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travel hacking

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
Creative Ways to Travel Abroad for Free

Julie got her first passport in college. Postgraduate, she now lives between London and Boulder, Colorado and has an undergraduate curriculum of over 40 countries, most of which she visited by the generosity of grants and scholarships. By the time she graduated, she had accumulated 150,000 frequent flyer miles to propel her around the globe and give her a sampling of different countries all on her own.

Julie is truly a pioneer when it comes to how to travel abroad for free. Now, her travels have inspired her to speak out about safety as a solo traveler – particularly as a female solo traveler – and design her app, pingWHEN, which uses your phone’s GPS to check in with a friend or loved one back home each time you leave for or arrive home from a trip, a night time run, or even a party downtown. If you don’t arrive when you said you would, pingWHEN alerts your contact know that you haven’t so they can check to see if you’re safe.

Click here to listen to the interview with Julie (mp3)


pingWHEN app

The Traveler’s Mindset Guide to Over $50,000 in Programs, Grants, Fellowships and More to Fund Your Time Abroad

About Julie

Julie Markham is passionate about using technology for social impact and is on a hell bent mission to empower women. From her travels to more than 40 countries, she was concerned about her safety which led her to create pingWHEN – a personal safety app. In between travels, she has worked with a tech company on environmental responsibility and a microcredit program in Rwanda. She has served as the Director of Special Ops with Unreasonable Group which has led to projects including sailing across 13 countries Unreasonable@Sea, and helping to push entrepreneurs impacting millions of girls in poverty through the Girl Effect Accelerator. Julie believes in continually learning and has a strong intellectual curiosity as demonstrated by the fact that she was a Fulbright Scholar and holds three master’s degrees. Contact: julie@pingwhenapp.com



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 24, 2015
193 Countries & A Lifestyle of Adventure – Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau is a New York Times bestselling author and modern-day explorer. During a lifetime of self-employment that included a four-year commitment as a volunteer executive in West Africa, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Since then he has modeled the proven definition of an entrepreneur: “Someone who will work 24 hours a day for themselves to avoid working one hour a day for someone else.” Every summer in Portland, Oregon, Chris hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people with thousands in attendance. Chris is also the founder of Pioneer Nation, Unconventional Guides, the Travel Hacking Cartel, and numerous other projects.


Now that you’ve visited every country in the world, what is your dream trip?

I’m still traveling every month, so I’m not sure I have a “dream trip.” I honestly enjoy the process of being in motion and transit, making my way towards something or somewhere. And even though I’ve been to every country, there are still plenty of other places within all those countries I haven’t yet visited. Thankfully, I have no plans to stop trying.

Lots of people talk about the sights they see when they travel, but seeing isn’t necessarily the best way to experience a new place. Between taste, smell, hearing, and feeling, what’s your favorite sense to use to fully experience travel, and why?

Hmmm, I think I’d pick “feeling.” There’s a powerful combination of familiar and foreign that I experience as I visit and revisit major world cities. Quite frankly I find the sense of travel itself to be somewhat intoxicating. It doesn’t always hit that way, but when it does, other travelers know that there’s nothing like it.

What would you be doing if you hadn’t started traveling?

Who knows? I had no other real skills or qualifications. Fortunately, I discovered travel and writing somewhere along the way, and something “stuck.”

Think back to who you were before your first major trip. What was your biggest fear?

I wasn’t afraid; I was excited! I mean, I was probably nervous or worried in an anxious way. But mostly I was eager to get out of the familiar and experience something different. In a lot of ways I had grown stagnant in my life, and I had the suspicion that travel would push me out of my routine. I was drawn to it far more than I was afraid of it.

In your latest book, The Happiness of Pursuit, you write about how when disaster strikes and you miss the only flight back from Seychelles, you go into “traveler survival mode”. What’s one survival tactic that even first-time travelers can use?

Start asking questions—both of yourself and anyone around you. Are there any other flights? No? OK, then when is the next one? Is there any other way off the island? Where will I stay? What, if any, are the long-term ramifications of this misadventure—and how will I deal with them?

I don’t want to say that travel disasters are “good.” They’re disasters for a reason, and you wouldn’t wish them on anyone. But I do think it’s helpful to maintain perspective and control.

What does having a “traveler’s mindset” mean to you? 

A traveler is curious. A traveler has preferences but is also somewhat open-minded and motivated by discovery and differences. A traveler doesn’t hate the aspect of travel itself—I’ve never understood people who are all about the destination and don’t enjoy getting there.

Lastly, by nature, a traveler is grateful for all they’ve seen and experienced. It’s a very fortunate and unusual thing we’re able to do, so we should appreciate it.



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 18, 2014