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How To Persuade Your Kid To Study Abroad

by Danielle DeSimonetravel-map-of-europe

Hey parents – it might be hard to believe that there are kids out there who are reluctant to study abroad, but they do exist. If your child is one of them, but you’d like them to experience the wonders of study abroad, we have a few tips for you to convince them that yes, they should absolutely take that chance, get out of their comfort zone, and study abroad.

World Explorer

What young person hasn’t dreamed of exploring the world, Carmen Sandiego-style? When talking to your child about studying abroad, be sure to remind them that studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get out of their home culture and explore a culture entirely different than their own. Travel is one of the grandest adventures anyone can have, and experiencing a global learning environment at such a young age is a major opportunity.

Academic Advantage

Explain to your kid that studying abroad will set them apart from all of their fellow classmates. Are they studying French? Obsessed with marine biology? Studying abroad immerses any student completely in the subjects they are studying, so that their textbooks come to life. Speaking French every day in (and out of) the classroom in France or monitoring sea turtle nests as a volunteer in Costa Rica will give your student incomparable academic experiences that aren’t possible if they stay at home.


Independence Day

Have a teenager at home? They are probably vying for their independence from you on a daily basis anyway. When discussing study abroad with your child, be sure to point out that going to another country will give them the ultimate sense of independence and seriously develop their confidence.

Of course, as their parents, you’ll always be just one Skype call away. But, a summer or year abroad will give your child the skills and experiences they need to become truly independent and capable of handling themselves not just in day-to-day life at home, but in a foreign country.

Listening Is Key

In your enthusiasm to convince your child to study abroad, be sure to listen to them as well; tune into their interests and their goals. Although your support is obviously crucial to your child being able to study abroad, and opinions matter, remember that this is their adventure. Their interests are what are important, and they won’t have a rewarding study abroad experience if it isn’t the right program or country for them.


Financial Concerns

You and your child might have concerns about the price tag of going abroad, but studying abroad can be affordable. GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory is an excellent start to learning about financial aid that is available to students. The Traveler’s Mindset guide to funding opportunities like grants, fellowships, and scholarships is also a great resource.

Your student you could also explore crowdfunding options such as Fund My Travel, which would allow your student to tell their story to the world on why they want to study abroad, and accept donations from people in your community and from kind strangers to help them get there.

Summer Camp, but Better

Summer camp friendships are legendary, bonds forged over s’mores and archery contests… Now imagine these kind of friendships built while teaching English to children in Peru, navigating the busy streets of Hong Kong, or learning to speak Italian in Italy by deciphering the restaurant menu together.

Remind your kid that these sorts of experiences will bring incredible people into their lives, not just through their fellow students, but their host families who welcome them into their country simply by opening their home to your child.

Call In The Professionals

Despite your enthusiasm for study abroad, sometimes it’s helpful to bring in the professionals. Speak to your child’s high school counselors or with a representative of a study abroad program, as many of them will know how to answer questions better than you can on how this decision will affect your child, both academically and personally.

Telling Their Story

Does your kid have a fierce creative streak running through them? Explore the endless opportunities for personal expression that travel allows: photography, creative writing, video-blogging, musical inspiration, even an Instagram-blog! Travel and studying abroad are experiences that can help your child to explore new artistic ventures and express themselves in ways they never before thought possible. Plus they’ll get, like, at least 100 more followers on Insta.


Flying The Coop

Although many students are ready to jump blindly into a study abroad program, some might have a few more reservations about the idea of going to a foreign country by themselves. It can be a scary thing for first-time solo travelers, no matter how old they are!

When discussing study abroad with your child, highlight the support systems that exist within many study abroad programs, like on-site staff to assist with emergencies and transitioning into a new culture, pre-arranged housing, or host families who look forward to welcoming your child into their home.

Celebrity Inspiration

High school students are inspired by their peers and the celebrities they admire. Google celebrities or role models that your kid admires and see how many of them have studied or lived abroad. When having a conversation with your child about study abroad, mentioning “You know who else studied abroad and lived in other countries? Gandhi and JK Rowling!” might just be your ticket in.

Resume Booster

With college admissions being so competitive, study abroad experience is becoming an increasingly valued resume bullet point. Very few high school students study abroad, which will make your child’s college application (or job application) stand out from the crowd.

Explain that by studying abroad, they will gain invaluable skills, a more globalized view of the world, and will demonstrate to future colleges that they are valuable potential candidates that should be accepted. Plus, study abroad revelations make a killer topic for application essays!


Cultural Crash Course

Express to your child the amazing cultural education they’ll receive while abroad. Being in another country will open their minds to entirely new way of living, and can completely change their perspective of the world. This might seem scary, but the payoffs are worth it, and this adventure will probably lead to even more travel in their future!

Although all of these tips might help you “sell” your kid on studying abroad, it’s important to remember that they are your child and you know them best. Be open and honest about why you think studying abroad would be such an amazing opportunity for them. They’ll catch that travel bug and will be boarding a plane in no time!

About Danielle

After graduating from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in English, creative writing, and Italian, Danielle decided to leap across the Atlantic and move to southern Italy! Five years have passed and Danielle has traveled to over a dozen countries since making the big move abroad, and she doesn’t have plans of stopping anytime soon. Danielle currently works for the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) as a social media manager and assistant editor, and also works as a freelance travel writer for GoAbroad.com.

July 1, 2016
A Taste of Japanese Food Philosophy, And A Donburi Recipe Too

People tend to think of sushi and teriyaki when thinking of Japanese food, but there is in fact a lot more to the cuisine than what we are exposed to abroad!

Japanese food philosophy is so unique, emphasizing care and consideration with every detail, that it really reflects a beautiful mindset towards how we view food. Understanding Japan’s food philosophy goes a long way in understanding the other nuances of the culture. I truly believe that the best way to help spread Japanese culture is by sharing the food.

While it is impossible to pick a favorite Japanese dish, one dish that I love to introduce is donburi, since it’s different enough to be exciting, but not too different from what people already love about Japanese food.

In Japanese, donburi literally means bowl, but it also refers to the dish that’s served in the bowl. Sometimes shortened to don, the dish consists of an oversized bowl of rice, served with a variety of toppings simmered in a savory sauce. While the ingredients can vary, donburi are usually seasoned with three essential Japanese seasonings: soy sauce, mirin (a rice wine), and dashi (fish stock), which are what make it so delicious and so distinctly Japanese! To finish the dish, an egg is often added to the top in the last minute of cooking, but you can always leave it out.

The first donburi was topped with eel, like the picture above, and appeared during the Edo era. Serving the rice and the main dish in the same bowl was efficient and practical—it was a Japanese version of fast food.

The dish fit perfectly with the ever-bustling Tokyo culture (just as busy back then as it is today), so it quickly caught on and variations soon appeared. The variations include Oyakodon, which is served with chicken; Tendon, which is served with a fried pork cutlet; and my all time favorite, Gyudon, which is served with beef.

There are a lot of restaurants that specialize in donburi, and every region has its own distinct type of the dish. What’s great about donburi is that they’re cheap and flavorful, which makes for a great, affordable meal while traveling in Japan!

d77646_d650026a438e48eb8d8a43d9611cea6aBeef Rice Bowl – Gyudon
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Yields: 2 servings
Calories: 600

  • ½ pound beef
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons dashi stock
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked Japanese Rice
  • 1 green onion
  • pickled ginger
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Small Mixing Bowl
  • Wide Skillet
  • Spatula
Quick Directions:
  1. Cut the onions and beef into thin slices.
  2. Heat the oil in wide skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the beef cook until browned.
  4. Add the sugar, sake, mirin, dashi and soy sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer until most of the liquid is gone.
  5. Scramble the eggs in a small bowl. Add the egg to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until the egg is just cooked.
  6. Place the beef and egg on top of steamed rice and pour desired amount of sauce. Top with pickled red ginger and green onion, and enjoy!

About Dani


A foodie at heart, Dani Baghernejad is especially eager to share Japanese cuisine. While she’s always been curious about Asian cultures, she first fell in love with Japan after taking a Japanese class in college. She was first introduced to Japanese cooking by reading Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji, and fell in love with the food because of its unique style. She launched Otaku Food to make Japanese cuisine more accessible, emphasizing, recipes that are simple, yet true to form, in the hopes that everyone can have a little taste of Japan, no matter where they live.

February 12, 2016
Tips & Reflections From 3 Months In Japan

Why did you travel to Japan and what do you think are the typical reasons people choose to travel there?

My biggest reason for traveling was that I was feeling lost with the life I was living at home. I was feeling very burnt out and I asked myself, “What would 10 year old Jiran want?” And the answer was go to Japan.
I think a lot of people see Japan as an exotic, far-away land full of samurais, ninjas and characters from all the cartoons we watched growing up… I was there for about 3 months and am hoping to go back soon to experience even more of “real life” in Japan.


What are a couple of the top spots you’d recommend, and what’s the best way to get around?

Tokyo – for experiencing what one of the world’s biggest cities feels like. Getting to explore this huge city of 13+ million people by foot and subway is really fun!
Kyoto – to slow down from the chaos and see more of the culture and art of Japan.
Osaka – for all the incredible food!
Japan is all about trains. Bullet trains get you from city to city, fast. Inside the city there are a lot of local metro and subway lines to get you around. Be sure to purchase a JR Pass for the first three weeks of travel, which allows you to see the entire country with an unlimited use train pass for the bullet trains and some metro lines. If you want to stay longer you can use those three weeks to decide which city best fits the experience you want to have.

Did you have a favorite dish or drink?

Everything is delicious!
I ate a lot of ramen — but if you get an opportunity to eat at a fish market be sure to take it! Drinks I fell in love with were green tea, matcha lattes and Yebisu beer.

Let’s go deeper…

What surprised you most about Japanese culture (in a good way or bad way)?

What really shocked me is how shy many Japanese people are. The country felt eerily quiet when I first arrived. Everyone has incredibly big hearts, but sometimes it is challenging to have conversations and make friends. My advice? Just keep smiling and say hello whenever you can, and eventually you will get to meet some incredible people.
The most important thing is to share what’s unique about yourself. Share your passions. Talk about things like music, animes you’ve watched, things you like to do for fun. It will be a lot easier to connect with people there through the activities you do.

How were you treated as a foreigner in Japan?

Personally I was treated incredibly well. Everyone goes out of their way to help you even if they don’t speak much English. Just be friendly and don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are also police stations (called Kobans) everywhere, so if you are ever lost just pull up the address on Google Maps, ask the police, and they will help you out.
For newbie travelers in Japan, what’s one thing you wish you had known in advance that would have made your travels easier, your life less stressful, or your time there more enjoyable?
First, learn Hiragana and Katakana. These are two of the four Japanese alphabets and they are immensely helpful in reading things and getting around trains. Textfugu.com is a wonderful resource to pick up some Japanese. (I believe the first chapter is free and teaches you Hiragana.)
When you arrive, pick up a portable WiFi device or a SIM card from the airport! They are near impossible to find outside of the airports and there is very limited WiFi in Japan. It will be much less stressful trying to navigate and ask questions with access to online translation apps.
Last, be careful with Google maps. Try to find someone to help you translate addresses into the correct Japanese format or you may end up on the wrong side of town when looking for things like Airbnb or hostels.


About Jiran
d77646_45730af494624e5986a8332ab8a209b6Jiran Dowlati is a car guy, traveler, web designer and programmer. Find him on Instagram @kvrvs41.
February 12, 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
7 Delicious Exotic Fruits To Try In Colombia
One of my absolute favorite parts about traveling is to dive into the cuisine of the country I’m in. Food is revealing: regional dishes and the way people eat can give you, fellow traveler, a look into a people’s values. What ingredients are most commonly used? When do people eat? Who do they typically eat with?
(For a delicious and inspiring look into the cuisine of dozens of countries around the world, I highly recommend Jodi Ettenberg’s food/travel blog, Legal Nomads.)
Taking a page from Jodi’s traveler playbook, I’ve been exploring the food here in Medellin, Colombia for the past two weeks, and I’ve loved the opportunity to try everything from the very heavy dish called “bandeja paisa”, pictured below, to the lightest and brightest of exotic fruits from the Amazon.

(From left to right: arepa, chorizo, carne molida (ground meat), potato, avocado and salad, white rice, fried egg, plantain (patacones), red beans cooked with pork, chicharrón)

Despite the tendency of most traditional Colombian foods to be deep-fried and/or full of gluten, dairy, corn, and red meat, there are plenty of light, healthy options available in any supermarket or farmer’s market too.
But what to do when the fruits you so want to try seem almost too exotic to try?
I found myself a little overwhelmed and giddy with all the options of delicious fresh fruit in front of me, so I thought I’d make a guide to 7 of the most common exotic fruits you’ll find in Colombia as well as the proper way to prepare them into delicious juices and smoothies that will energize you while you travel.
The list below isn’t comprehensive, so if you come across a fruit that’s intriguing to you (or intimidating, as was the case for me upon seeing a spiky, green guanabana for the first time), my advice would be to buy it, note its Spanish name, take it home, and search online for the best way to enjoy the fruit inside.

7 Delicious Exotic Fruits To Try In Colombia

Lulo (Naranjilla or “little orange”)
This little orange fruit contains a truly beautiful surprise inside, if you cut it open the right way. Take a sharp knife and cut the lulo in half, widthwise around the middle.
The fruit inside will taste reminiscient of kiwi, but you’ll notice that it’s softer and sweeter.
You can use lulo for its juice or mix it with other fruits and water, as in the recipe below:
4 lulo
1 cup water
1 tbsp sugar
Cut each lulo in half (widthwise for the pretty effect). Scoop out the fruit with a spoon. Blend the fruit with water and sugar. Strain out seeds and serve chilled.
Tomate de arbol (Tamarillo)
This fruit tastes like a sweet tomato and is usually drank as a juice mixed with maracuja (passionfruit) and water, and there’s even a candy made out of it.
4 tomatoes
1 maracuja
1/2-1 cup water
1 tbsp. sugar (optional)

To prepare the juice, cut off the stems of all 4 tomatoes and cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and meat of the fruit, pop them into a blender, add the maracuja (see below), water, and sugar if you like. Serve chilled, after lunch, if you really want to be traditional.

Maracuja (Passionfruit)
You may know this fruit already in its small, purple variety (pronounced ma-ra-ku-dja). The Colombian ones I’ve seen are larger and light yellow-green in color. Their taste is very sweet and sour, and its seeds are crunchy and edible.
Cut the maracuja in half, and scoop out the seeds and juice inside. Place both the juices and meat of each fruit into a blender and add water and sugar (optional). Blend until smooth, strain through a sieve, and serve room temperature or chilled.
Mix with tomate de arbol for a traditional juice packed with Vitamin C. Bonus points: it’ll help you get over jetlag fast!
Granadilla (Sweet granadilla)
I heard that the granadilla (pronounced gra-na-di-dja) looks like some sort of alien egg and tastes vaguely like passionfruit. But any written description wouldn’t do the fruit justice, so I decided to make a video instead.


Guayaba (Guava)


Pronounced wha-dja-ba, this fruit’s texture is a bit sandy, but the flavor is sweet and delicious. Guayaba is used for marmelades, candies, and more. You can eat it raw, scooping out the seeds and eating the meat of the fruit, or blend the fruit with other juices and water and drink it, after straining out the seeds and pulp.
Guanabana (Soursop)
This spiky green fruit is a lot softer on the inside than you would expect. Its white meat is used to make smoothies, juice, and even ice cream. Don’t try to eat the large, dark brown seeds; scoop them out before you cut away the rest of the meaty, white fruit and blend it with water or almond milk and sugar. Serve chilled for a sweet and creamy treat.
Moral of the story? The stranger a fruit looks, the more pressing the need to try it! Whether it’s spiky or smooth, sour or sweet, Colombian fruits are worth the few thousand pesos you’ll invest in your own exotic culinary journey.
February 6, 2016
3 Reasons To Move Your Life (And Business) Abroad

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to live a life full of travel and experiences.

Today, I can happily say that I am living the life that I always dreamed of.

In the last three years alone:

  • I’ve lived in three different countries for a period of six months or more (Korea, Sri Lanka, and Colombia).
  • I have learned to speak two languages (I am fluent in Spanish and conversationally proficient in Korean).
  • I’ve volunteered doing marine conservation work in West Papua, Indonesia.
  • I’ve taken hallucinogenic drugs in the middle of the Colombian jungle.
  • I’ve made more friends and had more experiences around the globe than I ever thought possible.
  • And I’ve even managed to start my own remote business. 


But none of what I have achieved has come easy for me and in fact, all of it almost never happened at all.

Today at 30 years old, I could just as easily still be working the same job that I took when I graduated from college. I could have taken advice from family and friends at the time I left the United States and never moved abroad. I could have ignored the burning desire that I had inside to get more out of life and allowed my dreams to dissipate.

Thankfully at the age of 27, I followed my instincts and made the decision to start life in another country.

I didn’t think when I started this lifestyle that I’d still be “nomading” around the globe so many years later, but I am grateful that my life has gone in the direction it has.

Travel has done more for my life than I ever would have imagined. In particular, the first time that I moved abroad for a significant amount of time (teaching English in Korea for 17 months) transformed my life in some extreme ways.

My first extended abroad experience in Korea ended up being the catalyst for all of the amazing things that have happened to me since. Once I jumped over the initial hurdle that was holding me back from following my dreams (fear), it’s as if Pandora’s box was cracked wide open and rather than being struck by evil, all of life’s magic was hurled in my direction.

I believe that in order to really get everything that you want out of life, you need to posses three character traits:

  1. Confidence
  2. Humility
  3. Empathy

Some people spend a lifetime attending personal development seminars and reading self-help books in order to get these things and by the time of their death they have still fallen short.  In my opinion, by traveling and living abroad longer term, one can expedite and greatly reduce the time that it takes to acquire these attributes.


When I first graduated from college, I suffered from severe anxiety about what my future held and (a surprise to many) I was generally a nervous wreck in social situations. I was embarrassed about where I was at in my career and for the first time in my life, I lost all confidence in myself and my abilities.

It’s no question that moving abroad takes a tremendous amount of courage. When I landed in Korea, I spoke zero Korean, I had no friends, and I had just taken a job to teach English with zero experience having done anything similar in the past. I was presented with quite a challenge but I had no choice other than to take action.


By the time I left Korea, I was conversationally fluent in the language, I was the most popular foreign teacher amongst the locals in the city that I lived, and the way I looked at myself in the mirror had taken a drastic turn for the better.

The same confidence that I gained in Korea is what has helped propel me forward and given me the belief in myself to achieve everything I have to date, including starting my own business.


Throughout my younger years and in college I was an athlete. Because I played sports, I was always in great shape. I got good grades and always hung out with the popular kids.  I’m tall and fairly good looking so girls were never an issue. Life was pretty easy for me.

Though I never outwardly stated that I was better than anyone, there were certainly circumstances in my life as a young man that may have subconsciously led me to believe that I was superior in some way.


When I moved to Korea to teach English, I was greatly humbled. I spent a significant amount of time alone and was afforded time to think about my place in the world. I developed a modest view of my importance on Earth and overall, I became a more present human being.

I developed a consistent habit of meditation while I was in Korea that has continued to serve me well and keep me humble to this day. My meditation practice has helped me through many personal traumas, kept me grounded, and helped me keep my mind clear so I can run my business successfully.


Since I was a child, people have always told me that I am great at connecting with and understanding people. And with the exception of foolish drunken brawls in college, I like to think that’s true.

But connecting with people in your own country is one thing. Making the leap to a country like Korea and connecting deeply with people who have a cultural background entirely different from that of my own was quite difficult.


I met many different types of personalities in Korea and I had to manage everyone from my irrational boss at the English academy to the new students that entered my classes on a daily basis. Teaching everyone from the ages of 6 to my oldest student (age 85) taught me a great deal of patience.

Today, I manage a team of more than fifteen virtual contractors in order to run my business. The empathy and understanding that I developed in Korea has helped me out tremendously in resolving and preventing issues between team members. It has also made me a better leader, friend, boyfriend, and business partner.


As I write this post, I sit here in Medellin, Colombia – my “hometown” for the past couple years. Often times I still pinch myself to make sure that the life I am living is real. I’ve already achieved far more than I ever thought I would in a lifetime.

At 30 years old, the biggest problem I have today is figuring out what new goals I am going to set because I’ve already accomplished everything that I ever wanted to.

If you’re considering making a move abroad, I highly encourage you to do so. The benefits of doing so are far more than you can imagine. All it takes is one healthy step in the direction of your dreams. Making the move to another country can help you achieve the key ingredients that you need for a successful life; it certainly did for me.


About Tommy


Tommy is a full-time digital nomad and good friend to many. He enjoys diving into new cultures, meditation, hiking, organic food, and sunrises. His company Gingerbread Marketing provides premium blog content to founders who don’t have enough time to write and are interested in turning more of their site visitors into email subscribers. Tommy also loves helping other freelancers follow in his footsteps and turn their side business into a full-time income through Freelance Hustler. In addition, Tommy loves talking to people considering travel or living abroad for the first time and is launching a new book titled, “Teaching in East Asia” on March 1st, 2016.
February 2, 2016
The Best Of Being A Nomad In Beautiful Italy

What are the benefits of traveling together?

Ivana: One of the biggest benefits is to be able to share the good, the bad, and the ugly on the road.

I also like that we can always compare our impressions from a country, situation, or cultural tradition. It’s enriching and refreshing, as you often realize you might have missed some important aspects or details that could bring a very different perspective.

Needless to say, travelling with a passionate photographer guarantees countless ventures to off-the-beaten path places, interacting with locals, and finding the best light of the day for the photographs when exploring a place.

Gianni: It’s easier in many aspects. From simple things like having someone watch your backpack while you’re in the restroom at the airport, to helping each other when you’re sick.

There’s not a big difference between living at home alone or with someone, and traveling solo or as a couple. You cope with the same challenges on the road as you do in everyday life.

Ivana and I see many beautiful landscapes and meet amazing people, and a bonus is that we can share those things with the person we love.


What does traveling with a purpose mean to you?

Ivana: For me, it’s about observing, being curious, and learning. It’s about letting go of what we don’t need from our previous lifestyles, so that we can grow. It’s also about giving back to those in need and to those who cannot defend themselves.

Gianni: The main thing is to try to become a better person. When you travel, you’re exposed to new cultures and new environments. Your mind will naturally open to the “other” and the “different.”

To travel with a purpose means to expose oneself to another culture, to become more tolerant, and to understand that although people have different skin, we all have the same blood with the same beating heart.


What are the most important things each of you has discovered about yourselves through travel?

Ivana: To find an answer for this, I need to travel more. I feel those deep changes and internal discoveries need to “mature” to be visible to me.

Gianni: I feel that I have become more compassionate, as we have seen many people in poverty, like people who didn’t have enough food to feed their families or to leave the country to start a better life.

I’ve become more grateful for what I have, and I try to help those in need more often.


How is Italy transformative?

Ivana: Italy embraces you, feeds you, entertains you, and impresses you. It feels as if there’s no place like it anywhere else in the world.

It’s hard to define the mesmerizing energy in Italy, and in Puglia in particular (the region where Gianni comes from). The people spread immense energy and joy, while also staying connected to nature and the earth.

Once you see the fields of terracotta-colored soil with thousands of ancient olive trees, the abundance of fruits, and their architecture, you’ll know what I mean.

Gianni: Italy is a country that is well known for a lot of things: amazing food, friendly people, richness of culture, history, beautiful beaches, landscapes. When you go there for the first time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all this.

Many people fall in love with it so much that they change their lives completely by buying a house and deciding to live there.


What advice do you have for people who struggle to stay balanced and present while traveling?

Ivana: I feel that staying in touch with locals and immersing yourself in what a new culture offers is one of the best ways to stay present. Indulge in all new smells, tastes, noises, and voices around you, either while walking alone or with a friend.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. When you face a fear of the unknown, you have to overcome it in the present moment you’re in, as quickly as you can. When you love your new local experience, you then make that particular moment your present.

Doing things you would never expect to do back home will definitely help you to stay present while on the road.

I also love finding a tea house everywhere I go so I can have a cup of good pu-erh, which grounds me and helps me stay in the here and now.
About Ivana & Gianni

d77646_2dc5e45ff094484592496fad43776fddIvana and Gianni are a digital nomad couple. They set off for their long-term journey in 2013. On their blog, Nomad is Beautiful, they talk about ecotourism, responsible travel, and adventure.

January 30, 2016
Lake Garda, The Dolomites, & Cinque Terre: A Personal Look At Northern Italy

I fell in love with Italy at first visit. I was with my family at 14 years young. It was my first time in Europe, as well as my first time meeting my extended Italian family.

Although it was a strange place, it immediately felt like home. My family and I went to Italy again four years later, this time choosing a more adventurous route: in 10 days, we traveled to Lake Garda, the Dolomites, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Turin. The trip, though short, had its fair share of Italian adventures that stand out in my mind and might prepare you for magic you’ll experience should you decide to venture around Northern Italy yourself. 

Lake Garda

(Italy’s largest, lake located in the Veneto region of northern Italy)d77646_e4aa9045c58d4ff29e6585d38f6602a3

Upon arriving at Malpensa Airport in Milan, my dad was not thrilled to find that there were only manual cars left to rent. He tried his best, but the car jerked its way hazardously out of the airport and on to the autostrada towards Malcesine, a town on the eastern shore of Lake Garda.

Tourist mistake number one: trusting GPS.

We put our destination into the car’s built-in GPS so as to take the easiest and quickest route to Malcesine. Before long, we were winding around switchbacks in the mountains, with no idea where we were going.

“Turn around when possible,” the robotic GPS voice instructed us as we lurched down a narrow road with a mountain to our right and a cliff to our left.

We ended up turning down a steep side road that led us right to the edge of a cliff. There was no way to turn the car around, so my dad put it in reverse and backed all the way up the narrow dirt path back to the road we had been on before.

Back on the road, we were able to backtrack, get directions, and finally found our way to Malcesine.

The concierge at our hotel laughed when we told him our story, and advised us not to rely on the GPS. We didn’t get lost again for the rest of the trip.

The Dolomites

(A mountain range located in the South Tyrol region of Italy)


When I was very young, I came across a puzzle in a toy store of an image of South Tyrol, Italy: a village nestled among lush, green fields and majestic mountains set against a piercingly blue sky. The picture was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and I begged my mom to buy it for me. She did, and I made it my goal to someday visit this magical place.

Sure enough, South Tyrol was on our itinerary in 2014. We stayed in a small town called Castelrotto, at the base of the Alpe di Siusi mountain range.

The day when we finally journeyed up to the mountain trails felt unreal. This was the moment I had been waiting for my entire life… but when we got up to the mountains, there was a terrible storm. I was heartbroken; up until then, we had had beautiful weather wherever we went. We were forced to wait inside with no idea of when, or if, the skies would clear up.

After an hour, the thunder had subsided, but it continued to rain. We decided to go out and bear the bad weather. My dad joked that as soon as we bought ponchos to wear, the rain would stop. Like a little miracle, as soon as we stepped outside geared up in our plastic ponchos, the rain stopped.

Slowly, the clouds parted. The sky brightened as we made our way along the trail, until we finally saw blue sky and felt the sun.

How surreal it felt when I looked at the jagged cliffs surrounding me is incomparable to anything I have ever experienced before. I stood in the place on my puzzle, the place I had been dreaming about for years. The view in reality took my breath away.


I wanted to capture the moment in my mind forever. It seemed that no matter how long we stayed among the Dolomites, I couldn’t absorb their full effect. It was overwhelming, yet one of the most gripping moments of my life.

I left feeling a bit unfulfilled, and then disappointed that I felt that way. I wished that we had been able to stay longer and see more of the mountains. I later realized that the disappointment translated into an even greater desire to see more of the mountains, and I knew that I would go back someday.

Cinque Terre

(Five fishing villages located on the coast of the Italian Riviera)


Before we left for Italy, we learned that a must-do in Cinque Terre is to hike through all five of the villages. We were also told to wear our bathing suits so that we could stop along the way for a dip in the ocean (and a good seafood dish, once our clothes were back on). Since we weren’t experienced hikers, we were happy to hear that it would be more of a leisurely stroll.

So we put on our best bikinis and swim trunks, slipped on sandals (and my mom her fanny pack in true tourist fashion), and started on the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza. About an hour later, we were barely inching along the narrow, rocky cliff side path, wondering when the leisure would start. (We learned later that this trail was the most difficult to hike.)

When we finally arrived in Vernazza two hours later and drenched in sweat, we debated whether to continue on our “hike” through the remaining three towns. We decided to relax for a bit on the beach before making our next move.

The water was a vibrant blue, glistening under the sun. I jumped in. The further I swam, the more at peace I felt. I listened to the waves crashing against the rocks, mingled with the faraway voices of beachgoers. Somewhere above, a bird called. I felt as if nothing could ever dull the blissful spirit that Vernazza had sparked in me.


Just then, I felt a searing pain in my leg. I screamed.

I didn’t see the jellyfish. I could only focus on the immense pain that was shooting up and down my right leg as I swam away.

Panicking, I managed to get to shore where my parents and brother met me and walked with me to find a farmacia. My leg was still on fire, but I couldn’t help laughing about the situation. Much to all of our disappointment, we had to give up hiking the rest of the way.

A couple days later, when we met up with family in Turin, we told them the story. “Ah, medusa,” one of my cousins said. She laughed when I commented how ugly the remnant of the sting was. Smiling, she told me, “È il tuo segno di Italia.” It is your mark of Italy.

Each of these adventures have become special memories for me, and I look forward to the next time I explore and learn more of the country I love. I have been dreaming about seeing the world since I was a child, but this trip to Italy helped me see that I can change “dreaming” into “doing.”


About Alexandra

d77646_2359e37e471a4c00929ccb79668ef572Alex is a student of English, Journalism, and Italian at the University of Delaware, and is the Editorial Coordinator of The Traveler’s Mindset. She is a lover of books, food, and adventure, and thrives in environments that force her to journey out of her comfort zones. Ever since her first trip to Italy when she was 14, she has been set on exploring the world and (someday soon) living abroad. In her free time she enjoys playing the piano, meditating, and spending time with the people she loves.

January 30, 2016
EWB: Making Clean Water Possible In Nepal

What is Engineers Without Borders (EWB)?d77646_afd556e9bbc440b6a0e6743ee3e5a110

Engineers Without Borders started in April 2000 at the University of Colorado in Boulder by a civil engineer named Dr. Bernard Amadei. He was invited by a representative of the Belize Ministry of Agriculture to assess a community’s water supply. He traveled to San Pablo, Belize with a group of students, where they created a well and various other projects.

Since that original project in 2002, EWB has blown up in popularity. It operates worldwide, and has more than 400 chapters in the U.S. alone. There are universities all over the world that send skilled students and working professionals to developing countries to assist with basic needs, mainly providing clean water and sanitation. EWB-ers are helping rural villages while gaining experience and having fun along the way.

What was your project in Nepal?

In Ilam, Nepal we built tap stands, concrete structures built around a spring source that has been dug up out of a mountain. People then have a clean running pipe and wash surface. They are basic structures, but very effective in getting water to where it can be useful.

Our team built one such tap stand and cleaned out another, and along the way we did a lot of surveying and held community meetings, as working with EWB also means frequent negotiations with people who live in the project location.


Photo: Douglas DeVoto

How did your project make a difference?

Any project starts with the needs of the people. In Nepal, there is little education about the difference between clean and dirty water. Dysentery is a part of life. Most Nepalis experience it and believe that having it is just what it means to be human.

Their faces light up when they get access to clean water, because often they’ve never had the opportunity before. That said, it feels amazing to be able to build things like tap stands and give people an entirely different, healthier life.

Photo: Douglas DeVoto

Photo: Douglas DeVoto

What surprised you about Nepal?

What surprised me at first was people’s overall happiness. Nepalis in particular are just incredibly grateful, giving, and welcoming. The people I worked with or encountered on the streets in Ilam seemed chipper all day long. I didn’t see one person down in the dumps throughout the whole month I spent there.

One of my first interactions with Hindu culture turned out to be surprising and amusing, too. We were at a site with a tap stand that was very old and broken. Five feet away from the tap stand was a temple built around a huge tree, a peepal tree. Peepal trees are sacred fig trees, a sign of Shiva, the god associated with water and snakes. The community’s concern was that while people were washing or bathing themselves, they could also be splashing the temple with dirty water.

When I learned this, I was with the Nepali community leader and an older, Western engineer. We asked the community leader why he would like us to work on this, and what he would like us to improve.

The leader said to us that if the water splashed the temple, Shiva would get angry and the cobras would come. For a split second, the look on the lead engineer’s face was phenomenal, but he composed himself, made a note, and we took that information into equal consideration when we made our analysis.

What was your favorite lesson or takeaway from the trip?d77646_a538f4383dd7439bb0e1f761b2d4b91b

Another engineer and I did some surveying after just one meeting with the community. We came back with data and talked to the community a week later, but they wanted something completely different than in our original meeting.

The lesson for us, and any other future engineers was to always, always communicate thoroughly. Have meetings, integrate even more into the community with our project, and constantly be communicating with the people.

The beautiful thing about EWB is that we travel with a purpose. It’s not just sight-seeing, taking pictures of Nepal while trying to stay at a safe distance. Being on a project through EWB says, “I’m here, benefitting the people, and I see the results.” In that respect, I felt in the realm of service, which was and is rewarding.

About Jonathan

d77646_db9d7e1a5a5549e4ad90f05633769917Jonathan Ernster is a Colorado native, a global citizen and a lover of life. He blends adventure with engineering through humanitarian efforts. He has traveled to Perú, the Galápagos, and Nepal with Engineers Without Borders, a global organization building a better world through engineering projects and empowering communities. He is currently working with EWB while living in beautiful Boulder, Colorado and is looking for new ways to bring compassion and travel into engineering.

January 21, 2016
More Than Just a Snapshot of Nepal

What did you discover while exploring Nepal as a photographer?

A surprise! I did not expect to gain as many friends as I did, and fall in love with the Nepali people the way I did.

It is a truly beautiful nation whose people made my husband and I feel so welcome and loved, even as travelers. Bridging the language barrier was a challenge for sure, but somehow love and acceptance, in the form of genuine smiles and delicious home-cooked meals, was able to cross that barrier.

Were you working on the road?

We were based in the capital city of Kathmandu for 90% of our time. We did get a chance to travel to one of the remote mountain villages one weekend, and did some other short trips to some of the touristy towns around Nepal.

I’m glad we got to travel, and get a feeling for what it’s like to be on the road in Nepal. Those roads are no joke! They are not only extremely narrow and bumpy, but they are often alongside the mountains, hundreds of meters above the ground and extremely steep. It was an adventure!


How does photography give you a different perspective while traveling?

Being a photographer when traveling can be both an advantage as well as a disadvantage. Photography has opened my eyes to see the beauty of the world in a more intense way. A beautiful landscape becomes that much more beautiful to me.

Everywhere I look, my mind takes mental pictures, wishing I could freeze the moment and take it with me in time. This can be somewhat of a curse sometimes. Just taking in and enjoying the beauty of a glorious sunset, a beautiful person, or a special moment for what it is can be a challenge.


I have to remind myself constantly that not taking a photograph does not take away from the beauty of that moment in time. This was a huge challenge for me in Nepal. As I walked the streets as part of my everyday routine, I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of what was going on around me.

The people! The colors! And then often I would feel frustrated because I was unable to capture that beauty on camera. It took me a little while to truly understand that this life — the crazy, bustling life on the streets of Nepal — is so much more precious than the fraction of a second that my camera can freeze.

There are stories behind the moments, real people, with real emotions and real struggles.


You lost your camera towards the end of the trip. What was your experience like after that, without a camera?

I dropped and broke my camera two weeks before the end of our trip. Two weeks that we had specifically set aside for traveling and taking photos. I was forced to put into practice, precisely that which I had learned about taking in moments for what they are, not for what they can provide me with in a digital format.

Photographs do have a special way of assisting you to relive special times, and that is something I don’t take for granted. The challenge is to get the balance right — to document an already beautiful moment, rather than validating it by taking a photo of it.

How is it different photographing people as opposed to scenery?

I think a big danger as a tourist in a developing country is that we can easily begin to treat local people as objects for our own visual pleasure.

We might casually show off the moving picture we took of the poor, crippled lady on the side of the road to our friends, yet make no effort to get to know her, or even speak to her. We think about what we can get out of the subjects in our photography, and sometimes forget to treat them as equals.

d77646_59681f3eebc24301a13960184fc8e8efOne thing I learned very early in our travels was that a lot of people do not want their picture taken. I quickly started to feel like I was violating people’s rights in taking pictures of them without their permission. My mindset needed a change, and from that point on I began to ask people for permission to capture them on film.

The regular rejection can be hard to take, but I know that it was necessary and right. We do not usually feel justified taking photos of other westerners in our own cities going about their day. Why do we feel that it is somehow okay to treat someone who is finanically poor differently? That person deserves our respect just as much — if not more!


What would you like other people to learn when looking at your Nepal pictures?

I would like people to look at my pictures and feel a sense of shared humanity with the people in them. Most of my pictures are of children — there is something so carefree and joyful about the faces of smiling children.

I hope that my pictures will instill a sense of pride in the beauty of our human race. It is hugely on my heart to see people of different cultures and races unifying as one in making our world an inclusive place, for man-made barriers to be broken. If somehow my pictures can play a part in that, I know that I will have done my job.

All photography in this article provided by Illuminate Photography

All photography in this article provided by Illuminate Photography


About Tabitha

d77646_5212fffaa41b4847b466ae27bb72b1faTabitha Mee is a wedding photographer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She admires the great outdoors and loves having meaningful conversations with friends over a drink. She is also an avid traveler and has visited countries across four continents. She has a big heart for marginalized peoples, and strives to play an active part in fighting injustices in our world.


January 20, 2016
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