca as Tay snores away. We love it here. This was another stop we’d heard some love/hate from other travelers. I mean, yeah there is trash around but if you can look past it it’s a great place. Yesterday we hiked the Cerro Cavalario, twice. Once for the sunset up at the stop (which gives you an amazing view of Copacabana, and the second time to take some long exposure shots of the milky way (especially since the full moon foiled our attempts around Uyuni). And also we went zorbing yesterday! They’re not exactly the ball shaped ones we’ve seen on tv, but a long tube that you hope in and go run around on top the highest navigable lake in the world like a hamster. Looks like this afternoon we’ll be headed over to check out Isla Del Sol.

So that’s how far we’ve made it. It hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns though. I cracked the band on my engagement ring, I nearly ripped my entire fingernail off, when trying to remedy my remaining bloody fingernail I dropped my nail clippers in the toilet, bled profusely in Uyuni after ripping my knuckles open trying to open a beer with my tripod (forgot to pack a bottle opener) because my hand slipped and was numb so I didn’t feel it, and had a massive sinus infection.

So hopefully I’ll not take two weeks to write something on here. And I will eventually give more detailed info on what we did with photos, can’t promise when though. In my defense, the internet is slooooooow here and I’d much rather be out having fun, I can stare at a computer screen at home.

PS: Sorry that there is only one photo on here, that is all I could get to load because of the aforementioned internet speed! Pinky promise I have taken 35 GB of photos so far! I’ll add them later!

Who’s been to Bolivia and what did you think?

Instagram Photos this Week

Here are my IG photos from this week.

Oh, and I’d like to add, if I get one more offer from some lame ass company that wants to use one of MY photos for a feature on a ‘1 million follower + IG account’ to promote THEIR business, all whilst wanting me to pay half of the $150 fee for the regram by the said ‘1 million follower + account’ for exposure, I’m going to lose my god damn mind. “But you get a mention, about 7 paragraphs down!” Hmm, that’s funny I see there’s a link to your account 2 words in. At this point shouldn’t you be paying me for the work I put in freezing my ass off to get that photo? Suck my dick, err, um, clit. Suck my clit? Is that the female version of that overtly gendery fuck you?

In what country do they use exposure as their currency? I’m still waiting to find this out. Is it the next BitCoin?,

Walking between #MulletBay and #MahoBeach on #StMaarten. Tag someone you'd love to stroll the #Caribbean Sea with!

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

The monsoon rolling in at #CastleValleyOverlook, #Utah.

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

One of those iconic #longtail #boats pulled up in #Railey, #Thailand. Who wants to go to Thailand?!

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

#stargazing on #FlamencoBeach in #Culebra, #PuertoRico!

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

Looking out one of the Windows from #DarAlHajar near #Sanaa, #Yemen.

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

I wish I was here in #NungweBeach in #Zanzibar today!

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!

The Last Week On Instagram: Hitting 30K

The Last Week On Instagram: Hitting 30K

If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t wrote much lately on here. I’m not very motivated right now… And when I do think of something I google it and see it’s been done a thousand times over by every travel blogger under the sun. So I thought maybe I’d start sharing my last week on IG on here each week. After all 99.9% of the time they are my photos.

On Tuesday evening I cracked 30K followers on IG in the aftermath of the post-apocalyptic melt-down-fest of the algorithm change. Really people, calm the fuck down. I hate change, I really do. I didn’t want it to change. But since Facebooks buyout of the app, you all probly should have seen this coming. Facebook can’t seem to leave things that people like the fuck alone. All the bitching and petition making to keep it same is all in vain guys… Newsflash: little Marky Zuckerberg don’t give a fuck. It’s all about monetization and making mo of dat dough. Seriously has anyone else watched that episode on Southpark about ads?? Ads, ads everywhere! Now they’re hiding ads behind other things to extract monies from you!

So please stop posting that same stupid meme asking people to turn on notifications. I won’t. I don’t want another god damn notification every time someone posts something. And I don’t expect to inflict two daily notifications on my followers each time I post.

Have a noticed a difference since the changes rolled out? Not anything huge. But then again I do in fact have a life and don’t tear down every single shred of analytic data to continue to build… I just try to post interesting and visually appealing photos, you know, to gain traction in the photography world the good old fashioned way.

So here it is guys, the best of last week of IG!

We made it! This is #whitesandsnationalmonument in #NewMexico

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

Last stop: #SaguaroNationalPark back in #Tucson, #Arizona! Giant #cacti everywhere.

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

Last stop: #SaguaroNationalPark back in #Tucson, #Arizona! Giant #cacti everywhere.

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

#Summer in #Alaska is the best!

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

One of the most unreal #sunsets I've ever seen! #whitesandsnationalmonument did not disappoint.

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

The sun rising somewhere over #Arizona this morning!

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

A lonely little plant at #whitesandsnationalmonument. Still can't believe how awesome #whitesands was!

A photo posted by Nicole Smoot (@adventuresoflilnicki) on

So there my favorite 10!

(Ok, I lied… 11, I threw in a bonus) I’m working on editing more of my White Sands, NM photos to share on here soon hopefully.