How to Travel Solo and Fall in Love With It

RIshikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, www.bartnikowski.com
Rishikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Myth: it costs a lot to travel.

Yes it does if you stay in $400 a night hotels like I used to do.

It was fun.

The truth is I love to travel solo.

I don’t have to wait for a friend to break up with her lover, leave their job, or save enough money to go with me.

When I want to go to Nepal, Colombia, or Sardinia I put on my Van sneakers and go!

I can sit in a fancy pants bar/restaurant like I am now and write. And enjoy a superb glass of red wine and be at ease and comfortable.

You never have to negotiate where to go based on money.

I was backpacking in the Himalayas solo in 2009 in Sikkim, India and realized I was spending less money per month than I received for renting out my apartment in Palo Alto, California.

I was spending less than $300 per month to stay in guesthouses eating home made Tibetan soup and momos, traveling by share jeep in the Himalayas, and having a blast.

I came home from that 10-month trip with money in the bank.

Advice.

Don’t go over your budget on lodging. Yes you can splash out for a few days. But you can also get budget accommodation and live it up at the upper crust lounge/restaurant like I am now.

Secret: you can often work/write in 5-star surroundings enjoying the incredible views and then go back to your Airbnb room, campsite, or rented home.

You’ll discover that having a set amount to spend on lodging will keep you kosher.

I often times suggest a lower price on a room when the price suggested is too high.

It’s called rich foreigner tax. Many countries, like India, have no set prices on their rooms, the price is whatever they can get.

So haggle wisely, you’re still most likely paying too much.

Freedom!

One of the best things I ever did was travel twice around the world with no itinerary buying one-way plane tickets along the way.

If I felt like staying in Bali another month I could, no discussion.

If I wanted to explore Burma for a month, I went.

First time I went round the world I spent $2900 on plane tickets, the 2nd time I spent $1800. No I didn’t buy a RTW ticket, it doesn’t give you freedom on your journey.

For example I decided to stay in Cambodia for 4 weeks when I couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving.

I was falling in love with Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is located and so I stayed.

No heated arguments. I found an incredible local guesthouse: Rosie’s guesthouse. And another one, Ou Malay where the Cambodian owners and I had a love fest of laughing and daily camaraderie.

It was $7 a night, no wifi but so what?! We loved each other!

Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse Siem Reap, www.bartnikowski.com
Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse, Siem Reap, http://www.bartnikowski.com

You meet so many people!

When you’re solo, there’s no one to listen or talk to. You can be alone with your own thoughts and then Bam! you meet someone seriously interesting who lights up your world and you wonder how you ever would have met them if you were with someone.

This has happened to me more times than I can count. And I’m still in touch with many friends I met traveling from Spain, Korea, Australia, Nepal, India, Germany, and Argentina.

They shook up my world and invited me into a new portal of love and friendship. I never would have met them if I wasn’t solo.

Being solo you have to reach out. It can be intoxicating.

Traveling solo, I mention my thoughts to whoever is standing by, I don’t take offense if they don’t respond, I’m simply radiating aloha which means, I’m spreading good will and happiness which is what the Dalai Lama advises but I didn’t realize until living in Hawaii that this means Aloha.

Pay attention. You might meet your soulmate, best friend ever, or meditation master around the next corner.

Suddenly you’ll be in a new world that you had no idea even existed.

Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, www.bartnikowski.com
Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Safety.

Yes you can be safe but you have to trust your gut. Don’t negotiate with the red alert warnings your instincts tell you. Pay attention.

Your body knows before your mind. Listen.

And while you are at it: don’t tell people you’re traveling solo. Don’t advertise your solo status by flagrantly drinking and carousing. Really.

Do make friends with families and women. Volunteer with humanitarian foundations that are educating and changing lives. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and smile.

A smile is universal. Yes it works in every country. Try it. It works.

Change Your Life, join Mary on Kauai July to December for a 3-day luxury private retreat, learn yoga and photography on the best island in the world.

 

Feel Good Friday

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I honestly didn’t think living on Kaua’i could get any better, but on the way out of the hospital the other day following my mammogram I stopped in the hospital gift shop to check it out. They sell See’s candy! Those of you from the west coast will know exactly why this discovery was so exciting, but for those who don’t know See’s, they are simply The. Best. Candy. Ever.

Anyway, last Saturday I went to buy some for Brett and the girls for Valentine’s Day, but the gift shop was closed :-(. Brett and I stopped in on Wednesday though and I had him pick out a box for himself – he chose the dark chocolate assortment – and we decided on the lollypop assortment for the girls. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that See’s is available here . . . even though I won’t be enjoying any of it for the time being (none of it is vegan).

Some other good things happened this week as well:

  • The freezer was (finally) defrosted!
  • Our annual rebate check arrived from Costco, and was quite a bit more than we were expecting.
  • Our federal tax refund check also arrived, less than three weeks after filing online. We decided to forego the $29 option to have it direct deposited, so were not expecting to receive anything until next month some time.
  • We put $17.78 in the change/$1 bill jar this week.
  • We found another beautiful $5 plant for the lanai at the farmer’s market.
  • And . . . I have ridden the exercise bike three times every day for the past week, putting in over 70 miles, and burning more than 2800 calories!

How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Feel Good Friday

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Happy birthday to WenYu! I almost can’t believe that the beautiful little girl I held for the first time nearly 17 years ago is grown up and almost ready to leave the nest. Where did the time go, and how did it go so fast?

It’s been a quiet but otherwise good week in spite of receiving not entirely unexpected news about my mom’s health. She is hanging in there, but changes are coming.

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And, we had a terrific dinner and visit with Denise and Jim on Tuesday evening. I already can’t wait for their visit next year!

Other good things happening this week:

  • I did two 15-minute bike rides every day.
  • The girls’ school announced they will pay $10 of each AP exam, which will save us $50. Also, the swim banquet has been cancelled, saving us another $80.
  • We put $12.60 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • The weather has been fantastic all week.

How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Feel Good Friday

Having a good time with Mary, photographer extraordinaire
Good times with my favorite Kaua’i photographer . . .

It’s been a GREAT week! Brett and I are getting ready to head out in a few minutes to have breakfast with friends Denise and Jim (who we met through the blog!), and then go on a hike with them along the coast. We’re so excited to be able to get together with them again!

On Tuesday we learned that WenYu was chosen to be her school’s recipient of a prestigious annual scholarship awarded by a private foundation in Hawai’i. Every year this foundation awards one graduating senior from each high school in Hawai’i, both public and private, a $1000 scholarship. WenYu had filled out the application, but as there were other applicants she didn’t think she stood much of a chance so was quite surprised when she received the news that she had been selected. She will now move on to the next round, where from all winners, 10 will receive an additional $2000, one will receive an additional $4000, and two will receive an additional $9000. She does not expect to go further, but being selected as one of this year’s scholarship recipients is a great honor. Brett and I are so proud of her that we could just about burst!

Here are a few other good things that happened this week:

  • I spent a lovely afternoon yesterday having coffee and talking photography, travel and family with good friend Mary Bartnikowski, who did our family’s photos this past Christmas. Her photography is amazing.
  • We’ve been enjoying fresh guavas from our tree in the back yard. Their aroma makes the whole house smell wonderful.
  • Both my mammogram and cholesterol review were good – yeah!
  • I had another week where I didn’t miss a day of riding the exercise bicycle. It’s been tougher with the resistance tightened, but I’m keeping up with it (and sticking with this really is a big deal for me).
  • Other than our weekly trip to the farmers’ market and reimbursing Denise and Jim for the Trader Joe’s supplies they brought for us, it’s been a no-spend week, the calm before the upcoming spending storm.
  • We put $10.25 in the change/$1 bill jar (we got a lot of $1 bills back at the farmers’ market).
  • Can I just say how much I love my new washer and dryer?
  • I now have over 34,000 followers on my Pinterest page!

How has your week been? What good things happened for you?

Feel Good Friday

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The little black container on the right comes from Japan, and holds a mosquito coil while it burns.

Did all of this past week go perfectly? No way. But, looking back and reflecting on all the good things that happened, even if they weren’t very big or important, I can no longer remember the things that didn’t go right or as hoped. It was a very good week!

  • I got both my mammogram and annual blood draw done. To say I procrastinate about these things would be an understatement, so I’m happy they’ve been completed.
  • Brett and I bought two beautiful plants for our lanai at the farmers’ market, from one of our favorite vendors. The cost for both of them was less than one would have been at a nursery or Home Depot.
  • I’ve been able to stick to the menu plan I made without making changes. All leftovers have been eaten too.
  • I’ve done two 15-minute rides on the exercise bike every day, and vegan eating continues to be enjoyable.
  • We put $13.62 into the change/$1 bill jar this week.
  • We earned 200 more frequent flyer miles from Hawaiian Airlines through Foodland grocery store (200 miles earned for every $250 spent).
  • Only WenYu will swim in tomorrow’s final meet for the county, in the women’s 100m freestyle. YaYu said her prayers were answered when she was told she would not be swimming.
  • Brett got both our taxes and the girls’ FAFSAs done. We will be getting a tiny refund on our federal return this year, and owe nothing to Hawai’i (and no refund either because we have nothing withheld).
  • After being informed that the two nightgowns I ordered (on sale, from Garnet Hill) would take two to three weeks to arrive in Hawai’i, they arrived the next day, just two days after I placed the order. Amazing!

How has your week been? Hopefully many good things happened for you, both big and small!

Feel Good Friday

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YaYu took this sunrise view from the high school last Tuesday when they had to go in early.

And another lovely week comes to a close! It was actually a very ordinary week, but good things still happened:

  • Brett and I had a coffee date at Starbucks on Monday, paid for with the gift card I received for Christmas.
  • There were no errands nor appointments this past week. My time was my own.
  • I had a great time at the girls’ swim meet and potluck last Saturday.
  • I rode my exercise bicycle this week for 15 minutes every morning and evening for a total of 48+ miles, and 1900+ calories burned.
  • WenYu’s and I are going to Colorado in April! The total expense for the trip wasn’t as much as I feared, although my plane ticket wasn’t cheap. We’ll only be there for two nights, just to visit the college, and then will turn right around to come home.
  • I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and was inspired to let go of a few more things in our already-downsized house.
  • We put $6.83 in the change/$1 bill jar, and went over $1000 saved in just a little over a year!
  • I rocked my vegan diet this week, and feel great!

How has your week gone? What good things happened for you?

Feel Good Friday

YaYu won a selfie stick at the annual Key Club - Kiwanis dinner this week, and I promptly photobombed their first picture.
My first photobomb

We are still waiting to hear WenYu’s application status at Wellesley College. Because she was a Questbridge finalist, her application did not move through the regular routes, so she has no access to the admissions portal to check her status. Wellesley said though that everyone would be notified by the end of today. WenYu is very calm about all this – she will of course love to hear that she’s been accepted, but if not then it wasn’t meant to be, and there’s another college waiting for her. (Note: She has received word that her application has been deferred to regular decision. So, not a rejection but not accepted either. 😦 )

Many other good things happened this week though to make me feel quite good this Friday:

  • I have my Mac back! It’s working better than ever.
  • WenYu heard back from Colorado College that she is officially a ‘legacy’ candidate – my mother graduated from CC in 1945. Hopefully this will help boost her chances for admission there (if she is not accepted at Wellesley).
  • Brett got our Christmas tree up on Sunday, and Meiling and I will hang the ornaments early next week. It’s still beautiful in the meantime with only the lights turned on.
  • I had a fantastic time meeting reader Cheryl, her husband and their friends on Monday. We were only going to meet for brunch, but after we finished eating they drove me home, came in for a tour and we ended up chatting for another two hours. I can’t wait until they’re back on the island to stay! We will practically be neighbors – their new house is very close to ours.
  • I received a nice check from the State of Oregon on Tuesday! I thought the account it came from had merged with my retirement account, so was a bit surprised that it was paid out separately. I rolled over the whole amount into my IRA.
  • We put $23.34 into the change/$1 bill jar this week. We put $31.01+ in the jar during November (because of the move I didn’t keep track of all of it).
  • We spent just $23.25 for all the delicious, locally-grown fruit and vegetables we bought on Wednesday at the farmers’ market (so your guess was extremely close, Jen!). The bunch of edamame was just $2, and the big, sweet tangelos were 2/$1. I wish I had bought more of them, although they will probably be back next week.
  • Brett and I didn’t make it down to the south side this week to buy our daughter-in-law’s present, but are otherwise completely done including gifts for the Angel Tree that the girls’ Key Club sponsors. We will go down to the south side with Meiling next week while the other girls are in school (Thursday is their last day).
  • Meiling will be here on Sunday evening, and our son and family will arrive next Thursday – less than a week to go until the whole family is together! I am SO EXCITED! The last time we were able to be together was August 2013.

Hope you’re feeling good this Friday, and that you had a terrific week!

Feel Good Friday

The Pineapple Dump: Back in the day a train backed out onto this narrow platform and dumped debris from the pineapple cannery into the ocean!
The Pineapple Dump: A train used to back out onto this narrow platform and dump debris from the pineapple cannery into the ocean.

Happy Day After Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday. We’ll be celebrating here at Casa Aloha by staying home and not spending any money.

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It was incredibly windy on the trail yesterday!

It’s been an awesome week though, with lots to feel good about today:

  • We had a fantastic Thanksgiving! The weather was cool, overcast and windy, but we were able to make our second annual hike to the Pineapple Dump from Kealia Beach. After dinner we watched The Descendents, our favorite Thanksgiving movie.P1080509
  • I didn’t overeat on Thanksgiving (in spite of that plate looking mighty full. It was my first and only meal of the day).
  • Meiling celebrated Thanksgiving with her boyfriend and his family, and our son celebrated in Tokyo with some other American ex-pats.
  • We spent less than $400 on our move (for van rental + tank of gas Saturday before last, movers for 9 heavy pieces last Saturday, and two extra tanks of gas for all the trips back and forth between houses each day).
  • We all worked and cleaned out our old place last Sunday, and turned in our keys to our former landlord and got our deposit back on Tuesday.
  • We put $31.01 in the change/$1 bill jar (over the last three weeks).
  • WenYu was named as one of the co-captains for the swim team!
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Looking back toward Kealia Beach. Lots of surfers were out yesterday – the winds made for great waves.

How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Feel Good Friday

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Guess what our grandson is getting from Grandma and Grandpa?

It’s been another good, busy week here at Casa Aloha, with several things happening to feel good about this Friday:

  • We got the freezer emptied out and defrosted before our big shopping trip to Costco.
  • We came in $40 under budget after our monthly Costco and Safeway shop-a-thons, a miracle because we had run out of so much this month, and our shopping list was longer than ever. The extra will cover milk and eggs when we need them later in the month.
  • We saved $30 by skipping the farmers’ market this week – we still have plenty of produce on hand.
  • My grandson sent me a letter complete with some drawings and his signature!
  • Brett found a button on the ground at the recycling center that was a perfect replacement for the one he lost off one of his favorite pairs of shorts a while ago. And, he sewed it on himself (he learned to do mending when he was in the navy).
  • I had a great conversation with my mom this week. She was so thrilled to hear that WenYu was named a scholarship finalist.
  • Temperatures have been cooler all week, especially in the evenings. Not cool enough for a sweater (thank goodness) but we haven’t needed the fans at night.
  • We put $19.53 in the change/$1 bill jar during the last two weeks. It doesn’t seem like much, but we have almost saved $1000 this year this way. That’s some nice traveling money!

How was your week? What good things happened for you?