Feel Great and Stay Healthy While Traveling

Oftentimes, when people hear the word healthy in association with travel, they assume that it requires missing out on experiences like food and drinks. But when done properly, prioritizing your health can add so much more to your trip and you’ll end up feeling amazing, rather than weighed down and tired. When I’m traveling for a week or so, I’ll admit that my health routine takes a back seat. But with longer periods of travel, I find myself longing for the trip to end so my body can start feeling good again. With how much I like to travel, I knew I needed to find a way to combine taking care of my body with seeing the world. So here are a few tips for feeling your best without missing out on great experiences:

1. Choose at least one healthy meal per day.

By no means should you skip out on all your travel destination has to offer, but you’d be amazed at how much better you will feel if you make sure you’re eating vegetables. Pizza for every meal sounds like a great idea but sometimes your body just needs a break. “But I can get veggies on my pizza, and order a Bloody Mary!” says my father. Hey, whatever works. Eat those waffles, fries, cupcakes, and drink all the beer your heart desires. But make sure you get yourself a salad too.

2. Walk as much as you can.

It’s tempting to take public transportation or an Uber when you’re trying to get somewhere. But if you take the extra time to walk, not only are you getting some exercise, but you will see new things along the way! As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I love finding free walking tours on my first day in a new city.

3. Incorporate physical activity into your schedule.

Rent a bike. Take a hike. Go for a morning run to explore. If you’re at the beach, don’t lay around all day. Play volleyball or swim or even just take a walk. Try something new like surfing. I personally love finding beautiful parks and working out or doing some yoga. You may get some strange looks but you’ll feel like a new person.

4. Try to maintain your at-home routine.

I’ll admit, I’m still working on this. When I’m at home, I usually spend 5-10 minutes doing yoga every morning to stretch and wake up my body. When I’m traveling, I don’t always prioritize this and I can really feel the difference.

5. Get enough sleep.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t go out or do pub crawls but just don’t do them every night. Yes, you have to take advantage of every moment but if you don’t get enough sleep, you simply won’t enjoy your travels and you might even get sick. So make sleep a priority….at least some nights.

6. Hydrate hydrate hydrate!

It’s very easy to get dehydrated while flying, walking around, and drinking alcohol. Carry around a reusable water bottle and your body will thank you. If it’s safe to drink the tap water wherever you’re traveling, just fill up your bottle in bathroom sinks. It’s not weird, I promise.

When traveling, it’s important not to miss out on new opportunities. It’s also important to give yourself time to relax and truly enjoy taking a break from the stress of everyday life. But making a small effort in maintaining healthy habits can really change how you feel which in turn, can transform your entire vacation. Take care of yourself and enjoy your travels!

Falling in Love with Solo Travel – Prague

When I ask people which cities I absolutely have to visit while in Europe, Prague is always at the top of the list. I didn’t quite understand why until I visited the city last week. From the Prague Castle to the Charles Bridge, there is so much to do in Prague that I wish I could’ve stayed for much longer than three days.

I flew into the city on Wednesday night and took a bus, then the metro, to the city center. The public transportation is super easy to figure out and the system is very convenient for using multiple types of transport. Instead of tickets being valid for “one trip,” for example, they are valid for one hour or ninety minutes. Within that period of time, you can use any public transportation – tram, metro, or bus – for as many trips as you need.

I had booked a cheap room in an apartment on Air Bnb and was pleasantly surprised to find it was located right along the Vltava River. I took that night to walk around the city, eat a trdelnik (basically a giant cinnamon roll that is sometimes filled with ice cream), and listen to some live music on Charles Bridge. I hadn’t even seen the city in daylight and I was already in awe.

 

 

The next day, I went on a free walking tour with Sandeman’s – this is an awesome company that gives tours in cities throughout Europe, asking only that you tip the tour guide at the end. I’ve found that these tours give much more depth to the cities in which I’m traveling because without them, you miss so much history while you’re walking around. They’re also a great way to meet people! I usually do a free walking tour on my first day in a city in order to orient myself with my surroundings and get an idea of some things I want to do while I’m there. On this tour, we saw the famous Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square, which may seem a bit underwhelming without the historical context so read up before you go. We also explored the Jewish Quarter which houses beautiful synagogues and is home to the Golem of Prague.

 

After the tour, a new friend and I decided to try a cool vegetarian, Indian place that his hostel recommended. It was called Beas Vegetarian Dhaba; it was incredible and cheap. I spent the rest of the day exploring the city, walking through its parks and squares, soaking in the history and the beautiful nature. Prague in October is a must-see. I’ve never seen such a stunning autumn. That night, I met up with a few people from the tour for a pub crawl. We had a great night.

 

 

 

On Friday morning, I visited the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius, where the soldiers of Operation Anthropoid hid while Nazis searched for them. They were ultimately killed in the crypt, which is open to visitors and includes a small museum.

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Afterwards, I met back up with some friends for a Prague Castle tour (also with Sandeman’s) and let me tell you, I am so happy I didn’t try to explore the castle by myself. The “castle” is more like a 70,000 square foot palace grounds with architecture from at least nine different centuries. Without a guide telling me the historical contexts of each part of the castle, I would’ve had no idea what I was seeing. It ended up being a really great experience and we even got to see the Changing of the Guards.

 

After the tour, two other solo travelers and I made our way up to a monastery that our tour guide told us about. Here we had dinner and were able to try some of their beer. I will admit, I’ve become a bit picky about beer after living in Belgium but this beer was really great. They even had a blueberry flavor that was surprisingly good. Strahov Monastery, with its stone walls, candlelit rooms, and live violin, was honestly one of my favorite parts of my time in Prague. It was too dark to get proper pictures but I would definitely recommend it.

Just when I thought the night couldn’t get any better, we found a rooftop bar called the Dancing House, overlooking the river. As we were sitting on the terrace, taking in the view of Prague, a fireworks show began on the river. It was one of those moments where time stood still and I felt incredibly overwhelmed by gratitude. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful trip.

Thank you, Prague. I hope to be back soon.

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Note: I was traveling alone and felt completely safe walking about the city center by myself. That being said, I always made sure to stay on busy, well-lit streets. As long as you’re using common sense, Prague is a great place for solo travel.

A Practical Guide to Finding Jobs Teaching English

Do you want to travel the world? Do you want to learn about new cultures while still making money? Do you want to have an impact on the next generation? If so, teaching English may be for you.

Personally, I never thought that I wanted to be a teacher. After all, I was interested in politics and travel, and until last year, I never knew that teaching could be the key to pursuing these interests. As a native English speaker (or even a non-native speaker with fluency), the possibilities for teaching English are endless. With the number of people seeking to learn the language for social and economic reasons, the market is growing at an enormous speed. There are jobs available on every continent and unlike other fields (including mine), businesses and schools are actually competing for teachers rather than the other way around. Whether you have a teaching certification or not, there is a place for you to start. Let’s talk about some of your options.

Getting started: obtaining a certification

Types of certifications: ESL, EFL, TEFL, TEFOL, CELTA

A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of websites offering online courses for obtaining your certification. However, some of these can be pretty pricey. One way to get a discounted (or even free) certification is to find a program that provides your certification in exchange for volunteer teaching. The company through which I received my TEFL certification is called Angloville, which offers a TEFL Scholarship to anyone who completes an online course and three programs with them. The online course was quick and easy and the programs allow you to go to Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, or Hungary for a few weeks with free room and board. If you don’t have classroom experience, don’t worry. Angloville programs simply involve speaking with non-native speakers to improve their English. It’s fun and you make lots of interesting friends.

While this is an exciting option, it’s not possible for everyone to take three weeks and travel to Europe. In this case, there are many options online or within the U.S. You might even have a center in your area. Although a certification isn’t necessary for all English jobs, it certainly increases your chances of finding a job you love.

Government Programs

Governments understand the importance of knowing English in the 21st century. As a result, many have created their own programs that place teachers in schools around their country. Some of the most well known are:

The only downside to these programs is that they tend to pay less than other options.

Placement Companies

There are now countless organizations that accept applications for placement in private learning centers or in schools. Many of these programs offer large benefit packages like free visas, vacation time, language classes, and housing assistance. Some even offer free flights. Here are a few that I’ve looked into:

Independent Search 

There are many websites that exist to help you find the perfect teaching job. A few favorites include Dave’s ESL Cafe, EL Gazette, and TEFL.com.  Although you can find great opportunities on these websites, you also need to watch out for scams. I have heard stories of people arriving in a new country to teach and not receiving the housing they were promised or not getting paid for months. If this worries you, you may be better off with a more structured program like those sponsored by governments or company placement.

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With all of these programs, it is important to do lots of research before committing. Read reviews, talk to current teachers, and compare benefits. Moving across the world to teach isn’t for everyone so really consider all options before signing a year-long contract. Whether you teach for a few years or for a lifetime, it can be an incredible way to see the world, learn about new cultures, and ultimately, change the lives of others.

Check out some pictures from my experiences teaching children in China and adults in Poland. And stay tuned for a post all about teaching English online!

Becoming a Champagne Expert in Epernay, France

Okay I’ll admit, I’m still no expert. But after a weekend in Epernay, I do know what good champagne tastes like. I also know how it’s produced, sold, and that the Avenue de Champagne is arguably the most expensive avenue in the world. For this knowledge alone, I would encourage you to take a trip to Epernay. But this unique little town in France has a lot more to offer than just its champagne. The three days I spent in and around Epernay gave me a glimpse at why this town is so popular among European tourists.

Upon arriving in Epernay, I felt as if I had been transported into a fairytale. The architecture is beautiful, the streets were clean, and the weather was perfect. My family and I stayed in an Airbnb in the city center, surrounded by restaurants and shops. My first meal? Onion soup – a MUST whenever you are in France. Trust me, there’s a reason why Americans called it French Onion Soup.

We spent that first night getting acquainted with the town. The small tourist office near the town hall provides services such as bike rentals, maps, and even a tourist train that drives around the city while playing an audio tour. Yes, my mom and I rode the train and yes, it was worth every penny. We also may or may not have ridden rides in the street carnival taking place that weekend. I have no regrets regarding this decision.

 

 

 

The next day, we embarked on a champagne tour with our Air Bnb host; she runs her own tourism business – Aÿ Champagne Experience. We visited several vineyards in the town of Ay and a family-owned home champagne house that produces the brand Ergot et Filles. The family showed us the cellars, the fermentation process and gave us a taste of a few different types of champagne: Brut, Extra-Brut, and a vintage called Millèsime. I personally preferred this experience over the large champagne houses on Avenue de Champagne. However, after our tour, we weren’t quite done tasting champagne so we tried a flight at Champagne Janisson-Baradon et Fils (yes, champagne flights exist and yes, they are amazing). Check out the picture below.

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My family and I are outdoorsy people. So on day three we decided to hike to a nearby town called Hautvillers. The hike consisted of a beautiful walk along a river and through famous vineyards such as Moët et Chandon. While in Hautvillers, we explored the Abbey d’Hautvillers where Don Perignon is buried, and stumbled upon a small market where we spilt a bottle of champagne in a garden. It was about as magical as it sounds.

 

 

 

We knew our visit wouldn’t be complete without trying some champagne on the Avenue de Champagne, known for its cellars storing copious amounts of the world’s finest champagne. So after our return hike, we stopped inside Champagne Georges Cartier for a tasting. At this point in the trip, I started to feel like I could really compare and contrast the different types of champagne we’ve had. So basically, I’m declaring myself a champagne aficionado.

The only problem we ran into while in Epernay was limited restaurant and store hours. Many businesses close in the middle of the day and don’t reopen until around 7pm. We had a few failed searches for food. Additionally, it is harder to find English speakers here than in bigger cities like Paris. This trip forced me to use more French than I have since moving to Brussels. So if you’re looking for immersion, this is a great place to be. However, the people were incredibly helpful and gave me pointers when they heard me struggling with my French. I truly loved every minute in this town. For champagne rookies and experts alike, I definitely recommend a weekend trip to Epernay.

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5 Reasons to Try Solo Travel

Last week, I decided to take a bus to London for a few days by myself. My time alone involved lots of Chinese food, discounted West End musical tickets, and ultimately missing my bus back to Brussels. It was an adventure, to say the least, and it was much needed. Not only did this trip remind me of my love for London, but it reminded me of how much I enjoy traveling alone. Stepping off of a plane (or bus, in this case) into a city where you don’t know anyone provides a fresh start, even if only for a few days. You can be whoever you want. You can do whatever you want. And when you are in charge of your own plans, you are bound to gain lots of confidence. Although the list is endless, let’s talk about 5 reasons you should try traveling alone.

1. Your plans are the only plans

Have you ever been with a group of people who wanted to go to one museum while you wanted to go to another? Or who wanted to eat sushi while you wanted Italian food? Compromise is the key to successfully traveling with groups. But when you’re traveling alone, the only person you have to compromise with is yourself! You make all the decisions throughout your travels, allowing you to shape your trip exactly the way you want.

2. You will be more focused on your surroundings

Oftentimes when I am traveling with friends, I am focused on our conversations, rather than the beautiful architecture and landmarks surrounding us. When I am alone, however, I am simply free to marvel at the world around me.

3. You are more likely to meet new people

When I am traveling alone, I find myself more willing to talk to people around me – especially to those who are also solo traveling! This past week in London, I made two new friends in my hostel and had a great conversation with a guy from Australia while seeing Heathers the Musical. It’s easy to interact solely with the people you’re traveling with so being alone gives you that extra push to branch out.

4. You will learn to appreciate your own company

Eating alone in a restaurant or park may sound uncomfortable in the beginning. But I promise that once you overcome the awkwardness, doing activities alone can be peaceful. I can’t promise that you won’t receive some odd looks from people but just brush them off and appreciate your own company.

5. Most importantly, it’s empowering!

As a woman, I have felt especially discouraged in the past when it came to traveling alone. After all, there are certain safety concerns while traveling that women have to worry about that often aren’t issues for men. But I’ve found that with the right research and general awareness of my surroundings, traveling alone is absolutely possible. Additionally, packing up my bags and heading to a foreign country despite doubts from others is empowering and a testament to my own courage. I encourage every woman to take a trip alone at some point in her life. You will see that you are so much more capable than you think. With that being said, this also goes for men too. It can be a daunting task for anyone and tackling your fears is the only way to grow.

Solo travel can seem intimidating or perhaps even lonely. But with the right mindset, it can be an adventure full of growth and reflection. So be brave and buy that plane ticket!

 

Check out some pictures from my most recent trip!

 

 

A Word on Homesickness

Some days I really miss Ohio.

I miss my family.

I miss my friends.

I miss good Mexican food.

I miss little conveniences like 24-hour Walgreens and the infinite possibilities within Target.

And of course, I miss my dog.

Before I moved to Brussels, the longest I had been outside of the U.S. was two months. Obviously, I had never experienced real homesickness. So when I started feeling homesick the first WEEK I was in Brussels, I panicked.

Something must be wrong, I thought.

Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be here.

Maybe I made a huge mistake leaving my beautiful life in Ohio.

It was scary to move to Belgium with no friends and no knowledge of French. I like adventures and challenges, but this?

This was another level.

The homesickness I felt during those first few weeks was intense. It made me question my dreams of traveling the world. It made me doubt my abilities and my career choice. Homesickness is different for everyone. But over the past eight months, it has given me a new perspective on many aspects of my life.

Missing my home does not mean I shouldn’t travel. It means that I have something beautiful to go home to. And that’s something for which I am very grateful.

It also doesn’t mean that I can’t handle the challenges of living abroad. Sure, being able to speak the same language as the cashier at the grocery store is convenient, but learning French through trial and error is challenging and can sometimes even be fun.

Even on days when I really miss my family, I have to remind myself how much easier it is to stay in touch with them through technology. Whatsapp is a godsend and allows me to talk to my parents every single day, just like I would do if I were living in the U.S. I mean, when my dad studied in Ireland, he had to walk to use a payphone in the middle of the night when he wanted to call his parents. If he could do that, I can sure as hell live abroad with access to the internet

Most importantly, on days when I long to be back in the U.S., I remind myself that this time in Brussels is temporary. Soon, I won’t have access to the amazing history, the great beer, and the waffles that are to-die-for. I won’t be able to hop on a quick train to Paris or grab a cheap flight to Italy for the weekend. This homesickness has taught me so much about staying in the present moment and soaking in the incredible life that I’m currently living. Because before I know it, I will be homesick for what I have right now.

Travel Without Paying for Room and Board

Travel is eye-opening. It is transformative. And above all, it’s fun. Travel has allowed me to grow as a person in ways that I never thought possible. In fact, I love it so much that I am determined to make it a regular part of my life rather than just something I pursue on holiday. However, if travel is associated with fancy hotels and expensive restaurants, making travel a “way of life” can seem unrealistic for most people. But that’s not necessarily the case. The world has become so interconnected that finding a way to exchange your volunteer work for free room and board has become easier than ever. In doing so, you will meet people from around the world and encounter new cultures from a local’s perspective. Regardless of your talents or interests, there is an opportunity for anyone who seeks extended travel without the cost. Here are a few ways you can do it:

Become an au pair

If you like kids, then this may be the job for you. An au pair is basically a nanny (live in or live out) for kids. Regardless of where you’re from, there are probably some parents out there looking to teach their kids your native language. As an au pair, a family will take you in as their own, usually providing food and your own room in their home in exchange for you taking care of and interacting with their children. As an au pair, you will live like a local in whichever country you choose and oftentimes, host families are eager to share their culture with you. Some even take you traveling with them! Two great websites for finding au pair jobs are www.greataupair.com  and www.aupairworld.com . With an account, you can browse families, countries, and work expectations.

Work on a farm

http://wwoof.net

WWOOF is an organization that pairs volunteers with organic farms all around the world. Usually, in exchange for free room and board, you will be required to help with farming in the mornings, leaving your evenings and weekends free. Not only will you meet other travel-oriented people, but you will also be contributing to sustainable farming practices- two birds with one stone.

Teach English

While I will go into further detail about teaching English in a future post, there are many teaching opportunities that don’t require a long-term contract. One of the best ways to find this is to search for English-Immersion programs. These are usually short-term (a week or so) and provide all your amenities while you converse with non-native speakers. In between programs, you are able to travel and see the country in which you are staying. I participated in 3 programs with a company called Angloville in Poland this summer where I made so many new Polish friends and learned more about the country than I could have as just a tourist. Additionally, this program allowed me to obtain my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification. These types of programs exist all over the world so if you’re interested, check out Angloville https://angloville.com  (Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary) and Vaughan Town http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com (Spain). These programs do not require a teaching certification.

Work anywhere doing anything – Workaway

https://www.workaway.info  

Do all of these opportunities sound cool but you’re not sure if they are a good fit for you? Workaway is the best database to search for all jobs that are looking for volunteers. Hosts include hostels, animal rescues, schools, yoga studios, eco farms and more. With an account, you can read reviews, talk with hosts, and even link your profile with a friend’s if you are traveling together. I have met many people who have used Workaway and most say it was one of the best experiences of their lives. One of my close friends, Jennifer Bishop spent the summer after her study abroad backpacking around Europe by working in hostels. Read about Jen’s experience below:

 

“Doing a Workaway experience in a hostel was one of the highlights of my time backpacking in Europe! Not only did I save a ton of money in the time that I spent there, I also made lasting friendships who I still FaceTime with frequently a year later. I worked in the #1 hostel in Zagreb, Croatia for 1 month. Each volunteer was required to work 5-hour shifts, 6 days a week. There were three different shifts you could get which were morning, afternoon, and evening. The morning shift was entirely cleaning – we were in charge of changing any vacant beds (up to 60), mopping and vacuuming all the floors, cleaning the common areas like the kitchen, and sweeping outside. I’ll be honest, the cleaning shift was a lot of actual hard work but in the end rewarding. We worked alongside the full-time housekeeper. The other two shifts usually involved a bit of cleaning and then helping to check people in and giving tours of the hostel, or running game nights and entertaining guests in the common areas. In return for our work, we received free access to an amazing breakfast buffet (which I would sneak away enough food for lunch ha), a free bed in one of their 8-bed dorm rooms, free laundry, and free beers and ciders during our shifts. In my opinion, it was well worth it since the exchange rate was ridiculously good for the U.S. dollar at the time so I only spent $2-3 a day at most for anything else I wanted. Overall, I had an amazing time. Not only did I get to meet all kinds of people from all over the world without having to travel myself, but I was able to have a more localized view of living in Croatia since I made friends with the regular staff. I can’t wait to use Workaway again to find more volunteer opportunities abroad!”

 

Volunteer opportunities are changing the way people travel. It allows those with fewer savings to experience new cultures for an extended period of time. More and more, I meet people who return home for a few months at a time to make money before they head out to their next few work away assignments. If you are willing to put in a little work, there is nothing stopping you from seeing all this world has to offer.

If you’re enjoying this blog, please follow A Girl and Her Visa for updates on new posts. Enjoy your travels! 

 

Instagram: @christineoswald