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adventure travel

Solo Female Travel: Women in the Wilderness

Written by Karo Wieczorek

Despite the fact that women have been successfully traveling and having adventures alone in nature for centuries, the solo woman who announces she’s going on a back-country adventure still seems to be a topic that gets people’s emotions going. The majority of support for solo female activities outdoors goes to the women on the billboards – the extreme sports heroines, the pioneers reaching for the ultimate heights.

But what about the rest of us? What about all other women who want to get out there and live their own small adventures?

For us, the situation can look a little different. Our dreams and plans come up against a wall of doubt, distrust, fear and disbelief. We face it not only from the people around us (“Are you sure you’re ready for this kind of trip?”), but also the doubts that live inside our own minds (“Can I really do this?”).

If you’re a woman who wants to take a solo trip into the wilderness, but is having a hard time dealing with the reactions from the people around you (not to mention the doubts coming up in your own head), this post is for you.

Karo - women in the wilderness

Social Stigma

You have great dreams, you make plans, you test your gear, and you’re happy to go out and embrace the wilderness. Excited, you announce your plans to your family and friends and the moment you do, you face an irritating reality – no one shares your feelings of excitement. Instead, you get the opposite reactions:

You’re Going Alone!?

One of the first things that can come up when the adventurous woman shares her travel and adventure plans with people who care about her is shock and difficulty comprehending why she would want to risk going alone.

And not just going anywhere…but going alone into the woods, mountains, desert. For people around her, it’s unimaginable. They might not believe that a woman would be courageous enough to do such a thing. No boyfriend going with her? No other girlfriends? No hiking buddy?

The underlying question they’re asking is why? Why would she ever want to go alone?

The need to be constantly surrounded by people is embedded into our society. It’s how humans have survived as long as we have. Being alone used to mean certain death.

Nowadays, being alone is not a death sentence, but it does mean having to have to deal with yourself. It means having to confront your own deepest thoughts and emotions, your inner shadows you would rather not think about. Being alone, you might even hear your heartbeat for the first time, and confront your own humanity…your own mortality.

For many of us, being alone is something to avoid.

But for the courageous ones, we have our reasons to wander into wilderness alone.

It’s up to us if we try to make others understand. The thing to remember is not to get discouraged — just stick to your decision and trust yourself.

Almora India forest

But You Don’t Know Anything About [insert outdoor activity/location here]!

The next thing that the adventurous woman has to deal with is the denial of her skills, often wrapped in the form of “concerned questions” that downplay what she is capable of on her own.

Will you manage to set up camp?

Do you really know how to make a fire?

How will you stay safe?

How could you possibly be able to do all that on your own?

All the time she has spent reading, educating herself, taking courses and practicing wilderness survival skills seems to be irrelevant compared to the fact that she’s still a woman.

People may believe that outdoor skills are difficult to master, something out of reach of the average person working a desk job in a city.

That of course is not true, and the wild woman knows that. She’s also confident and aware of her skills and has no problems facing obstacles and conquering them.


But…The World “Out There” Is A Dangerous Place!

This is one of most common fears, the argument the adventurous woman hears the most when people are trying to persuade her away from the idea of a solo wilderness trip.

There are so many dangers out there!

Opinions that if you go “out there”, every human will try to harm you, every animal will try to eat you, and you will fall in every possible hole are common. They’re created by a general fear of the unknown.

For the adventurous woman, the unknown is something exciting. For others, the unknown only brings trouble and danger. These fears that loved ones or friends have are the hardest to explain away. Realistically, it will take the adventurous woman a couple expeditions and just as many safe returns to convince the people who care about her that she can actually thrive “out there”. Even then, there will likely be resistance to each new trip she plans to take.


Build a Strong Inner Mindset

The fact that people around us doubt our skills and abilities can always be expected. What is much harder to overcome is the doubt and distrust that dwells within us.

No matter how hard she tries, the adventurous woman will face a point where she starts to feel the seeds of fear within her.

Can I really do this?

Are my skills really good enough?

What if they were right…What if I don’t make it?

All these questions and many more will race through her mind. She will experience moments of discouragement and doubt. The key to her success will be to stay strong and cultivate her self-awareness and self-confidence.

But the adventurous woman travels prepared. She will remind herself that she knows exactly what she’s capable of. She knows her gear and the place she will travel to. Trusting herself is her main asset. In the end, she will be on her own out there and she will be the only person she can rely on, so she prepares herself and trusts herself to tackle challenges, one by one.


Be Prepared

The key to a successful outdoor adventure is preparedness. There are a couple of important things the adventurous woman needs to think about before going into the wild:

Manage Your Risks

It’s probably one of the most important aspects of your preparations. Knowing exactly what to expect and mitigating any possible risks should be one of your core skills.

The wilderness is unpredictable, yes, but you can and should make sure you have as much information as possible in advance about the following…

  • Weather conditions: what can you expect during your trip?

Knowing your forecast will allow you to prepare your gear accordingly and prepare for quickly changing weather.

  • Trail conditions: is your trail open at this time of year?

Make sure you check if the trail you have chosen is open to the public and if any other difficulties or obstacles will be in your path.

  • Day length: how much daylight will you have during your hike?

This will allow you to plan and time your trek, especially if it’s a long stretch.

  • Wild animals: what wildlife activity can you expect in the area you chose?

This especially applies to regions where bear and/or mountain lions live, where you should be extra cautious with carrying and storing food and other smelly products like sunscreen and lotion!


Skills and Education

You’ll acquire both skills and knowledge over time, mostly through experience. However there’s a good chunk of knowledge you can get before your adventures.

Educate yourself by reading books and articles (like this onethis one, and this one), listening to podcasts like The First 40 Miles, DirtBag Diaries, and Sounds of the Trail, and watching some wilderness survival videos (like “Magnetic Declination Demystified“, “How to Tie the Simplest (But Also The Most Useful) Knot in the World” and the “Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic“. Whenever possible, attend trainings and get first-hand experience in a safe, controlled setting.

Try and test things out yourself as well! Trying to start a fire for the first time on the trail is not a good idea. Put effort in acquiring as much knowledge as possible in advance; it will pay off once you’re out there in the wild!

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 2.26.38 PM


The gear you carry is everything you will have to survive on your own in the wild. Make sure you know how to use it, make sure you can rely on each and every piece in your backpack.

To do that you MUST test out ALL of your gear in advance. Every part of your equipment should be checked long before you take your first steps on the trail. Go walking or hiking in your shoes for several miles, wear your backpack while doing so, try cooking something on your small camp stove.

The very best way to prepare your gear is to embark on smaller hikes and walks where you can test most of it before you take your big wilderness trip!


You need to be able to trust your body as much as your gear.

Knowing your abilities and limits is important because it lets you set boundaries and manage your own expectations. How much weight can you carry for a couple of hours? How many miles can you hike before you need to rest? How will your feet react to constant use?

These are the questions you need to know answers to before you start your adventure. I recommend starting a small training routine to strengthen your legs, core and back as well. This will make all your hikes much easier and allow you enjoy your adventures even more!


You Did It!

When you meet a woman in the wilderness, you know she’s special.

She has a particular energy about her, a kind of strength and power. That’s what solo adventures give you.

They empower you, give you self confidence, and build your trust in your skills and abilities. They make you realize that you can handle so much more than you thought you could.

The adventurous woman who travels, hikes, backpacks, or does any other kind of solo outdoor trip becomes a better version of herself. She is healthier, happier and more fulfilled — and she doesn’t leave that behind on the trail. She takes all those positive things back into her everyday life.

No challenge at work is comparable to that last stretch with no water and an aching body… No fight is as threatening as that terrible storm that almost blew her off the mountain. Her inner self gets stronger with every trip she takes. Now, she makes decisions with confidence; her mind is sharp and fast.

The truth is that the ability to survive in the wild on your own makes you a strong, confident and self-aware person. The energy you get on your adventure will influence others around you, too. You’ll inspire your friends to be more courageous. To trust themselves more. To take on challenges directly and not shy away from something that might stretch their comfort zone.

So follow your dreams, adventurous woman, and don’t get discouraged. Have respect for nature on your solo trip, but have no fear.

About Karo

Photo - KaroKaro is a passionate hiker with a true calling. Every trail is an adventure and every adventure is a lesson. When not hiking she’s either planning her next tattoo or writing to her blog where she shares her knowledge and experience with other outdoors-loving people. Connect with Karo at Trail Maiden.

July 18, 2016
6 Ways To Deal With Sticky Situations When You’re Traveling

We all find ourselves in trouble from time to time, especially when traveling abroad. On the road, any negative incidents can seem extra difficult — we are out of our comfort zone and without our usual support network. Sometimes we don’t even know how to contact the police (or if the police will help us).

Giving up and heading home might seem like the best decision when stuff hits the proverbial fan. But, life is going to happen wherever we find ourselves. You can conjure great strength in the midst of adversity that you didn’t even know was possible. Here are a few tips for how to avoid sticky situations, and what to do if it is already too late.

To Avoid Trouble

1. Choose Your Travel Mates Wisely

In 2009 I was a part of a film crew driving trucks around the globe. One member of the crew was always looking for a party and was also a magnet for unseemly company.

When he would describe his experiences to us after being out all night I often wondered how he managed to survive unscathed and thought it was only a matter of time before something happened.

In Puerta Vallarta, Mexico our luck ran out as I came upon him losing a fight in the street. My instant reaction was to intervene and before I knew it, the police were involved and we all risked a night in the local jail. Luckily, I talked us all out of it and Axel wasn’t hurt badly either. I resigned to be more selective with travel partners from then on.


2. Wait Until The Morning To Decide

One of my favorite activities in the world is swimming, which I love doing at night. However, the types of creatures that inhabit the waterways change with location and elevation.

On this particular trip, we had just descended from a cold mountain lake in Guatemala where I had taken refreshing dips at each opportunity. A few hours down the road we arrived at a new destination with another lake. It was a dark night already and we were now in more of a jungle environment, so I decided to wait until morning for my dip.

In the light of the new day, I put on my swimsuit and headed down to the lake, where to my dismay I saw multiple signs of caimans (essentially alligators), which eat humans.

I couldn’t see them at night and I probably shouldn’t have even come as close to the water as I did. Thankfully, I had decided to wait until morning and likely saved my own life that day.


3. Beware Of Mother Nature

I was staying at a nature retreat in Costa Rica during a massive flooding. When we arrived at our destination, the bridge across the river was nearly submerged. Reports were coming in of multiple deaths and some villages destroyed nearby. I was fascinated by the sheer power of the water as humongous trees floated by like toothpicks. I could tell the river bank had moved substantially since my arrival the day before, and yet out of curiosity, I approached the raging water to take a video.

As I began filming and narrating a section of the bank dropped away right in front of me and I was left standing with my toes on the edge of certain death. I quickly retreated and learned a valuable lesson about the fragility of my own life. I won’t make the same mistake again.

When Trouble Has Already Found You


4. “Stay The Course”

In 2005 I was living in Fremantle, Western Australia when my girlfriend at the time got in a car accident and broke her hip. I had not yet found work and was running low on cash.

I called my parents during a breakdown moment and they were sure that I was going to call it quits and head home. Instead, I buckled down and got a job. I had to cook all the meals, run errands, go to work (not to mention carry her up and down the stairs of the loft we were renting).

I also managed to find us another inexpensive car. She healed up eventually and we took advantage of our temporary home, going to the amazing local beaches regularly and exploring further into the outback with our vehicle.

We saved enough money to drive west to east across the entire continent, having a blast along the way before continuing our journey to New Zealand. Today, I am so happy I chose to stay the course in the face of adversity.


5. Breathe & Don’t Panic

In 2010, while living in rural New Zealand, I was hiking up a mountain with two young Swedes and a stray hunting dog. We were tramping off trail through thick brush when one of us stirred up an entire hive of wasps.

I found myself at the edge of a 20-foot cliff with jagged rocks below, and above me was a thicket of thorny bushes. The only way out was through the wasps or the thorns, as jumping of the cliff would most certainly cause broken bones or even death.

For a few seconds that seemed like hours I took a few deep breaths and steadied myself for the unavoidable trauma. As the wasps began to attack I dived into the bushes and crawled through them and then ran up the mountain out of their range.

Scratched, bloody, and very badly stung, I hiked down the mountain and went to the nearest hospital 1.5 hours away. I am grateful that I didn’t panic as I survived and even returned back to the woods shortly thereafter, much the wiser.


6. Chalk It Up To Experience & Laugh

The film crew I mentioned above needed to get from Colombia to Panama and there are no passable roads, so it required sending our vehicles on container ships from Cartagena to Panama City.

As for the crew, we decided to take the journey via sailboat. I was feeling uneasy about the captain we hired, as he resembled an actual pirate in both looks and demeanor. The Colombian Coast Guard flagged our boat and highly recommended that we postpone the trip for a day or two as a monstrous storm was coming. The captain shrugged and we continued on while he began to drink alcohol.


By the time it was my turn to take the helm, the storm was raging and he was drunk. He pointed to a heading on the compass, and then disappeared into the cabin for the night. The rest of the crew also decided stayed below and for over three hours I was alone in the pitch black.

I stared at the compass, desperately trying to stay on course as the waves tossed the boat around like a rag doll. I yelled for someone to relieve me, but no one came. I began to scream curses at the storm like Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump. Finally, I laughed hysterically at the absurdity of my situation, relieving the tension of my deliriousness.

There are some common themes to the incidents above, like using common sense. Nature can be dangerous whether in the form of a storm at sea, river flood, caimans in the jungle, or wasps in the forest.

When you are abroad, the constant stimulation can be exciting and you may forget to keep your wits about you. Trust your instincts. If someone or something seems like a bad idea, then he/she/it probably is.

In most of the situations described above, I had a thought that something or someone wasn’t right, and I either didn’t honor it or couldn’t. Simply asking questions if something is safe, like whether or not swimming in the lake is ok, can save your life too.

The statistical truth is, most of you won’t find yourselves in extreme life or death scenarios when you travel abroad. However, if you do get into a sticky situation, stay in the moment, don’t panic and you’ll likely end up with a fantastic story to tell.


About Craig

d77646_f58fa61e8bf04d2fbd393b9186d33c30Craig Arthur Johnson is a humble student of life where there are no degrees, and a seeker of truth even when it challenges his current worldview. Part troubadour, part monk, and part shaman, he is a burgeoning writer and speaker, connoisseur, gastronaut, explorer, adventurer, martial artist, and yogi. Craig has never enjoyed the inside of “the box”. He can be located outdoors communing with nature, breathing mindfully, drinking spring water, soaking up the sun, and walking barefoot on hallowed soil. Connect with him at www.craigarthurjohnson.com.


February 10, 2016
Medellin Transformed: The New Star Of Colombia

Marcela is the co-founder of On Board, a mobile outdoor classroom where mindful, continuously moving students learn, travel and make an impact in the communities they visit. We sat down with Marcela to hear about her hometown, Medellín, the most innovative city of Colombia and one that has come far from its turbulent past.

What stands out to you about Medellín?

Medellín, the capital of the province Antioquia in Colombia, is a city of over 2.5 million where everyone seems to know each other. The people are very warm, and you can feel the good vibes all around. If you look at the city through the eyes of someone who has lived there for a long time, you will see that it is a city of many different faces and realities.

Medellín is also a resilient city. It is a city that never quits and that proudly shares its past. It is that past, as well as the desire to write a new narrative, that makes Medellin such a special place. It is building a better reputation, while also being open to learning.

It has civic spaces, libraries, and art galleries, as well as developed infrastructure which includes a giant escalator, metro line, and the “metro cable”, a cable car allowing the residents of the poor neighbourhoods on Medellín steep hillside to easily commute to the city center, in the valley.


What are the best things to do in Medellín to prompt learning and transformative experiences?

Go beyond the most visited places, like the popular area of the city called Poblado, and explore hidden corners. Learn from the city’s history, which goes deeper than the drug lord Pablo Escobar and the events of the 1980’s and 90’s. Attend cultural events, do a language immersion, or explore local restaurants in areas like Laureles.

Meet different kinds of people of all ages, and ask how they have seen the city changing. Making an effort to speak the language will be a transformative experience in itself, especially if you connect with the locals and try to make lasting friendships.

One of the most transformative ways to experience would be to join an On Board experience, or retreats once a week or for a weekend.

What makes Medellín transformative is its capacity to make people curious and understand from within the external transformation that the city is going through.


Tell us more about On Board’s trip to Medellín this year.

This semester, On Board is making Colombia our feature destination. I am from Medellín, and I’m excited to share my country with the world. I also want to focus on Colombia because it’s a great time to visit the country. Medellín in particular is growing in popularity because of the amount of things happening there, and because of its great quality of life.

On Board will be traveling around Colombia in March, with a strong focus on Medellín and its surroundings, especially since the Global Entrepreneurship Congress has selected Medellín as the host city for 2016.

We will go on other journeys in the first weeks of April, including one focused on organic, fair trade coffee production.

Every month, we will host experiences that can be adjusted for people according to their schedules. People can also join in on our experiences at any time, even for just a weekend.


What are you most excited about for this trip?

On Board went to Medellín last year, and it was incredible! There were more than 25 mentors, and we visited 15 different communities.

When we visit Medellín, we want to focus on transformation and innovation.

Every experience will be different, but we will be sure to include the highlights of our past experiences into each new one. This time, we will add new topics, such as the startup ecosystem and entrepreneurship. We will also explore the different communities that have been starting in the city, and focus around youth movements.

It is exciting to me to see that Medellín, my home city and a place with such a tumultuous history, is now the place chosen by more and more people who want to start changing our world for the better.


About Marcela

d77646_7951cd8391c8427b84c9f123f7cfd2a7Marcela is a globetrotter and life-long education-hacking journeyer. She enjoys meeting people and new cultures, has helped victims of natural disasters, and was confronted with human tragedies of war. She has visited 50 countries, has lived in seven of them, and has learned 6 languages. She started her career as a Flow Consultant, and is now on a journey to live out and prove that non-traditional educational paths can be viable options for young people. She is the founder of On Board, a mobile outdoor classroom where mindful, continuously moving students learn, travel, and make an impact in the communities they visit. She is also a TEDx speaker, and has been on stage in eight different countries and has given more than 40 talks.

February 1, 2016
Become the Savvy Traveler You’ve Always Wanted to Be

Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
-Susan Jeffers

My first trip abroad was as an aupair when I was 19. While I was super nervous at the time, in hindsight I can see that most things were taken care of for me.

Still, leaving your country right after graduation and going to a country where they speak a different language, living with a family that you haven’t met in person before, taking care of kids and doing all this without your friends is scary. Even when your travel arrangements are taken care of…

I’ve learned a lot since that first experience living in a new country. Traveling has become my chosen lifestyle — it’s fun, exciting and I get to experience life from ever-new perspectives.

One of my favorite things to do when I am not busy telling travel stories is to inspire and empower others to travel too.

I decided to collect my resources and honest advice for you in hopes of showing you why traveling alone as a woman is really not that scary.


1. What exactly are you afraid of?

Make a list. Writing down your fears is incredibly powerful. Fears lose much of their intensity when we look them in the eye.

Are you afraid you could get lost? Are you afraid you might get harmed?

Write down all the fears that come to mind, reasonable or unreasonable. This might be uncomfortable at first, but you will see that it is very empowering and gives you a starting point for the next step…

2. Who could help?

Contact friends or travel bloggers and ask for advice. Your best friend Google will have some advice too.

The Traveler’s Mindset community also has plenty of people who have been in your shoes and are willing to support you make your first trip a reality! Nearly everyone who has been interviewed on this site has personally agreed to be a resource to anyone who reaches out to them online!


Book Your Flights and Accommodation

1. First flight ever? Spend a little more $$ for a good airline. It’s worth it.

As a first-time traveler, investing in a good airline that actually knows how to spell the words “customer service” is worth it, especially if it has a direct flight to your destination.

Trust me, once the travel bug bites, overnighters at an airport become an adventure. But this is not something you HAVE to put yourself through when you are nervous about traveling in the first place.

Make it easy for yourself to get to where you want to go. There is enough room for adventure once your luggage is safe at your accommodation.

2. Consider hostels for community & safety

Though you might want to stay in luxurious places or think that hostels are not safe, if you want to travel by yourself and meet people, hostels are a great starting point and nowadays, there are so many places to choose from!

Extraordinary hostels in former chapels or castles, cozy, bamboo-covered huts in the jungle or modern sleeping pods in Hong Kong…the choice is yours.

A good way to get an idea what to expect in a place is to read the reviews on pages like Hostelworld or TripAdvisor. Often you can see the age and the nationality of the reviewer too, which is a good point of reference for how you might experience it.

The advantage of a hostel is not only the community, but also safety and activities. If you are in a city that feels a bit scary at night, it’s great to stay in a hostel where people hang out. You might meet your next travel buddy in the kitchen while making dinner or you might learn about a must-see spot in the place you are traveling to next!

3. Booking pages & resources
Airbnb (New to Airbnb? Get $20 towards your first booking anywhere in the world at this link!)
Google ITA Matrix Airfare Search
Google Explore Flights
Travel deals
The Flight Deal
The Points Guy

At the destination

1. Meetups/Couchsurfing Events

One of my favorite platforms to find fellow travelers in a new place – if the hostel proves itself useless – is couchsurfing.com. It is great for much more than finding a couch to sleep on!

You can find events, travel buddies, or sometimes even jobs or future business partners!

2. Stay safe

I have been to destinations where I felt totally safe walking by myself at night and others where I did my exploring during the day instead of wandering around alone at night.

In these cases I enjoy a good night’s sleep or a nice chat with fellow travelers at my hostel or accommodation. While I love the idea of getting uncomfortable and exploring my limits, I do a little research online to see whether it’s common for women to go out at night, and I always trust my gut with these decisions.

Most of the time I have found that you meet people within the first couple of hours at the hostel or cafe and there is no need to walk around alone anyway.

Couchsurfing “Groups” (You’ll need to sign up to access the groups.)
Sandeman Free Walking Tours of Europe
Free Tours By Foot
General Travel (& Life) Advice
  • Trust your gut!
  • Does a location scare you? Prepare!
  • Does it excite you? Wing it! (fun factor: +++)
  • Something looks/feels shady? Avoid it!


Your turn. Plan (and go on) your trip!

Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to get you on the plane to your next adventure!

P.S. If you truly want to become the savvy traveler you know you can be, you’ve got to check out the Travel Savvy eCourse, created by the founder of this site! It’ll take you through the ins and outs of planning, affording, and creating your next travel adventure overseas. It’s on sale from now until the end of 2015, so don’t wait! Become a savvy traveler today!


About Jenny


Jenny Rieger has been described as a hippie with a scientist brain and a business attitude. Equipped only with her laptop, her passion and the desire to connect and learn from inspiring people, Jenny travels the world and lives life on her own terms as a world citizen.
She runs a web development business for coaches and Synnection, a community for contrarian learning and living. Jenny shares alternative ways of living and provides tools that help you to figure out what you really want in life, and how to get you there.

December 22, 2015
Embark on Your Own Hero’s Journey

Michael Bennett leaves no stone unturned on his quest to experience an adventurous life and create his own version of the Hero’s Journey. He even went so far as to combine his passions for adventure travel, personal development, and experiential learning for his doctoral research…and now he’s using his findings on real-life trips with Muddy Shoe Adventures, to create experiences around the world in transformational learning for adults.

Michael joins us today to share how your journey can be the Hero’s Journey too.

Fun fact: Michael’s passion for Joseph Campbell’s work was so great that he even got a tattoo depicting the Hero’s Journey on his left arm!

Watch the interview below, or click here to download the audio-only interview.

About Michael

Michael is a traveler, adventurer, writer, photographer, and life- and career coach who has spent the past 20 years exploring the world. His struggles with finding meaningful work led him to go on his own personal journey of self-exploration and discovery, which inspired him to launch Muddy Shoe Adventures in 2011.



Have you ever said, “I don’t have the money to travel”? Problem solved! Check out The Traveler’s Mindset guide to over $50,000 in funding for travel/work/life abroad.

March 3, 2015
Travel Adventures & Personal Development

Ryan van Duzer is an award-winning filmmaker and TV personality who has appeared on The Travel Channel, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and in Men’s Journal. He’s always on the hunt for the next adventure and runs the website DuzerTV.

We kept the interview short and sweet, so get ready for 12 minutes packed full of truth bombs, travel perspective, and some killer personal development tips on making awesome stuff happen in your life!

Full disclosure on the sub-par video quality at points: Ryan brought so much great energy that we overloaded the connection a couple times!




Have you ever said, “I don’t have the money to travel”? Problem solved! Check out The Traveler’s Mindset guide to over $50,000 in funding for travel/work/life abroad.

December 9, 2014