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30 Days in Thailand for Under $2000

30 Days in Thailand for Under $2000

After traveling for 30 days in Thailand and Cambodia, I became less mystified by this idea of “budget travel”.

I knew I wanted to save money, but I envisioned sleeping in bug-ridden beds, living off of fried rice, and skipping out on fun activities. I quickly learned that this was not going to be the case at all! In fact, you can travel quite comfortably for less than $40 per day!

“Budget travel” doesn’t have to mean missing out, scraping by, and being stressed by tight purse strings.

Here is a breakdown of my expenses while traveling for 30 days in Thailand for under $2000, as well as some of my best money-saving tips!

*For your budgeting needs, all totals are rounded up to the nearest $100*

First Off, the Most Expensive Thing

30 days in thailand

When I first started planning my trip to Thailand, I assumed that a plane ticket alone would be over $1000. This price alone was almost a major hindrance to me, until I started doing more research.

I had already decided to travel during the low season (I chose September) in order to save money, and was surprised to find that my round-trip ticket was a mere $850.

I don’t want to downplay the fact that this is a lot of money to most people. Remember that I was working 30 hours per week at $13 per hour, so it took me a while to save up the funds. However, this price pales in comparison to many other destinations around the world. Book early, do your research, and you will be able to snag a sweet deal!

Round trip plane ticket from Seattle to Thailand + visa: approx. $900

Transportation

30 days in thailand

Transportation around Thailand is very diverse and dependable. For me, navigating the bus, train, and boat schedules was much easier than expected. I was also able to bargain my way down to cheaper prices, carpool with other travelers, and rely on my own two legs to cut costs.

One helpful tip is to KEEP LOOKING. If a price seems too steep, it probably is. Do not be afraid to look for better deals and bargain with drivers and guides. Never accept the first price. Avoid anything that says “private tour” unless you are splitting the costs with fellow travelers. I found some of my best deals by asking locals and taking the transportation they used most themselves.

My total travel expenses included two $75 flights (From Cambodia to Bangkok, from Chiang Mai to Krabi). There are much cheaper ways to get to your destination, but at the expense of time. I opted to pay for these flights in order to spend more time in the islands, but I was in no rush. 30 days is more than enough time to see all the major sites Thailand has to offer.

Transportation costs, excluding two additional flights: $200

Accommodation

30 days in thailand

Thailand has accommodation for every style of traveler, from the cheap hostel bed to the luxury private suite. If you are on a budget, you may expect to be staying in the shittiest of shit-holes, but that doesn’t have to be the case. At every destination I was able to find friendly, clean, and affordable accommodation. But let’s be real, not everyone wants to sleep in a dorm room every night. My budget included the occasional splurge: a private room or bungalow, usually with a pool!

8 person dorm bed per night: average $7

Comfortable private room or bungalow: average 15

Total amount spent on accommodation: $300

Food and Drinks

30 days in thailand

Here comes the kicker… I hardly drank any alcohol during my trip to Thailand. First of all, I’m not much of a drinker anyway, so the party scene wasn’t high of a priority for me. Second, as a solo female traveler, I felt safer being sober in a new destination. Third, it saved me a lot of money!

You can find a party scene at nearly every major stop in Thailand, and in general it is pretty cheap to get your drink on. A beer was about $2, a cocktail about $3, and you could buy a “bucket” of alcohol for 150 TBT. If you are more of a drinker than myself, you may want to budget more for your trip depending on your style. Many more suggestions can be found in the Lonely Planet Thailand guidebook!

On average, I spent about $10 per day on food and drinks. Many of the tours I paid for included meals (I will talk about this more later), and I found it cheapest to eat at small restaurants and buy snacks from convenient stores. You can get a solid plate of pad thai for about 60 TBT or about $2. Each day I spent about $3 on bottled water, and another dollar or two on snacks. Depending on your appetite, you can expect to eat your fill on $8- $20 per day as a “budget traveler”.

Total amount spent on food and drinks: $300

Tours, Entry Fees, and Activities

30 days in thailand

Obviously the activities and sites one chooses to do and see on their trip are highly variable. I can honestly say that in a month’s time, I saw everything I had hoped to see and more. The total below includes all special tours and activities I did while in Thailand. I have also included the costs of visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia to see Angkor Wat and surrounding temple ruins.

Note that one of the most popular things to do in Thailand is to go scuba diving and/or earn your PADI certification. I decided not to do this. However, the average cost for a “fun dive” is anywhere from 700- 1000 TBT, and a PADI course, including accommodation is around 9000 TBT (about $270).

Total amount spent on tours, entry fees, and activities: $300

30 days in thailand

In total, I spent roughly $2000 while traveling for 30 days in Thailand! My $2000 budget includes all special tours, activities, and some luxury accommodation,  so it is a high estimate for what is a reasonable travel budget. In reality, it is very easy to travel comfortably in Thailand for less than $40 per day. By staying in dorms, avoiding air travel, and carpooling with others, you can cut your costs significantly and still have a great time!

For a complete itinerary and budget for my 30 day trip to Cambodia and Thailand, check out this post!

Something to consider…

This guide does not include:

  • Travel insurance: I opted to get travel insurance through World Nomads for $125. This is totally optional but usually a good idea in case any emergency happens while abroad.
  • Souvenirs: how much you decide to spend on souvenirs is highly variable. I spent less than $50 on all the clothing and gifts I bought for myself, family, and friends.
  • “Extra” expenses: sometimes you forget your sunscreen, your sandals break, or you get lost and have to take a taxi somewhere. Always give yourself a little bit of “cushion” just in case.
30 Days in Thailand for Under $2000

 

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30 Day Thailand Itinerary and Budget Guide + Cambodia

30 Day Thailand Itinerary and Budget Guide + Cambodia

30 day thailand itinerary

The Decision:

I had always wanted to go to Thailand. I couldn’t tell you why. I knew little more than what the capital was. I had no set plans on what I was going to do once I got there. I scribbled down a few names of places in my notebook and forgot about them. I procrastinated for months. I decided to add Cambodia onto the itinerary because it was inexpensive to fly into and my mom had told me great things about it. I booked my hostel for the first night in Phnom Pehn and went from there…

Plane Ticket: $854.16 RT

Travel insurance (standard plan) with World Nomads: $125

Visa: $40

See: 30 Days in Thailand for Under $2000

Here is my complete 30 Day Thailand Itinerary and Budget Guide + Cambodia!

The First Day

The hostel that I planned on staying at had an airport pick up service, which was super comforting because I had no idea how I was going to navigate transportation in Cambodia. However, my flight was delayed by 3 hours so when I landed, no one was there. I called the hostel and the driver came to pick me up in a tuk tuk. I wasn’t sure what that was at first, but it ended up being a small covered cart pulled by a motorbike. We went buzzing through the city, dust flying, the heat hitting my face. I was bombarded by unfamiliar smells (mostly durian) and the chaos of people zipping by on motorbikes. I got to the hostel, overpaid the driver and checked into a private room.

I also decided to get a haircut and made my very first friend on my trip!

Tuk tuk from airport: $10

88 Backpackers Hostel Superior Private Room: $28

Haircut: $3

Food and water: $4

Total: $45

30 day thailand itinerary
Leaving Seattle!

Phnom Pehn Day 1: S-21 and Russian Market

My first full day in Cambodia, I paid for a tuk tuk driver to drive me around the city. I decided to start out by learning some history about the country by going to the S-21 Genocide Museum. It was a very sobering experience, but set the stage for understanding the culture of Cambodia. I also went to the large Russian Market, which was full of (intense) smells, produce, meats, clothes, and souvenirs. I ended the day by walking along the Mekong Waterfront and looking at the Royal Palace and nearby pagodas.

Tuk tuk driver for the day: $8

Genocide Museum: $2 audio tour without guide

Russian Market- Free

Mekong Riverfront- Free

Royal Palace and pagodas- did not pay entrance fee

Food and drink: $10

Female dorm: $8

Total: $28

Phnom Pehn Day 2: Killing Fields

For some more history, I went to the Killing Fields with some new travel mates. There were still clothes and bone fragments visible from the 1970s killings of the Cambodian people. It was very emotional to see. We then went to see the inside of the Royal Palace, which was magnificent!

Killing Fields: $3 audio tour without guide

Royal Palace: $6.25

Tuk tuk (split 3 ways): $3 per person

Food and drink: $12

Female dorm: $8

Total: $32.25

Onto Siem Reap:

On my third day in Cambodia, me and 3 of my travel mates took a bus to Siem Reap. It was a comfortable 5 hour ride with AC and a snack stop along the way. We arrived in Siem Reap around noon, checked into a hostel, and bought our tickets to the Angkor Wat Temples. We watched the sun set over Angkor Wat and then went out dancing on Pub Street.

Krohorn Express AC bus to Siem Reap: $10

Funky Flashpackers Hostel (4 person room): $6.25 per person

Tuk tuk to Angkor ticket counter: $2 per person

Ticket to Angkor Temples for sunset and next day: $20

Food and drinks: $10

Total: $48.25

Angkor Wat: The Largest Religious Monument in the World

We paid a tuk tuk driver for a full day to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat and several of the surrounding temples. One of the temples was where the famous “Tomb Raider” movie was filmed. It was a very long, hot, and tiring day, but totally worth it! The temples are so beautiful, interesting, and rich with history.

Tuk-tuk for the full day (4 people): $5 per person

Hostel: $6.25

Food and drinks: $10

Total: $24.75

30 day thailand itinerary
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Plane to Bangkok

After that long day at the temples, I decided to relax for a bit before my flight to Bangkok. After traveling with the same people for 4 days, it was nerve racking to finally be on my own. I got a very nice aromatherapy oil massage (on the expensive side), and then caught my flight to Bangkok around 3:30. When I landed, it was already dark and I got very lost, but I met an English speaker and followed him to his hostel instead of the one I planned on staying at. I was just happy to be safe with a hot shower and comfy bed.

Massage at Lemongrass Spa: $16

Plane ticket to Bangkok via Asia Air (1 hour 30 min)- $80

Food and drinks: $10

Tuk tuk to airport: $2 per person

Sky train to hostel: $1

Cazz Hostel Mixed 6 Person Dorm room: $7.15

Total: $116.15

A Day in Bangkok

After waking up refreshed, I spent a day exploring Bangkok on my own. I quickly realized it was an easy city to get lost in! Eventually I got my bearings, hopped on the sky train, and bought an all-day boat pass to multiple stops along the Mekong River. Do not book a private boat! Goes to show that if you practice some bargaining and look around, you can find sweet deals to save money.

For an excellent guide to what to see and do in Bangkok, head over to my favorite post at The Creative Travel Guide

Skytrain to/from Hua Lampong Station (old town) from Sukhumvit: $2 total

Walk (or tuk tuk ) to Central Pier

All day boat ferry boat ticket: 100 TBT

  • Chinatown- Free
  • Flower Market- Free
  • Wat Arun- 100 TBT
  • Wat Pho- 100 TBT
  • Koh San Road- Free

Dorm: $7.15

Food and drinks: $10

Check out Tom n Toms Pretzel Café!

Total: $25.15

30 day thailand itinerary
Longboat in Bangkok

Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai

One day in Bangkok was enough for me, so I checked out of my hostel, walked around Bangkok a bit more, and decided to buy a train ticket to Chiang Mai. I snagged myself a bottom bunk, had some movies downloaded on my tablet, and then slept like a baby. It was a solid 10 hour trip, but a great money saver and super comfortable.

Skytrain to Hua Lampong Station: $1

Sleeper train to Chiang Mai (pay extra for bottom bunk): 850 TBT

$8 food and drinks

Total: $34.75

Chiang Mai Temple, Waterfalls, and Hike

After making some new friends at the hostel, we took a tuk tuk to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Despite the rain, we hiked to a waterfall and a lookout point with a great view of the mountains.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: 30 TBT entry

Taxi truck—50 TBT per person

Deejai Backpackers Basic 4 person dorm: $4.88 per night

It’s Good Kitchen chicken pad thai: 60 TBT

Food and drinks: $6

Total: $15.12

30 day thailand itinerary
The White Temple in Chiang Rai

Trekking Tour and Elephants

A group of ten of us opted for an all day tour that included trekking in the jungle, lunch, washing and feeding elephants, and rafting in the river. Transportation was also included.

Thom Tours- approx. 1400 TBT

Food and drink: $5

Hostel: $4.88

Total: $52.30

30 day thailand itinerary
Just casually hanging out with some elephants

Me Time in Chiang Mai

After so much activity, I decided to take a day to explore Chiang Mai on my own. I went to a few coffee shops and markets, and worked on my blog.

Sunny Hostel 8 person dorm with fan: 350 TBT

Food and drinks: $10

Total: $20

Day Trip to Chiang Rai

I decided to go on another full-day tour- this one went from 7am to 10 pm! I brought snacks for the trip but an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet was included. The trip included the hot springs, the Golden Triangle, the White Temple, the border of Myanmar, and the “Long-Neck” village. It was a long but culturally enriching day.

Chiang Mai Full Moon Tour: 1400 TBT

Snacks and Water: $5

Hostel: 350 TBT

Total: $57

Another Chill Day in Chiang Mai

I decided that this was going to be my last day in Chiang Mai. I spent a little more time seeing the city and then booked a ticket to Krabi.

Hostel: 350 TBT

Food and Drinks: $10

Plane ticket to Krabi from Chiang Mai: 2083 TBT

Total: $83

30 day thailand itinerary
Fern Forest Cafe in Chiang Mai

Flying to Krabi (15th)

I spent another half day in Chiang Mai, flew to Krabi, and arrived at my hostel around 6pm. I got some yummy pad thai down at the waterfront and had a great night sleep in my bunk.

Bus from airport to Krabi: 60 TBT

Pak-Up Hostel 10 person dorm: 360 TBT

Food and Drinks: $5

Total: $18

Get Me to the Beach (16th)

To me there wasn’t much to see in Krabi Town and I was aching to go to the beach. My destination was Koh Phi Phi, but I decided to stay on Railay Island for a night. I was so quiet and secluded, and I decided to get a private bungalow for the evening.

Long boat to Railay Island: 100 TBT

Diamond Resort Bungalow with Fan: $15 (low season)

Food and drinks: $10

Total: $28

30 days in thailand
Koh Phi Phi Pier

On to Koh Phi Phi

Railay was a little pricey and everyone was raving about Koh Phi Phi, so I decided to head there the next morning. I took a cruise boat there which was pretty comfortable and affordable. I was shocked by how busy Phi Phi was, and I struggled to find a hostel in my price range. I walked around for nearly an hour before I settled on B Place.

Boat from Railay to Phi Phi: 450 TBT

B Place Hostel 6 person dorm with AC: 300 TBT

Food and Drinks: $10

Total: $33

Koh Phi Phi Chill

As usual, I took another day to myself to explore Koh Phi Phi. There were a lot of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops, but far less beach than I expected. The monsoons were especially prevalent here, as it went to blazing hot to pouring down rain in a matter of minutes. I did find a place with amazing (and cheap) pad thai, though!

Hostel: 300 TBT

Food and Drinks: $10

Total: $20

Boat Tour to Maya Bay

I wanted to see all the surrounding beaches, so I joined another all-day tour. This long boat took us to Monkey Beach, Maya Bay, and other locations to go snorkeling. It included a light breakfast lunch and some of the best beach views in Thailand. Looking back, this may not have been the best deal, as it was a very exhausting day. It may be possible to save money by getting a private boat with other travelers.

Boat tour: approx. 1200 TBT

Food and drink: $5

Hostel: 300 TBT

Total: $50

30 day thailand itinerary
A view of Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi Chill Day

Another day exploring Koh Phi Phi

Food and drinks: $10

Hostel: 300 TBT

Total: $20

Sea, Land, and Sea to Koh Tao (2 days)

In the morning, I caught a boat back to Krabi, took a bus to the ferry, and then took the night boat to Koh Tao. I arrived in Koh Tao around 6am, a little lost and disoriented. It was too early for the hostels to be open, so I killed some time until I found a nice private room with a pool. Yessss.

Ferry, Bus, and Nightboat: 1150 TBT

Ban’s Diving Resort private room, one night: 900 TBT

Food and Drink: $15

Total: 76$ / 2 = $38

First full Day on Koh Tao

Koh Tao quickly became my favorite location of the entire trip. I was so peaceful, beautiful, and relaxed. The weather was wonderful, and there wasn’t the crazy party scene that there was on Phi Phi (although it still existed).

Food and drinks: $10

CK Hostel 8 person dorm: $10

Total: $20

Hiking to the Viewpoint

I decided to be ambition and hike to the other side of island… but I got completely lost. I went all the way back and met some people along the way. We hiked up to the viewpoint (most exhausting hike of my life) and ended the day eating Mexican food by the beach. That evening they left the island and it was hard to say good bye.

Food and drinks: $10

Hostel: $10

Total: $20

Tummy Troubles

Not much to report on these few days on Koh Tao, as I spent a lot of my time in bed with tummy troubles. I tried to be ambitious and go kayaking, but my body wouldn’t allow it. I got some rest and ate rice and fruit.

Hostel (2 nights): $20

Food and drinks (2 days): $10

Total: $30 / 2 = $15

Recovery

After finally feeling well enough to get out of bed, I did something spontaneous and signed up for a rock climbing course. I spent some time working on my tan and nervously awaited the next day when my class would begin.

Hostel: $10

Food and drinks: $10

Total: $20

Rock Climbing (25th)

My course began at around 10 am and included learning how to tie knots, what terms to use, and how to belay for others. We took a break for lunch and returned for a full 5 hours of climbing. It was super exhausting but the adrenaline rush was amazing! I ended the night watching the fire jugglers on the beach.

Goodtime Adventures Rock Climbing course: 1300 TBT

Hostel: $10

Food and drinks: $10

Total: $60

30 days in thailand
Learning how to rock climb on Koh Tao

Relaxin’ for Days

I spent several days relaxing on Koh Tao, meeting new friends, and going snorkeling. I was supposed to leave Koh Tao on the 27th to travel to Bangkok, Phnom Pehn, and then to Seattle. That got extended, so I ended up leaving Koh Tao on the 2nd of October.

28th: Snorkeling

I walked to the other side of the island (about 1.5 hours) to go snorkeling.

Snorkel rental: 100 TBT

Hostel: $10

Food and drinks: $10

Total: $23

29th: More rock climbing

Climbing: free with my friend

Hostel:$10

Food and drinks: $10

Total: $20

30 day Thailand itinerary
Trying Korean BBQ for the very first time!

30th: Walk to the Viewpoint

Food and drinks: $10

Hostel: $10

Total: $20

1st: Koh Nang Yuan

Hostel: $10

Boat to Island: 200 TBT

Took free boat back to Koh Tao

Food and drinks: $10

Total: $26

2nd: Saying Goodbye to Koh Tao (one day, one night)

A lot of tears were shed on that boat ride away from the island. I had so many different emotions… I was sad to leave but excited to go home. I tried to continue looking forward. It was a weird feeling leaving a place that had begun to feel like home.

Ferry, Bus combo to Bangkok: 600 TBT

Taxi from bus station to airport: $10

Food and drinks: $15

Total: $43

3rd: Fly Home

 

Total spent: $2,128

 

30 day thailand itinerary

30 days in thailand

 

 

 

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Don’t Look Down: Learning to Rock Climb in Koh Tao

Don’t Look Down: Learning to Rock Climb in Koh Tao

I’m afraid of A LOT of things.

Spiders.

Needles.

Flying.

Whales.

Deep water diving.

Moths.

Commitment.  (Just kidding!)

whale

The list goes on and on…

Yet, the one fear that I have that has been especially limiting is my fear of heights.

Do I want to jump off of that 40 foot cliff into the ocean? NOPE.

Skydive? NO WAY.

Bungee jump? FORGET ABOUT IT.

rock climb in koh tao

I’m aware that this is a very common fear and I feel some comfort in that, yet I feel that at the root of all fears is the fear of the scariest thing of all… DYING.

Not to get morbid or anything, but I am always convinced that I am going to die.

“This is it. This is how I go. Goodbye mom and dad.”

And yet, it has never happened. Obviously.

Knowing that most people only die once, I have tried to be more intentional about facing my fears and trying new things.

I figure that if I’m going to die it mine as be while doing something cool.

After all, being afraid that you are going to die is no way to live.

You can quote me on that.

So.

I don’t know what force of nature or higher power compelled me to sign up for rock climbing, but I did.

I simply walked into Goodtime Adventures, filled out a form, and paid my deposit. Simple enough. They told me to be back at 10am the next day.

I slept soundly that night. I think I was in denial.

Learning to Rock Climb in Koh Tao

rock climb in koh tao

rock climb in koh taoThe first half of the day was simply learning the ropes (pun intended).

We learned how to tie knots, belay for other climbers, what phrases to use, and, most important, how to be safe.

rock climb in koh tao

rock climb in koh tao
When choosing an instructor, make sure you get a cute one

Of course, we were only practicing on a flight of stairs at that point. I jokingly told the instructor, “Welp, that’s enough climbing for me.”

He wasn’t having it.

After lunch, we met up again and that’s when the nerves started kicking in. Good thing I hadn’t had curry for lunch.

After a bumpy taxi ride, we get to the mountain, and instantly I’m like NOPENOPENOPENOPENOPE.

I wasn’t alone in my feelings either, as one of the other girls straight up REFUSED to climb it. Maybe she was onto something…

rock climb in koh tao

 

We were told to free climb about ten feet up and to the left, hook up our safety and then our rope, and repel down.

Okay.

I had NEVER repelled before.

I don’t think I had even climbed over ten feet before… and that was a gym climbing wall with colored rocks!

The instructor said I had to do it. He wasn’t messing around.

Defiantly I did it, mostly because I wanted to show him I wasn’t a little wimp.

I clung onto the wall for dear life and crawled slower than a sloth on a Sunday.

I made it. I triple checked everything. I contemplated the safety standards of a small island in Southern Thailand. I wasn’t feeling especially confident.

But there was nowhere to go but down.

I repelled down…….

rock climb in koh tao

I came out of my mental blackout.

And we hadn’t even started yet.

________________________________________________________________

Over the course of 4 hours, we were introduced to 6 different climbs. I attempted all of them. I completed 4 of them. On the other two, I made it half way.

And I felt like a goddamn mountain warrior goddess.

rock climb in koh tao

Maybe it was the “booty rap” that I insisted that they play on the iPhone. Maybe it was the fact that I had chugged two Coca Colas.

Or that I was just so naturally high on adrenaline that my body went into Super Climb Mode without me having a say in the matter.

But I LOVED it.

Absolutely loved it.

rock climb in koh taorock climb in koh tao

 

 

A few days later, I went climbing again and completed some more difficult climbs.

I was so proud of myself. (And I was able to gloat at the instructor)

rock climb in koh tao

 

And I was amazed.

Because on a whim I had decided to try something I was totally terrified of and in the process I found a new hobby that I hope to continue from now on.

I gave myself a mental pat on the back.

rock climb in koh tao

I felt good to not die. #fearconquered?

Who knows, maybe in a year from now I will be jumping out of an airplane.

Maybe.

A little tip though…

Honestly

it really helps to not look down.

rock climb in koh tao

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My Top Ten Favorite Things To Do in Seattle

My Top Ten Favorite Things To Do in Seattle

Washington State never ceases to amaze me. Living Seattle, I am never more than an hour away from the beach or from the mountains, city or country. Seattle is the bustling, creative, and eccentric hub of the state, attracting all kinds of people, occupations, music, and interests.

I have lived in Seattle for 5 years, having come here to attend university. I grew up only a few hours to the north in the San Juan Islands, but desired a change of pace.  I had never considered myself much of a city girl until I moved here, but I quickly fell in love and felt comfortable calling Seattle my home. Over time, I have become familiar with both the tourist sites and hidden gems. I decided to compile a list of my own favorite things to do in Seattle, in the hope that others will see what I see in this amazing city.

1. Bike riding along the Burke Gilman Trail

seattle

The summer before my freshman year of college, I worked by butt off at three jobs and was able to save up to buy my very own bike. I love getting exercise and being outdoors, so I was constantly looking for new routes and trails. The Burke Gilman Trail runs from Ballard, through University District, and ends in Bothell.

seattle
Watching boats on the Fremont Canal

It is about 27 miles long, but is perfect for riding your bike from one park or shopping center to another. It is very scenic and well-maintained, so it’s great from just a stroll or exercise. I love to stop at the Fremont Canal and watch the boats, or grab a breakfast sandwich at Solsticio Café.

2. People watching at Green Lake

seattle

As an introverted artsy-type, there is few things I like more than people-watching and drawing in a public park. In the summer months, Green Lake is a great place to catch some rays, get exercise, or walk a furry friend. There’s also a place to do stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) or rent a rowboat. I like to set up a picnic either alone or with friends and see what people cross my path. It tends to get very busy on sunny days, so on those days I can walk about 20 minutes from my house or take the bus. The lake is also a beautiful scene for drawing, if you are artistically inclined.

seattle
My favorite snack on a hot day is frozen yogurt with all the toppings!

And you are only a few blocks away from good food.

3. Tour the University of Washington campus

seattle

I must admit by personal bias here, but I believe the University of Washington has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. More than just the architecture, it houses a whole area of Japanese cherry trees which blossom in the spring, becoming a peaceful place to relax and take pictures. There are many historical buildings and statues, which makes the place seem like more of an outdoor museum than a university.

seattle
The Quad at the University of Washington is home to many Japanese cherry trees.

There is a gorgeous rose garden with stone benches surrounding the UW fountain. On a clear day, the fountain perfectly frames Mount Rainier in the distance. There enough to see on a self-guided tour, so no need to spend any money on this one. But, I am always one to encourage venturing to University Way, where one can find restaurants from the Vietnamese variety to Ethiopian.

4. Bar Crawl in Capitol Hill

seattle

By far, Capitol Hill is my favorite area to go out, grab a bite, and get my dance on. This LGBTQIA-friendly district is home to my favorite dance clubs and bars in Seattle. On a Friday night, I like to catch the guest-list at Q Nightclub, a swanky club that booms house music, hosts popular DJs, and even throws in some fire-dancers and performers once in a while. If EDM isn’t your style, make your way to Rhein Haus, a Bavarian-inspired pub with large beer steins and bocce ball. This joint is huge, so feel free to bring all your friends and chow down on some amazing soft pretzels and brats.

seattle

For the more something a little more quirky, hit up the Unicorn. The Unicorn has fantastic drinks, such as my personal favorite, “The Cheap Date”. There are arcade games to play, raunchy décor, and popular karaoke nights. And, if it’s your 21st birthday, you get to wear the nearly 2 foot long unicorn horn, which is bedazzled with rhinestones and glitter. This is the place to go to have a wild time.

Finally, I love to end my night at R Place, as it has no cover after 1 am. R Place is a happening gay bar, complete with mainstream hits and go-go dancers (of all genders). The drinks are run-of-the-mill but by the end of your bar crawl, this is the perfect spot to let loose and dance like no one is watching.

5. Kayaking on Lake Union

seattle

One of my favorite things about Seattle is its close proximity to water, whether it be Golden Gardens, Alki Beach, or Lake Washington. I love swimming, going for boat rides, or simply looking at the view. With so many options available, Seattle is never lacking of places to go kayaking, and Lake Union is my preferred place to get on the water. For approximately $15 per person, you can rent a kayak for an hour or more, venturing under the Fremont Bridge and down the canal, or to the east around Gasworks Park.

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Kayaking with a view of Gasworks Park

There’s always choice to share a kayak with a friend, but for those of us with a competitive side, it can be even more fun to race along the water full speed. A huge plus is that you get a great panoramic view of the city, including the Space Needle and Queen Anne Hill. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures, but be careful not to drop your camera in the water!

6. Splashing Around in Seattle Center Fountain

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Did I mention that I like water? With so many lakes and beaches, it can be hard to choose your ideal swimming spot. If the idea of salt water makes you say “Ew”, perhaps consider venturing to Seattle Center for a day. The International Fountain is one of the many famous sites in Seattle, but it is highly interactive as well. During the summer months, the fountain is in full force, and draws large crowds of tourists and families. Don’t let that deter you though, because once you see it, you will want to jump right it. The fountain plays classic musical hits, choreographing the streams of water with various spouts and blasts.

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Seattle International Fountain

It is both beautiful to listen to and fun to play in, and can keep kids (and the young at heart) entertained for hours. After a day of splashing in the sun, there are many more sites to see at the Center. This is the home of the famous Space Needle, Experience Music Project (EMP), and Seattle Science Center. All of those activities are surely great, but let me just say that the fountain is completely free!

7. Seattle Underground Tour

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The tour takes place almost completely underground, where some of the storefronts still remain intact.

Admittedly, I’ve only been on this tour once, but it is one of those “touristy” things that I whole-heartedly support people looking into when they visit Seattle. The tour starts out in a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop in Pioneer Square, making you feel like you are entering a secret society or Prohibition-era speakeasy. The tour continues, over, under, and around the district, as an animated tour guide gives the raunchy, dirty history of Seattle. I’ll try not to offer too many spoilers, but the best part is touring the remnants of Seattle after the great fire- and since Seattle was first built below sea-level, the new city was simply built on top of the ruins.

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Some of the original skylights still remain. If you look up, you may see pedestrians walking overhead.

However, some of the shops still remain, and this offers a spooky, yet nostalgic backdrop to this theatrical tour. I learned a ton, laughed even more, and came away with a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of this great city.

8. Pike Place Market

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Home of the world famous fish throwers, the original Starbucks, and iconic Public Market sign.

Most people who venture to visit Seattle are familiar with its famous “Public Market” sign that frames the Pike Place Market downtown. This is the home of the original Starbucks (often crowded, so don’t depend on catching a quick brew here), and the gooey gum wall. As you enter the market, you will see the spot of the infamous fish-throwing, with salmon go flying through the air to be caught it paper, wrapped, and sold. However, aside from these more famous sites, Pike Place Market holds all kinds of oddities, street merchants, and worldly foods. $10 can buy you the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, and there are free samples of delicacies on every corner.

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There was so much gum on the wall that it started corroding the brick, so the gum wall got a nice cleaning this past year.

I love going here to just grab a bite and look at the bay. You are also within walking distance of the Westlake Shopping Center to suit all your fashion needs. Although a visit to Pike Place Market seems clichés, you don’t want to miss it!

9. Hike All the Trails!

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No matter where you are in Northwest Washington, you are never far away from a trail. Obviously city trails, like the Burke Gilman, are awesome, but sometimes you just want to get into nature, work those calves, and smell some evergreens. So far I have written two blog posts on my experiences hiking near Seattle, but there are so many trails to choose from! Personally, I like getting a little bit of a workout out of my hike, so Lake Serene was a great challenge for me. Of course, there’s no shame in looking for a great view, and there are tons of trails for that as well (try Rattlesnake Ridge or Poo Poo Point).

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Nature is awesome!

One of the greatest things people notice about Washington is how green it is, so take advantage of that! We have glorious mountains, beautiful lakes, and breathtaking views. Make it a day trip or make it a weekend, you won’t regret it!

10. Perusing One of the Many Art Museums

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In case you couldn’t tell, I’m really into art. I like making it, I like looking at it, I even like destroying it sometimes (to make it into something new). Seattle attracts all kinds of artists, so it’s no wonder that there are many art museums as well as shops to choose from. Every first Thursday of the month, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is completely free, and most of the other museums have their own deals and free days. The SAM houses mostly classical and contemporary art, and showcases a different prominent artist every couple of months. The building itself is architecturally beautiful, and conveniently located downtown by most of the other famous sites.

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The Seattle Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park

My other favorite is the Asian Art Museum, located in Volunteer Park, which is one of the best parks in Seattle. The Asian Art Museum is rich in history, and surrounded by historic buildings, sculptures, and has a great view of Seattle. Volunteer Park also houses a conservatory of plants, from ferns and flowers to trees and cacti. I can easily spend a whole day in a museum, and they make that easy because food is usually close by.

In general, art can be seen in Seattle almost everywhere you turn; in the architecture, the graffiti, and the landscapes. Seattle is a gorgeous city, with so much to see and do.

Please come visit us, we would love to have you!

 

My Top Ten Favorite Things to Do in Seattle
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5 Lessons I Learned While Traveling in Costa Rica

5 Lessons I Learned While Traveling in Costa Rica

Before going to Costa Rica, my friend and I spent an evening mapping out and planning the entire two weeks. We made reservations, looked into bus schedules, and bought Spanish language books.

Once the plane tickets were bought, it all became real.

I had high expectations. High nervousness. High excitement.

But, as “prepared” as I felt before boarding that plane, I was quickly thrown into cold water. In many ways my expectations were met and exceeded. Some were let down. I learned things I never imagined encountering.

Was it an amazing, fulfilling, and beautiful experience? Of course. But not all lessons are learned the easy way.

Here are the 5 lessons I learned in Costa Rica…

1. Being lost in translation is an annoying, difficult, wonderful thing

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I had never taken any Spanish lessons before my trip to Costa Rica. Instead,  I downloaded a cheesy app to learn common Spanish phrases, scribbled some notes in a journal, and listened to a CD for about 20 minutes.

Naively, I imagined that most of the people in Costa Rica would speak enough English for me to hold a conversation with them. I assumed this because of the high amount of tourism in the area, and also just my own American ego.

What I encountered was that many (maybe even most) people did speak some English… but not everyone. By “most” one may think that these are pretty good odds. But while trying to figure out what bus to take from a person who only speaks Spanish, those stats don’t seem to matter as much.

I had to adapt quickly. I couldn’t ignorantly expect local people to cater to the fact that I did not speak their language. So I had to learn Spanish. Which is not possible in two weeks. So, I had to learn ENOUGH Spanish. I was so thankful for our Spanish phrase books, as I tried to memorize common questions, answers, directions, and more. I said “lo siento” a lot. I said “gracias” even more.

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By the grace of some higher power, getting lost in translation did not lead to any major mix ups and our safety was never compromised in that regard. But I quickly developed a new found appreciation for language. And my ego was knocked down a few rungs.

It was pivotal for me to see that me being a visitor to another country in no way made me entitled to their understanding. It was difficult for me to navigate, but it was a necessary labor. To be an ethical traveler, I needed to recognize myself as the foreigner. It was uncomfortable for sure, but incredibly humbling. However, language is a part of culture, and cultures vary across the globe.

This is one lesson I am sure I will have to learn over and over again.

2. I feel most beautiful when I’m not thinking about how I look

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I didn’t bring any makeup with me to Costa Rica. No flat iron, brush, or shampoo. I did this partially as a challenge to simply see if I could go without these *necessities*, and because I didn’t want to carry all that shit around with me in my pack. What I had was one travel-sized bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, a crystal stick of deodorant that did not work, and a toothbrush.

But, spending so much time in the humidity and in the ocean turned my usually wavy hair into kinks, which were stubborn against my partner’s conditioner.

So I let it be. I could not tame the wild.

Yes, there were unforeseen times when we were out in public when a swipe of mascara could have woken my face from the dead. Times where a regular bra would have come in handy….

But sitting on the beach by myself in the scorching sun… hair in a mess and skin toasted brown, I didn’t really care about those things. I felt so free. I didn’t compare myself to anyone that looked my way.

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I was the person that could trek through the jungle in a sundress and New Balance running shoes. I was the person who could dance with a stranger on a boat while wearing a bikini and a sarong. I didn’t feel that I had to look a certain way. I didn’t feel like anyone else cared how I looked either.

If anything, I wanted to get more dirty. Run barefoot across the sand. Paint my face with mud. Get salsa verde on my dress. Being comfortable in this way allowed me to enjoy my surroundings much more. I less time I spent getting ready in the morning, the more time I had to boogie board in the ocean. Bike riding through Puerto Viejo. Swimming in the hostel pool.

I felt beautiful. I experienced more. I let go.

3. Money is an object

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Costa Rica is not a cheap place to travel in.  Especially in December. My travel partner and I set a $50 per day budget for ourselves (each), and it was tight. Several days were spent in the home of a family that my grandparents had a connection with, which saved us money. We are so grateful for their assistance and hospitality. No doubt they saved us even more in the long run by making sure we got on the right bus and found the best deals.

But I was hyper aware of money while I was in Costa Rica.

I knew what 1000 colones could buy me. I had to decide when we could afford a taxi versus when we had to walk for an hour to reach a waterfall in La Fortuna. We ate empanadas at bus stops versus buying full meals at restaurants. We made our own meals at the hostels most nights.

This is not to say that one can’t travel to Costa Rica on much less. Or that money alone should prevent someone from going on such an adventure.

But I was appreciative of what money I had. I was aware of the immense privilege I had in being able to afford a plane ticket abroad. I was so thankful to simply have the opportunity.

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For some people, money is no object. But for many, it very much is. As our bus wound through the city and country, we saw tiny tin houses not much bigger than my bedroom at home. Houses that homed entire families. The value of money seemed so relative then.

It has inspired to be more appreciative of my belongings. Of my financial situation. To spend my money more wisely. To see that I can have a fun time without spending a fortune.

Some of the best times I had in Costa Rica were free.

So while I yearn to continue traveling abroad, I am constantly looking for adventure wherever I am. Money is an object. It is a thing. But it doesn’t have to be everything.

4. You can feel lonely no matter where you are

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I assumed that travelling would break my fear of loneliness. At home in Seattle, I often find myself incredibly lonely, feeling the need to go out, be social, and do something. I figured that being in another country, I would be overwhelmed with people and things to do and would want some solitude. This was hardly the case. Most evenings, once the day had settled down and I prepared to go to sleep, I got homesick. I missed having people to text every night. I missed the comfort of people checking on me. It was just me and my own thoughts.

I hardly slept.

Relatively soon into the trip I came face-to-face with my anxiety and insecurity. I felt so far away from home. In some places, we were a 5 hour bus ride away from any major city. No one besides my friend knew me.

When my friend went back home early, I was really on my own. I chose to go to Puerto Viejo for two nights. Solo. I laid awake in my hammock in tears, on the phone with my mom. I felt immobile and scared. Once I got off the phone, I lay in silence.

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Then the girl next to me turned over.

“I get lonely when I travel solo, too. You’re not alone”.

I realized that maybe feeling lonely wasn’t such a bad thing. That it was natural even. That I shouldn’t feel ashamed of being scared.

The woman and I talked for a while. We discussed the best ways to meet new people. Or when we should take some personal time.

The illusion of all these brave, fearless independent travelers was shattered. I am sure those people exist, but it is okay to feel lonely sometimes. Or a lot. It may be a fear I will overcome. I may not.But I will not let it hinder my desire for adventure, and I won’t let it break my spirit.

5. Not everything will go according to plan

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I didn’t know that my travel partner was going to fly home early on Christmas morning…

Hadn’t planned on my flight being cancelled and not being able to catch another until 15 hours later…

I didn’t expect to get to Puerto Viejo and find all the hostels to be completely booked.

But I did roll with the punches.

When my partner left, I took a 7 hour bus ride to the opposite coast on my own.

When there was three-day wait on all flights to Seattle, I was patient. I visited over 6 different airlines and with some determination and luck was able o find a flight home the next morning.

And in Puerto Viejo, I lay awake in my dingy hammock, with bats chirping overhead, and I was thankful for a place to rest.

All of those situations were pretty shitty. Actually, really shitty. Tears were shed. I was exhausted a points.

But it all worked out. The outcomes were less than ideal, but I was safe. I was alive. And I was in an amazing, beautiful country.

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I wasn’t able to plan every part of my trip. Life doesn’t work like that. But I still had an enriching time. I learned a ton, about myself and travel in general.

 

One thing I would say to all travelers is be adaptable. Many of these lessons I had to learn the hard way, but they were invaluable to my experience. I felt a wide range of emotions and took risks. I recognize that every trip will be different. But life is like that.

Lessons learned.

 

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