Choose Adventure

There comes a point in the life of every blogger when they realize that their content has outgrown their organizational strategy… and this particular conundrum came for me in 2017.

For months, I’d been reading and rereading my posts, trying to figure out a way to unite my full-time job in finance with my passions for travel and writing while not ignoring the fact that I just bought a (surprisingly needy) fifties fixer upper that I’m primarily renovating myself.

I was failing at making it all work together here on the blog. Miserably.

Then suddenly, I had an idea…

There is a unifying theme to everything that is going on in my life, and therefore, on this blog:

I choose adventure.

Continue reading “Choose Adventure”

Thoughts On Living Authentically and Writing Your Own Rules

Hi, I’m Sarah.

It’s been so long that you might have forgotten me, so I figured I should introduce myself again just to be safe.

August and September were busy months, but I don’t feel like you’ve missed a lot.

I’ve just been working, doing some travel, attending a wedding and… oh yeah!

BUYING MY FIRST HOUSE.

Continue reading “Thoughts On Living Authentically and Writing Your Own Rules”

Why Visit Vienna?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m London girl, through and through. If there is one city in the world that I’d love to end up in long term (or short term, or just for my fifth visit and counting…) it is London.

That being said, there is another European city I’d happily end up in long term, short term or just for another visit… and I don’t see it mentioned on blogs as often as other European travel hubs.

So I think it is time to change that. Continue reading “Why Visit Vienna?”

New Orleans in Pictures and My Love Affair with Photography

One of my favorite things about food bloggers is that they write a story in between pictures of their recipe.

Then at the end of the post, after you’ve learned about their day or week and seen mouth-watering shots of some gorgeous food creation throughout… Voila! There is the recipe that you can follow yourself! Continue reading “New Orleans in Pictures and My Love Affair with Photography”

One Word to Describe: New Orleans

After visiting New Orleans on a long weekend trip two years ago, the city stayed at the back of my mind (and stayed on my travel bucket list). Since the 4th of July fell on a Tuesday this year, many American companies gave employees both Monday and Tuesday, July 3rd and 4th, off work for the holiday. This opened up a window of time for a solid 4-day weekend… so I jumped at the chance to revisit New Orleans.

This particular weekend was a pricey time to visit, as the Essence Festival fell on the same weekend as July 4th. Despite the fact that the average price per night on this 5 night trip was higher than I’ve ever paid to stay in any hostel in the world… flights were relatively reasonable from Nashville at the time when we purchased them, so my friend and I went for it.

And I’m so glad that we did. Continue reading “One Word to Describe: New Orleans”

FAQs on Getting a Full-Time Job Directly Out of College (from a world-traveling blogger)

As one of those weird millennials who went straight to work full time after May graduation (almost exactly one month later, in fact), I think there are a lot of pros to working full time after college. But as you are well aware, I also happen to be a world-traveling blogger who has trouble staying in one place. Since these characteristics don’t intuitively work together, I tend to get some questions about this topic… so I figured I’d address those common questions in bulk.

Do I regret going to work full time directly after graduating?

In general, I try not to think of decisions I’d make differently if I could as “regrets”… more as “lessons learned”. This is a difficult question, because in this case I know that I made the only choice that was available to me at the time. Because I only got paid once a month in my first full-time job, I had a daunting gap from the end of April (when I quit my part-time job and paid internship) to the end of June (when I started my full-time job) with no income coming in… and two rent payments due! It was tight, and there just weren’t funds available to push back my start date at the full-time job to August or September of that year and backpack around Europe for three months.

So I didn’t do that.

Do I wish I’d pulled more shifts during that last year in college so that I could have saved up enough money to push back my start date a bit and go on a pre-full-time work adventure? Definitely. Hindsight is 20-20, and looking back I can see that I should have planned ahead to make that gap trip financially feasible.

What was the hardest thing about the transition from college to full-time work?

For me this question has three answers: structure, sitting and free time.

Like many travelers I’ve met, I tend to thrive on a bit of chaos and unpredictability. In college, I had a different class and work schedule every single day, and I loved that variety. It isn’t my natural tendency to have a highly-structured schedule in my life, so the 8 to 5 work schedule with one hour for lunch in the middle of the day- 5 days a week- was a shock to my system. Couple that with the next big transition from college to full-time work in finance… sitting ALL DAY… and I remember being physically exhausted for the first three months after starting that full time job (believe it or not, sitting all day will totally zap your energy). Pro tip: I feel that a lot of employers are putting more focus on trying to break up the sitting for health reasons now than when I first started working full time, so see if your employer will spring for a standing desk. No harm in asking!

Arguably the hardest part of the transition from college to full-time work was saying goodbye to my free time. In college, I had a lot going on, but I had a lot more free time mixed into an average week than I do the work world. I could study for something a few hours, go meet friends for coffee, study another hour, work on a personal project, go to a class, head to work, then meet some friends at night. At work, for the 8+ hours a day that you are there, you just work. Then there are the big blocks of free time: no more fall break, no more winter break, no more spring break – and most detrimental to us travelers – no more 2+ months off for summer break. You’ve got to get creative with those limited vacation days you have off work (but if you are looking for advice on that topic, you’ve certainly come to the right blog!)

Wouldn’t it be easier to focus on my blog and on traveling if I worked part time instead of full time?

I read a lot about millennials, know a lot of millennials and am a millennial, so I’m well aware that many people in my generation choose to bring in a little money on the side through a part-time job of some sort while pursuing their passion full time. I’m not going to say that option isn’t the right choice for some people, because I’m sure that it is. It just isn’t the right choice for me.

At this point in my blog’s life, I don’t make any money from it whatsoever. I don’t have ads, I don’t have affiliations and I don’t write any type of paid endorsements. My goal is for this blog to be a point of connection to and a resource for other travelers. One day, I’d love to pick up some writing gigs elsewhere. But for the time being, suffice it to say that I couldn’t live off this blog in any capacity!

And even if I could… I’d likely still work full time. While I love writing this blog and sharing travel photographs here, my passion is traveling internationally as much as possible. While working part time would give me more time to travel, it would also give me much less money to travel. So, I plan to keep working full time for the foreseeable future!

What are some of the benefits of going to work full time after college?

We’ve talked about some common negatives to full-time work here so far (lack of free time, rigid structure, etc.)… but what about the positives?

I have two primary answers to this question: money and experience.

Even if you feel that you need more time to explore what you want to do permanently, we all have bills and rent to pay. If you’ve got to work anyway, the most efficient option (in my personal opinion) is to get a job doing something that pays you as much as possible and allows you to build widely applicable skills. If you don’t know what you want to do longer term, that is totally fine: most of us don’t when we first graduate college. Make a plan for what is next while bringing in a regular paycheck and building your resume. Build both skills and a savings account, and read travel blogs in the evening and on weekends (like this one) until you decide on what you want to pursue longer term.

Do you have other questions about going to work full time after college that weren’t addressed here? Feel free to share in the comments!

Travel Gear Review: The Gregory Deva 60 Backpack

Since I am not exactly an adventure traveler (let’s face it, the most physically strenuous thing I do on most trips is walk around and eat too much pizza), I don’t have a lot of specialty travel gear. However, there is one particular piece of travel gear that I can’t live without: my backpack.

My Gregory Deva 60 Backpack, to be exact.

So I figured it was about time that I shared my review of this essential piece of travel gear here on the blog.

Why Buy a Backpack?

Despite multiple international trips throughout college, I never purchased an internal-frame backpack. Looking back on some of my packing mishaps on study abroad trips in particular, I can see that a backpack would have been a great investment. However, I was apparently a slow learner when it came to figuring out that rolling suitcases just aren’t ideal for many traveling situations…. and those are the situations I tend to find myself in most commonly.

If your budget and travel style result in a need to visit multiple countries in a short amount of time, stay in hostels or airbnbs and navigate a lot of narrow alleys, cobblestones and stairs, then you and I have a lot in common!

Also, you should definitely look into getting a backpack.

My First Backpack

I bought my first backpack in preparation for a trip to Costa Rica in November of 2013. After considering our hostel stays and the passenger vans and buses we’d primarily be using to get around, I decided that this was definitely not a trip for the rolling luggage. Luckily, November is a bit off season for backpacks at our local REI store, so I was able to find a backpack on sale that fit me very well.

My REI Flash 52 backpack and I had a lot of fun together (see it in the featured image above, or a similar but slightly smaller style here). My favorite things about that particular pack were the size and the weight: it is the lightest pack that I’ve ever tried on, and it was a great size for most of our adventures. However, after visiting 8 countries together in 4 years there were a few things that I realized I didn’t love about the pack. Even with those items in mind, there was only one other pack on the market that could ever make me consider giving up my Flash…

And this spring, I finally caved.

My Gregory Deva 60 Backpack

The primary thing that bothered me about the REI Flash 52 backpack was the fact that it was top load only. Depending on your style of travel and where you’ll be using the backpack most often, this factor may not matter to you at all. Since I stay in hostel dorm rooms quite a bit, having to dump the entire contents of my Flash out on the hostel dorm room floor at 3 am because I forgot to get my contact solution out earlier in the day was getting a bit old.

So last year, I started doing quite a bit of backpack research online. Pro tip: NEVER purchase an internal frame backpack that you haven’t tried on. Even if it looks like the perfect fit, and even if it has all the features you’re looking for, the fit of these backpacks varies widely from brand to brand.

Before I was ready to go into the store to try on packs, I noticed that one backpack kept popping up in my internet research. It fit all my criteria and more:

the Gregory Deva 60.

Eventually, the time came to try on this perfect backpack…

…and I had high expectations, to say the least.

Luckily, the Gregory Deva 60 met them all.

The Gregory Deva 60 is a slightly larger pack than my Flash, but the shape keeps it from being quite as top heavy (my Flash had a tendency to be very skinny and tall on my back when it was packed full, whereas the Deva spreads out the load better horizontally). Based on my experience using the 52 liter flash for 4 years, I knew that I didn’t want to go up in size significantly. For the type of travel I do (usually short term trips scheduled around work), I just don’t have any need for a pack larger than 60 liters. However, if you are looking for a larger pack, the Deva also comes in 70 liter and 80 liter versions.

In addition to giving you the option between top load, front load and a bottom access zipper, the Gregory Deva 60 comes with a removable daypack (so you can carry your daily necessities away from the campsite without having to carry your full pack… or if you are me, you can carry your toiletries and change of clothes to the hostel bathroom without dropping anything). The Gregory Deva 60 also comes with a fitted rain cover that stores in its own easily-accessible pocket. Aside from all these features, the backpack just fits like a dream. The first time I put it on in the store at REI I remember thinking, “THIS IS HOW A BACKPACK SHOULD FIT!”

Since I’m providing an honest review of the most important piece of travel gear in my life, I have to address one potential negative I’ve noticed with the Gregory Deva 60 backpack… because fair is fair. In a nutshell, the weight distribution system, added features, durable materials, comfy back and cloud-like padding on the shoulder straps does not come light. When compared to my Flash (which as I mentioned above is the lightest pack I’ve ever tried on), the Deva is heavy empty. Compared to packs in its class (packs with similar features), it doesn’t seem to be significantly heavier… but it was something I had to get used to when switching from the Flash, so I wanted to mention it.

Tips for Funding Your Backpack

As with most travel-related expenses, it pays to get creative. I’ll be the first to tell you that the Gregory Deva 60 Backpack is not cheap. From the very first day I fell in love with the backpack, the price tag made me cringe. I spent a lot of time dreaming and scheming about this pack, and just as much time dreaming and scheming about how to pay for it.

In the end, I decided that the investment was worth it. As the Gregory Deva 60 is everything I’ve ever wanted in a backpack, I don’t intend to purchase another backpack…. ever.

This backpack relationship is a long term commitment.

In order to save as much as possible on my purchase of the Gregory Deva 60, I waited for REI to have a 20% off sale. These occur throughout the year, and if you’re thinking about a big gear purchase like a backpack, then waiting for this sale (or seeing if your local gear provider has something similar) may be worth it. I also used a coupon I had received for an extra $20 off $100 spent during the sale. Since I had to order my Deva online (because my local REI didn’t carry the color I wanted in store), I also got free shipping on the order. In addition to all of this, REI gives you a member dividend on big purchases at the end of the year (this is effectively a rebate check). The REI site says that this backpack should come with a $29 dividend that I should receive when those pay out in March 2018 (cross your fingers!) Last but not least, I found a friend who was new to the world of backpacks and needed a light pack without bells and whistles to fit her budget… so I sold her my Flash, and put the money towards my new Deva!

I’m happy the Flash found a new home, so my Gregory Deva 60 and I can live happily ever after.

New to the world of backpacks, or already have a favorite? Feel free to share any thoughts or questions in the comments!

 

From Nashville to New Orleans

Two years ago, I went to New Orleans with three friends for Halloween. It was a whirlwind long weekend trip, and the French Quarter’s Halloween nightlife and constant rain combined to result in us not really getting to see much of NOLA in the daytime. On our last day before returning to work, we ventured out to Cafe du Monde to grab beignets and take a few cloudy pictures. We ended that night on Frenchman street, listening to live music and talking about how we wished we had more time.

In honor of the fact that I’m finally headed back to the Big Easy next month, I’m sharing a few of my favorites from our first trip and the things I’m looking forward to on this second visit. Continue reading “From Nashville to New Orleans”

My work and travel secret weapon: The 10 Day Trip

As long as I’ve been doing this traveling thing, I’ve been focused on balancing travel with other obligations. In college, I studied abroad during the summers so I could be in town during fall and spring semesters to take my core courses that weren’t offered elsewhere. Since I entered the work world in 2013, I’ve been focused on finding the most efficient way to travel internationally using my limited vacation days. I’ve done quite a bit of firsthand research to figure out how to maximize my time abroad while minimizing my vacation days used. Ultimately, I’ve managed to visit 11 countries while holding down a full time job in finance since graduating from college 4 years ago. So how exactly do I pull this off?

My secret weapon, of course!

And I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you. Continue reading “My work and travel secret weapon: The 10 Day Trip”