Do a Lot With a Little

Allergen-free eating on the road, europe, family, food, France, geek, Ireland, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

I have never had what I would consider a lot of money or resources. I grew up in my grandparent’s house. My family lived below the poverty line. Since moving out of my childhood home I have been in school and/or working in jobs that don’t pay more than $34,000 a year. I sometimes do some work as a photographer or web designer to make ends meet. It has never been a lot. I have never had excessive means.

However, even with a little, I make it stretch. I take the advantages that have been given to me and make it work. This is, of course, been an immense lot of luck, and stubbornness, and sacrifice. However, it has meant that I have been able to do more than many at 27.

For my first trip to Europe, I lived at home and worked almost seven days a week for $8 an hour, at a crappy little fossil shop with sketchy owners. I did that for eight months, and then cheaply wandered around Europe crashing with friends, old and new, and hosteling when I needed to. I ate apples for lunch, and cooked in dingy kitchens to save cash. I walked instead of taking taxis and buses. I made it work. I took the advantages of free places to sleep and turned it into a longer trip, another museum, a nice meal.

In 2013 on my study abroad I headed to Italy on the most economical program I could find. I ate at the apartment for the most part, picking up in season produce at the markets. Savoring every sweet little strawberry and succulent squash. I bought $2 gelato on my way to classes for my “lunch” and euro store (same as a dollar store) nuts for a snack. I would scour the city for food deals on dinners. €15 three-course meals meant I could eat and drink on the cheap, street vendors served €2 polenta for a real treat. I bartered to cut down on souvenir costs. I stubbornly walked away to save another €5. I took advantage of every meal and treat that the study abroad program offered, knowing it would save me money.

2015 was the start of my M.A. and I hosteled, while others stayed in hotels. I packed lunch or ate cheap soup in the cantina at the college instead of eating a sandwich nearby. I traded books at the hostel and did my laundry in the basement. In an extra three weeks of travel I only stayed three nights in a real hotel, a 3-star Ibis. I was gifted gluten free bread from a fabulous bakery in Dublin. I bought few souvenirs and savored toast and tea and packets of oatmeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I LOVE food. However, I love seeing the world more. I love diving into museums and cathedrals and tours. I love eating cheap food that locals love, from chippies and markets, and food stalls. I like finding fresh veggies and fruits to suck down locally. I like fancy things, and fine meals, but if it means I can try three restaurants for the price of one, I’ll take more over the one.

I find this philosophy trickles into everything I do. I shop second hand clothing stores so I can afford a better quality item for much less. I shop grocery store sales, and closeout items for a better deal. I coupon and wait for deals to get the items I need. I scour for off-season travel deals and seasonal items to hit the clearance sections. Some find this cheap. I find it a means to live a fuller life.

I don’t hoard this bounty either, I gift to others, and donate like crazy. Monthly I probably get rid of at least one if not more trash bags of stuff. It consists of clothes my stepdaughter has outgrown, shoes we are bored of, and books we have read. I recycle and reuse, I pass it on and upcycle. I take a little and make a lot.

End note: I have been extremely lucky and I am fully aware not everyone can do this.

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Ask and you’ll receive, but what about gratitude?

musings

I love the concepts presented in the Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Ask for what you want the universe will grant your wish and you will be happy and flourish. Which is a great and simple way of explaining hard work, good friends and sometimes privilege.

This isn’t to bash Amanda Palmer or call her philosophy bull shit, but it’s to point out the flaws in such thinking in the wider picture of what I feel are first world problems and ideas. We, as americans tend to believe that we are owed certain things in life. Which no doubt our upbringing and encouragement in public schools enhances that thought process.

We are told, “you can be anything you want to be” which may be true for some people, but for others the goal is extremely hard to reach, if not completely unattainable. It’s unrealistic to believe someone like me that struggles with math is ever going to be an astronaut. Or that someone that struggles with reading will ever be president. It’s not that they couldn’t even do those jobs, but that it’s not realistic that those expectations exist. The reality is that different people’s brains work differently and that some things just aren’t going to happen. Dreams are important, but so is humility and accepting you are poor at something is nothing to be ashamed of.

However, some of the bigger constraints come with our racially and class divided world. Though America tries to label itself as a land of opportunity, it is extremely hard for kids in poverty, or that are part of a minority to get ahead in a way that is on par with their white counterparts. Go here for more information. Beyond anything you are born into sometimes life is just hard. Parents don’t always step-up how they should. Kids don’t always have good encouragement. Some kids suffer with learning disabilities that go unaddressed for years. But this isn’t about education, it’s so much more.

Now I believe that all people deserve educational opportunities and the chance to thrive no matter what they are born into. If we could eradicate global poverty imagine what could get done! And my hope is that humanity will get there one day. Yet in the meantime we need to think about our advantages and be thankful for what we have in our life.

This does not mean we stagnate anything in the advancements of people, or give up on causes, but rather let’s assess how we get anywhere.

We get places because of others. We get places because of our race, and our class and our parents, and how well those things work together to get us through childhood. If those things don’t work together, then let’s hope you have 2/3 or 1/3. Then if not those maybe someone believed in you. Maybe someone worked two jobs so you would have enough food and clothes to wear. Maybe someone gave you free rides to a job, or stayed up all night tutoring you.

Regardless, we rely on other’s and their ability to share their resources with you. So my point back to Amanda Palmer and others is, let’s remember to thank every person that buys a song, and that gives us a cheap apartment. Unfortunately that was what put me off of her book, and why I only read a third of it. It all sounded like a love letter to herself and why she got what she did, not the reality of a massive fan base and supportive relationships.

Let’s thank our parents for keeping us out of debt for school, or for helping us manage it if they can’t. Let’s thank people in our society that have worked for civil rights and have fought for decades to improve working conditions, or women having a right to vote and work. Let’s applaud those benevolent wealth holders that support campaigns to support cancer research and hospitals. All of these things make the world go round.

So let us not forget that when we ask and receive, remember there is someone else on the line. Or when someone asks from you, remember when you asked too. If we all considered this aid system, if we all tried a little harder to hand-out and not just take, then equality may just be more prevalent. I know I sounds like a socialist (okay I kind of am one) but the reality is that human advancement comes with working together. It comes with checking our privilege and making sure we don’t use it to oppress others. It comes with speaking out and helping others up, not with stomping on toes.

No doubt most of you practice many of these principles, but I ask you to really think too how others have helped you in the smallest ways, and pay it forward. Just thank those that have been there. Thank them publically and thank them vocally. Even a cup of coffee can change someone’s life. It has mine.

Thank you for reading, sharing, subscribing and caring about my work!

Rebecca Lee Robinson

 

Celiacs- Fear Not the Adventure

Allergen-free eating on the road, Travel

It sucks having food allergies, and it sucks even worse when you have a travel bug, but the world doesn’t always accommodate your “issues”. However, as I have found in five years of travel, I almost always kind find an option to eat, and never have I gone hungry. At least not yet.

You may have to pay more for a meal, but many times it’s less or the same. You may not get your first menu choice, but you will likely get SOMETHING that is good. You will also likely try something new and exciting that you maybe never though of as an option before.

So here are my tips to surviving on the road:

  • Know your allergy and what you can and cannot eat.
  • Know what recipes commonly have in them that might be an issue.
  • Learn what you need to ask in a language, or find a card to carry about your food issue.
  • Shop and cook for yourself as much as possible. Regardless of everything, you will likely be able to go to a store and buy ingredients to make a rocking meal.
  • Be brave and try new things.
    • Such as Snails (Escargot), Caviar (Fish Eggs), Cheese (often with odd bacteria) and new fruits and vegetables you may have not seen before.
  • Learn about countries and what common foods are. Mostly European and the Americas rely on bread (wheat) as much as they do. That’s not to say that other parts of the world don’t use wheat, but often their diets have a rice or corn base. With other grains mixed in.
  • Experiment with ingredients you find and try to ask questions from locals.
  • Always go for the salad bar when in doubt of everything else. Or just a salad.

But also be realistic that you might get sick and have cross contamination. For that here are tricks that help

  • Probiotics or yogurt to help with digestion
  • Enzymes to help with digestion
  • Mineral Water also can help with stomach issues
  • Coconut Water also can be soothing and for hot summer travel, it replaces electrolytes
  • Finally, if you can find it, Kombucha can also be a quick fix to an upset gut.
  • Look for vitamins to take with you traveling, but always check country-specific regulations on medicine and other pills.

Happy Travels,

Rebecca

Mulan

musings

I love Mulan, and I always have. From seeing it in the theater as a 7 year old, to a 24 year old watching it and analyzing its feminist message. At 7 I dressed up like her for a costume party, and carried around my barbie doll of her, always in her kung-fu outfit! At 24 I feel a tattoo is in order for my celebration of a fabulous story, and studying Ancient China in college has given more depth and inspiration to the story that pours from a rich, vibrant culture and time.

I remember being in love with the idea of a female character saving the day, I loved the funny dragon, I loved the touch on a culture so different from my own that I could only be mesmerized. I fell in love with not only the movie, but the idea that the world was so much bigger than what I had been thought to believe.

It was the art, the characters, the music, and all the other subtle details. It was getting to go to, what I believed, the “authentic” China-China in Manitou Springs and eating won-ton soup and listening to traditional music every time we were in “The Springs”. It was a fantasy and escapism for a child that longed for her own war to fight and adventure on the horizon.

Mulan wasn’t just an excitement for a child, it was further permission to dream. It encouraged me to read National Geographic’s and go into History and Journalism in academics so that I could explore more and more of the world. It has inspired me to travel alone to Europe three times, and to plan bigger adventures for the future, including China. It has encouraged me to take on scary challenged, because though the battle was hard and frightening, it was worth it. Though tiring and tumultuous, saving myself, and maybe my nation, was worth it.

Okay I am getting a little dramatic, but the sense of pride that Mulan instilled in me, the idea that as a girl i could do really AMAZING things will never be forgotten. The idea that a girl could be just as good as the boys, and that a girl could be the main reason something fails or thrives was a driving force like no other. No other princess movie in my childhood had that same message, and no other movie left my heart full of joy and confidence that I too could take on something evil and defeat it.

Regardless of some of the nonsense that inevitably comes with Disney movies, this one is still in my top five. The others came to me in my later childhood and adult life. Lilo and Stitch was innovative and hit home to how important family is to all of us and that differences make us beautiful. Tangled allowed goofiness to be charming and that we all have to save ourselves. Brave explored the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and the expectations we all have hovering over our heads. All of these movies have altered me, but Mulan was the first and the strongest.

How to Travel Without a Fortune, Part III

Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Read Part I and II

BREAK DOWN- 1 month travel- budgeting for Europe

$40- travel guides (or FREE with apps, but I always suggest books unless you know an area)

$1000-$2000 plane tickets, depending on how much you’re moving around and where you’re going

$500- extra travel- buses, trains, metro etc.

$500- entrance fees/travel passes

$200- souvenirs (more if you want jewelry/more expensive items)

$1000- sleeping arrangements ($30/night) (more if you hotel alone, less if you can split rooms/stay with friends)

$500- food and drink

$500- emergency/misc. (Bring an emergency credit card)

Total:

around $4200

The good news is that you can spend more or less  on what you personally like to do. I’ve done trips for $6000 for 2.5 months and only $3000 for a month. Also consider traveling in the off season to get better deals and save money. Keep in mind looking for large tours that can be very affordable ($900/9 days). Comment with questions.

Resources

How to Travel Without a Fortune, Part II

Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Read Part I Here.

3. Decided where you’re willing to stay.

  • Or better, decide how you can stay.
  • Hostels are great if you don’t mind sharing a room with numerous people, which can be noisy, hot, uncomfortable and busy. The best reason is that you have a kitchen to cook meals. Sometimes hostels have private rooms or smaller women’s dorms that help with the chaos.
  • If hostels are too much chaos:
    • look into less expensive B&Bs
    • Discount hotels like IBIS are very affordable, sometimes as low as $70/night for two people.
    • Look for air BNB options, which is also a great way to make friends.
    • Also, look for small apartments so you can cook and get a more local feel.
  • In Asia it is often best to stay in hotels.

4. What do you want to do?

  • Read about all the things to do where you are traveling and narrow it down. Then add up entrance fees, bus/travel fares etc. and get an idea on how much it will cost to go somewhere.
  • To SAVE: look into city passes that offer transport with it. Such as the London and Paris Pass
    • If you don’t want to see a lot of touristy things, you might avoid this.
  • Decide what you can’t go home without seeing, and rearrange your budget for that.

5. Challenge your budget

  • Figure out how much you want to spend a day and try to stay in that, say $100/day is your budget. If you spend $50 on a hotel/hostel, $20 on food and $30 on adventure you will be at your budget. I’ve tried to stay at $50-75 on many trips and have been successful.

6. Food and where to save

  • ASK LOCALS
    • they will know the best food for the best price, this is especially true in Italy.
    • Look for “meal deals” at mom and pop restaurants and pubs.
      • In Italy there was a dinner deal for 14 euros, which included wine, water and three courses of AMAZING food!
        • They were right by my apartment too
    • shop local markets
      • the best place for the freshest food!
    • Look for local bakeries for breads and sweets
      • they’re often VERY affordable if not dirt cheap and delicious
  • With allergies
    • ask around about this too
    • As the world becomes smaller and more aware many places advertise gluten free products.
    • LEARN what words indicate “gluten free” etc. and then go to the grocery store to stock up on snacks
      • this will save you the most money
    • Ask around about gluten free bakeries

7. Souvenirs

  • Street market
    • good deals, a chance to barter and less money spent on good quality items.
  • Museums
    • support the preservation and work of historical societies that keep up castles and artifacts by shopping in their gift shops. They also charge less, and do much more with the money.
  • Shops
    • if you have time, price compare, and try to barter (totally acceptable in most places)
    • Many times they have some better quality goods, but not always
  • Ask Locals
    • ask around about quality, where goods come from, and what is a waste of money or not. Locals usually have something to say about it.

8. Drinking/Partying

  • Save by only buying one or two drinks and avoiding places with cover fees.

Part III

How to Travel Without a Fortune, Part I

Travel, United Kingdom, United States

It’s a common misconception that traveling is far too expensive for the average person.

Which it can be.

But it doesn’t have to be.

True Story Bro.

In total I have taken three trips to Europe, and have only spent a total of $12,000- which you may say “holy shit” that’s still a lot of money. Let it be known that’s 6 months worth of travel. In Europe. In some of the most expensive countries and cities in the world.

So here is how to do it.

1. Figure out where you want to go.

  • Depending on the location, your airfare will vary from around $300-2,000, once you know how much it takes to get there, then you can figure out how long you should stay and how much more you can afford.
  • If you’re going to Europe, consider flying to Iceland, Ireland, or England. Usually flights are cheaper and you can get a connecting flight to the rest of Europe from the airport you hit first. This usually can save you a few hundred dollars if not close to $1,000
  • Research time difference and ask around about jet lag. Many times it takes about a week to adjust to time difference, so keep this in mind. If lack or change in sleep doesn’t bother you much, then just decide how long you can/want to go.
    • I suggest at least a month in Europe, and a week or two if you are staying in the Americas.
  • Think of your bucket list and decide what you want to do the most. For me it was the British Isles, followed by France, Germany and Italy. I’ve done all of them at one time or another. Next up: Asia
  • Consider if you need a travel buddy.
    • In Europe I’ve never needed a travel buddy, but I have had some family travel with me. I’ve also had friends and family to check in. This makes the trip less lonely. But it also isn’t necessary, do some research on staying safe, cultural norms, and how to avoid trouble. Even email and/or try to talk to police officers in other countries to get an idea of how to behave. It made a big difference for me in Germany and Italy.
    • If you are going to Latin America: do your research, especially if you are female, on where to go or not. Ask a lot of questions. Most guidebooks offer tips for solo women travelers.
    • Asia, Africa etc.: Women alone can travel in Asia, but many cultures see solo women travelers in a negative light. If you can travel with at least one man, it helps a lot from what I understand. The good news is that much of Asia is still inexpensive to travel in, and you can save money even with two people.
  • Ask yourself what you want from a trip.
    • Parties?
    • History?
    • Art?
    • Food?
    • Culture?
    • All of the above?

2. What is a realistic amount to save?

  • Look and add up what you think you can afford.
    • If it’s less than $2000 try to go somewhere closer to home such as Latin America
      • some resorts are only about $1000/week
    • If you can raise $3000-6000
      • Consider that transatlantic adventure to Europe or Asia

Part II