europe

24 Before 24: My First Sale!

First Sale

When I made my 24 before 24 list, I included a few things that, truthfully, I had no idea how or when I would accomplish. “Make business cards” might sound easy to do, but it becomes much harder when you don’t have any idea what your professional life is going to look like a year from now. The incredibly vague “Sell something I make” was on the list because it’s been a dream of mine to be a small business owner for a few years now, but when I wrote it down it was more of a pipe dream. I didn’t necessarily expect to accomplish it, because I had no idea what I would make, what I could sell, or how I could sell it. It was on the list because it represented a step in the direction of how I wanted my life to look. I couldn’t necessarily picture it happening, but I knew it was the kind of thing I wanted to work towards.

Well all I can say is thank goodness for goal setting. It’s the way I push myself to experience new things, work harder, and explore the world. Setting big goals and working towards them one tiny step at a time is how I end up growing as a person. Every step of the way I learn a little more. I’ve been trying to make my motto ABL: Always Be Learning. 

Sale

The other night, after a rainy, so-so day, right before I went to bed, I got the above notification on my phone. I won’t be able to explain the feeling, but I’ll try: joy mixed with shock, disbelief, happiness and gratitude. I did a crazy-looking happy dance in my apartment while smiling like a fool.

This is the first time I’ve sold one of my photos, and it is one of the best feelings in the world. I joked to my friends last night “Well, that’s it! I’ve made it! Anything on top of this is bonus.” In a way I’m kidding, because I do hope the shop continues to grow, change, and continue to be successful, but on the other hand I’m not kidding. I feel very proud, and I’ve achieved something that’s worth pausing to appreciate. The sale means more to me than just earning money – it also represents that I have something to offer that others might enjoy. It means this could actually be something I could pursue in some small way. It really means so very much to me.

Thank you for your support and kind words over the last few days! I truly appreciate it. I’m on the moon!

If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out my new travel photography shop, you can see all the photos I’m offering by clicking right here.

The Life In Limbo Shop!

Life In Limbo Print Shop

I’m so excited to share the news that I’ve opened a photography shop online! It’s brand new, and I’m sure I’ll be working out the kinks for a long time to come, but the important thing is that it’s up and running. Opening a shop has been something I’ve been daydreaming about for a while, and so I’m very thrilled to finally be able to share it with you.

So far my Etsy shop, named Life In Limbo, is selling travel photography from my time in Europe. I chose my favourite photos from France and Italy, the most colourful and travel-inspiring ones I could find. You can see all the available photos here. Currently, they’re available as digital downloads for you to print at home. I chose the digital download route because of the logistics of living in another country and needing to print and ship. Happily, printing photos these days is very cheap (I got an 11 x 15 printed today for $3.00 and an 8 x 10 for $1.50) and straightforward (especially if you live in a country where you speak the language, ha!).

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I tried to choose photos that I truly thought you would like and that might inspire wanderlust in you or in someone you love. I didn’t choose any that I myself wouldn’t purchase to hang on my own walls, but of course as the photographer I’m biased! I’m so excited and curious to see what you think, and I would love to hear any and all suggestions you have.

Thank you, as always, for your support and for reading. You can find my photography shop right here!

Ps. You can see more of my travel photography in my city guides here and you can download free wallpapers featuring some of my photography here.

Resources for Planning Your Backpacking Trip Through Europe

Resources1It’s I’ve learned a lot about booking hostels, navigating new cities, making friends, and packing. I’m happy to say that I’m a much better traveller than I was one year ago today. My travel knowledge has come from a lot of trial and error, a lot of great information from fellow travellers and friends, and most of all, a lot of awesome resources. I’m very Type A and a planner by nature, and I love nothing more than falling down rabbit holes on the internet while researching various things. My Google Docs spreadsheet for Europe had no less than eleven different sheets!

I wanted to share some of my favourite websites and articles to inspire you and help you plan an adventure of your own.

Inspiration For Your Trip

DSC_0036_7Almost Fearless:

Adventurous Kate:

General Travel Tips

Legal Nomads: World Travel Resources – an incredibly helpful, very comprehensive guide to world travel.

Rick Steves: His travel tips section is full of great, very useful information.

Yes and Yes: There are tons of awesome posts in her travel category including 18 super-helpful travel tips.

The Savvy Backpacker: Lots of great articles and resources for planning a budget backpacking trip.

Nomadic Matt: How to Legally Stay in Europe for More Than 90 Days (a very helpful article about visas and permitted lengths of stay).

Packing for Europe & Travelling Light

DSC_0149One Bag: The absolute ultimate light packing guide. It has tips on why packing light is a smart choice, a universal light packing list with detailed, and in-depth explanations of why each item on the list is helpful or important. I lost hours to this website.

One Bag One World: Forums and tips on travelling light. I love the old website, but the new one is good too. You can find the new one here.

Her Packing List: Awesome packing lists, backpack and product reviews and resources.

PB Fingers: What To Pack To Europe (aimed at women, for summer travel)

Rick Steves: A light packing list and tips on packing smart and travelling light.

Never Ending Voyage: How to travel long-term with carry-on luggage, and their complete, updated packing list.

Favourites

Ulmon Apps: The ultimate travel app for most major cities. It lets you navigate in real time even without an internet connection, lists all major attractions within the app and sometimes even has integration with the local subway system so you can see which metro stop to get off at for wherever you’re going. I absolutely adore these apps and they are my #1 recommended travel tip. Plus, somehow they’re free.

Hostel World: I love this website and never used anything else to read reviews of hostels and book my accomodations.

Blogsy: A blogging app for iPad, perfect for blogging while travelling.

Oanda Currency: An awesome currency converter app that you can use even when you have no internet connection.

Solo Travel

DSC_0164_2Twenty-Something Travel: The Introvert’s Guide to Travel, and a good reason to travel solo.

Refinery 29: I Travel to Feel Lonely…On Purpose – a really great, fresh perspective on solo travel.

Legal Nomads: The Solo Female Travel Experience, and the same topic, revisited with helpful tips.

Fluent in 3 Months: Is Long-Term Solo Travel Lonely?

A Little Adrift: Yes, Sometimes Travel Is Lonely.

The Ramble: Awesome advice if you’re worried about getting lonely while travelling.

European Destinations

Italy:

Paris:

Croatia: 15 Things To Do in Dubrovnik

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Taking myself on a trip through Europe is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I was able to see some of the most beautiful places in the world, meet some awesome people, and most of all gain lots of confidence for both travelling and living the life I want to live. I’d recommend it to anyone. You don’t need a travel partner, you don’t need to be ready, everything is figureoutable, you can do this. It’s almost a year later but the experiences I had on my trip are still giving back to me in ways I never could have predicted.

This is a very incomplete list of resources, of course. I’ll try to add more as I remember them or as questions come up. If you have any specific questions about my trip, check out my FAQs, my posts on tips for travelling through Europe and for doing it solo, or send me an email at stephanie @ lifeinlimbo.org.

Thanks for reading. Good luck and have fun on your trip!

10 Tips For Backpacking Through Europe

Backpacking Europe

If you’re travelling through Europe alone, check out my top tips for solo travel!

It’s the new year, which hopefully means some of you are gearing up for a big adventure, possibly one in Europe! I had such an amazing time on my trip: I got a chance to try new foods, make new friends, and spend some quality time with me, myself and I. It was a wonderful learning experience. Along the way, I picked up a few pieces of information that made backpacking through Europe a whole lot easier!

There are a ton of great tips for backpacking through Europe on the interwebs. Nomadic Matt has a great overall guide. Divine Caroline also has a good one here. And of course, James and Susan of The Savvy Backpacker are unparalleled when it comes to backpacking travel tips! Their Complete Guide (which is startlingly comprehensive) is here. Also, Neverending Voyage has a great guide to budgeting while traveling

All that said, here are my two cents’ worth! Check out my tips: 

Money

  • DO get a Visa Debit card: Don’t worry too much about getting your currency before you arrive. My best advice is to get a Visa Debit card – a debit card that has Visa-type accessibility. Meaning, anywhere they accept Visa, they will accept your debit card. Once you get to your destination, simply hit up the closest ATM, and you’ll have all the local cash you need. Try to take out money in larger amounts if you can so that you can avoid ATM fees! In my experience, all European ATMs have an English language option, so you don’t need to worry about that too much. (Ps. don’t forget to tell your bank you’re leaving the country!)
  • DON’T look like a tourist: I never carried a money belt, except for a couple occasions when I was physically in transit (for example, in the airport). If you’re are seen fumbling with your money belt, or walking around with your head in a map, totally distracted, you may become a target for pickpockets. Don’t assume that just because you’re wearing a money belt doesn’t mean you can’t be the victim of theft! You can still be distracted and robbed if you’re not careful. Be discreet when looking at maps – you could even sit down at a cafe or park bench to figure out your route before you go. Keep your wallet in a zippered compartment inside your zippered, ideally cross-body bag, and stay alert and aware. 

Languages

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  • DO learn a few key phrases: You will go such a long way if you can say “hello” and “thank you” in the language of the country you are visiting. When you’re backpacking Europe, I think it’s important to show some respect when you visit a new place. A new city might seem like just another exotic locale where you can have fun, but it’s also home to a whole group of people with a culture that you should make an effort to understand or at the very least, acknowledge. Take the time to learn how to greet people! Also, if you have any special needs, learn the words for those too. For example, if you’re a vegetarian, like me, you might want to learn the correct word, so as to avoid awkward situations.  
  • DON’T worry too much: Incredibly, I very rarely had an issue with language. This is a product of all the tourism that happens in Europe, for better or for worse: everyone seems to speak English. If you visit smaller, less touristy places, you’ll find there is less English, of course, but in that case you can always download the iCOON iPhone app (which is a picture dictionary), use Google Translate if you have wifi, or just gesture wildly (a personal favourite). 

Packing

  • DO pack light: My #1 tip for safety, efficiency and speed! Read more about my decision to travel with a carry-on here. You can also see my full packing list here!
  • DON’T bring books: Maybe you’re not a total book nerd like I am, but reading was one of my favourite activities to do on my trip. Of course since I was travelling with a carry on bag, there was no room for books! Invest in a small e-reader (I traveled with my iPad mini) and download books as you go. If you can’t afford it, then bring one book with you and trade it in at hostels. Most hostels have a small library where you can take a book if you leave one! Bonus tip: if you belong to a library, download the OverDrive app to one of your devices or access your library’s ebook library on the browser of your computer. That way, you can borrow books from the library even if you’re in another country, get to read new things and save a lot of money in the process!

Navigation

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  • DO download Ulmon apps! If you have a smartphone, download the Ulmon app whenever you visit a big city. Inside the app you have a fully loaded city map complete with restaurant listings and major sightseeing spots. You can “pin” addresses or locations with bright colourful dots so you can find your way to them later. The best part is, all the information is available offline, when you have no wifi or 3G service. Actually, no, the best part is that you can actually navigate using the app even when you have no wifi or service. That’s right. It can find where you are and act as a compass as you walk towards new sites. Don’t ask me how it does it, but it does, and works wonderfully, and it’s free! Definitely download as many of these as you need. 
  • DON’T forget to plan ahead: Not every city has an Ulmon app, and even if it does, it won’t be much use to you if you don’t know the address of your hostel. Remember to write down the names and addresses of where you’ll be staying prior to arriving in a new city, as well as instructions on how to find them! One thing I liked to do was research instructions and addresses ahead of time, and then screenshot the page on my phone so I could have all the information for later when I had no wifi or service. Taking photos of important information like door codes, locker numbers or parking spaces can be really helpful. 

Hostels

  • DO ask fellow travellers for recommendations: Hostels can be so hit-and-miss, and even though HostelWorld and other booking websites show reviews of people who have stayed there, there’s no substitute for getting a recommendation from a fellow backpacker. I stayed in some of the best hostels based on suggestions from other backpackers, which is really useful in cities like Rome or Paris where there are a hundred hostels to choose from. So if you meet someone who has been somewhere you’re going, get their opinion on where you should stay. 
  • DON’T forget locks: I’m not going to try and scare you, because I never was stolen from, but I think that bringing your own locks is important. Remember to bring a small suitcase lock and a padlock. The suitcase lock is great not only for your suitcase while in transit or at hostels without lockers, but is also great for lockers whose clasp is too small for a bigger padlock. Also, hostels will charge for locks (and some won’t even have them) so you’ll save money if you bring your own. They don’t weigh much, but they’ll give you some peace of mind if you feel strange about leaving your stuff unattended in a hostel without lockers all day.

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And there you have it, my favourite tips for backpacking through Europe. A trip like that is a heck of a ride, and the better prepared you are for it, the more fun you’ll have during it. One last set of do’s and don’ts: do take the leap and plan an adventure + don’t let fear hold you back! Yes it’s scary, but it’s totally worth it.

What are your top travel tips? Are you planning any travel adventures for 2014?  

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