→ Start Here ←
(this post says it all, don’t skip it)
The Rest of the Story…
I hope you’re not cheating and starting here. Go back and read that post, I promise it explains everything you’ll want to know. When you’re done, here’s the rest of the story…
Hi, I’m Max! I’m 28 years old and two years ago I started solo traveling around the world. After a few crazy moments in early 2016, I packed my bag and hit the road. I started locally, then in Florida (where I live), then off to Arizona & Utah (still in the US), and then finally around the globe to places like Portugal, Spain, Italy, Iceland, Peru, Bolivia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam…. the list goes on!
Having traveled to 40+ countries and 25 states (as of June 2018), I’m a budget backpacker finally making my dreams come true. I’ve hit a few road bumps along the way and I’m here to share my tips, tricks and adventures with you. I hope to inspire you with my story and encourage you to chase after your dreams, whatever they may be.
Whether you’re planning a backpacking trip around the world or simply wanting tips for your next vacation, this is the place to be. Expect total transparency, at times brutal honesty, and of course, an overflow of the monologue in my head including all my fears, weird questions and crazy antics. If we’re all thinking the same thing, someone might as well say it…
This site will best help budget travelers, first time backpackers, and anyone needing to do laundry on the road (aka, long term travel). It’s also a great place to find inspiration and a like-minded community when you need it most. Solo travelers unite!
I feature hostels and AirBnbs (not hotels), budget food (not 5-star restaurants), and tips to get the best deals possible (not paying more for convenience). While most of my recommendations are budget-friendly, I do splurge on adventures, experiences, and travel gear. There’s no point in visiting a destination if you don’t truly embrace it!
If that sounds like you, keep reading. If not, skip all the mushy stuff below and go check out the destinations page to get some tips for your next trip.
Why Are You Here?
Let’s be honest– Why are you reading this page? Do you really want to know more about me? Or do you want to know how I’m like you?
(I could be wrong, but…) I believe you’re here because you’re searching for something (anything) that could relate to you– a similar story, a struggle, a journey that’s just begun. You want to know that someone understands you, that someone gets you, and most importantly, that someone knows how you feel. You want to know that someone’s been in your shoes, yet come out on the other side. You want to know that your wild, crazy, over-the-moon dreams aren’t really crazy at all. You want to know that it’s possible, and that if I can do it, you can do it too. Does that sound about right?
It’s hard when others don’t see it the way you do. It makes you feel crazy. It makes you feel wrong. It makes you feel like there’s no other way. But that’s not true, and you know it. That’s why you’re here. Don’t worry my friend, you are not alone.
Quickly, Who Am I?
Hi, I’m Max! Yes, that’s my real name. No, it’s not short for anything.
I’m most well known for my upbeat, bubbly, overly positive personality. You’ll see it shine in everything I do. I always see the glass half full, I can’t help but find the silver lining, and I truly believe anything is possible. If you stick around long enough, you will too!
I’ve been told I have an energy that can fill a room. Strangers tell me really personal things. And for some unknown reason, people ask my opinion on the broadest topics. In turn, I ask a lot of questions, I constantly challenge the status quo, and somehow I get people to take big risks in order to get them closer to their goals. I use logic to drive confidence and emotion to fuel action. Oftentimes, people leave me feeling unstoppable. I must have a sign over my head that says, “I do not judge and I might know the answer,” because no matter where I go or what I do, this always happens to me.
Anyone searching for their purpose/passion, I challenge you to stop looking and start living. You won’t find it in a book. It will find you. And you must be living in order for it to shine through. Because the crazy thing is, you’ve had it all along. ← This took me a really long time to learn.
Can You Relate?
For too long I followed the path of what I was “supposed” to do. Go to university, get a job, find a guy, fall in love, get married, take my 2 week vacation, buy a dog, have kids, etc. While this path may be perfect for some people, it wasn’t for me. And if you’re reading this, its probably not for you.
You want more.
The Back Story
I graduated from the University of Florida in 2011 with a degree in Finance and minor in Education. I immediately began working in Corporate America at a huge accounting firm. While the pay was great and I looked successful to my friends, I was miserable. I talked about quitting for over a year, but every time I tried, I just couldn’t do it. How could I quit an “amazing” job? How could I quit without a plan? How could I be so reckless?
If you’re nodding your head ‘yes’ then I don’t have to explain to you the 60+ hour work weeks, emails that pinged constantly, and never-ending stress. You get it. You’re there.
After 2 years, I finally found the courage to quit. I had no backup job, no idea what I wanted to do, and no plan. This wasn’t like me. Everyone was in shock.
Disclaimer: I saved a ton of money before I quit. I knew I was going to quit so I cut back frivolous spending, put myself on a budget, and lived with my parents. I started preparing for “not having a job” because I knew that was the next step for me.
“What are you going to do now?” “Are you looking for jobs?” “I have a friend who’s hiring, do you want me to talk to them?”
No one understood. I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake. I wasn’t looking for a job. I wasn’t rushing into things this time. I needed time to think.
I’m going to fast forward this story. If you want to read the full “timeline” from July 2013 (when I quit) to November 2016 (when the blog was reborn), click here. Below are the super-highlights. Pay attention to the years!
July 2013 – Quit my corporate job without a plan.
September 2013 – Impromptu 1-month European backpacking trip with my boyfriend at the time. First backpacking trip ever. I’m hooked!
February 2014 – Accidentally started a Life Coaching business, which eventually turned into a full time company. Enough people saw what I was doing (quitting my job, backpacking through Europe, volunteering, “not working”, getting super healthy, losing weight, etc.) and they started asking me for help. And then I started charging.
March 2014 – Started my first blog, “Motivate Your Plate,” which focused on daily motivation, fit tips, vegetarian recipes, and overall health.
June 2014 – Added Health & Fitness Coaching to the Life Coaching business. (Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist & Behavior Change Specialist)
December 2014 – Created a second website specifically for Health & Fitness Coaching. Business is booming.
May 2015 – Something feels “off”. In May 2015, everything fell apart. ← If you didn’t read this post at the beginning of the page, its worth reading now. It chronicles the downward spiral from May 2015 to November 2016 (when the blog was reborn).
March 2016 – Called off my wedding. Life feels different.
April 2016 – My first solo adventure!
June 2016 – My mom asks if I want to hike the Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu! I instantly say yes! The first available permit date is October 31st. I book it. Time to plan.
August 2016 – What do I do until I leave for Peru in October? I decide I’m going to Europe. I book a flight using credit card points. I leave in 21 days. It just got real. August 22nd → The adventure begins! Since then I’ve solo-traveled through Portugal, Spain, Italy, Iceland, Peru, Bolivia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Egypt & United Arab Emirates (as of June 2018). And we’re just getting started…
→ FAQs ←
How do you pay for this? Do your parents give you money?
No, my parents do not give me money. While that would be awesome, I don’t think I would learn anything about hard work, responsibility, saving, budgeting, etc. I also wouldn’t appreciate the value of a dollar nearly as much. I must admit that my mom tries to sneakily buy me things that she knows I wouldn’t normally spend money on (like clothes) and my dad tries to sneak a few $20s into my bag. So for that, thanks mom and dad!
I saved a ton of money before traveling and worked a handful of odd jobs such as SAT tutoring and driving for Uber! Yes, I could be your driver one day hehe. I also cut back on expenses, moved in with my parents, and sold my belongings on eBay and Craigslist.
Do you work while you travel?
When I first began traveling I was in a bit of a funk. I tried to continue my online Health & Fitness Coaching but I quickly realized it was keeping me distracted from my purpose of being in the moment and embracing this new adventure. It was also challenging when I couldn’t find reliable wifi to provide quality service to my clients while camping at the bottom of the world’s 2nd deepest canyon or while living in a treehouse in the jungle of Laos.
Now I’ve managed to find a happy balance… or so I think….
After some time, I got the hang of it. Now I successfully (and happily) run my online Health & Fitness Coaching company, write/promote/manage this blog, write content for other travel publications, serve as a coach/mentor for newbie travelers, plan trips, provide itinerary consultations, run mindfulness bootcamps, and teach English online. Phew, that’s a lot of things to do! And its so much fun!
Are you scared you’ll run out of money?
Yes and no. I’m a great budgeter and planner. I usually know how much I have saved and what I can afford to do. In the past my trips always had end dates so I knew exactly what to budget for. It’ll be interesting to see how that process changes without an end date or official plan. If I get close to running out, then I’ll get a job or get creative! While I hope this doesn’t happen, it would be exciting to see what crazy adventure I could get myself into. Working at a hostel, bartending, farming… isn’t that part of the fun?
Update: As I watched my bank account plummet faster than the price of Bitcoin, I started to get scared… and creative! This is what traveling is about– pushing your comfort zones, trying new things, taking chances, and betting on yourself. My biggest fear before traveling was that I’d recklessly spend all my savings and eventually have to come home regretful, broke, and embarrassed. News flash! No one cares about your bank account except you! Thankfully I didn’t recognize that until now because the fear of having to admit defeat and come home fueled my drive to build an online business. As a result, I’ve created multiple streams of revenue and continue to grow and expand my ideas every day while doing what I love and living in magical places all over the world. Yippee!
How do you pick which places to visit? How do you know what to do?
I pick which places to visit based on the weather, my level of interest, and costs (flights, cost of living, etc). I knew I wanted to go to SE Asia in December 2016 so I worked backwards to line up the months with great weather. I use websites such as Skyscanner and Kayak to find the best deals on flights and I take huge advantage of my credit card points. Actually, I’ve used my points for all but 1 international flight so far!
To be honest, most of the time I don’t know what to do when I get to a new city. While researching and planning, I usually start by checking www.priceoftravel.com for estimated costs and things to do. Price of Travel is one of my favorite websites for budgeting since it provides an estimated cost per day for each city including popular tourist activities, average hostel cost, meals, drinks, etc.
Then I google “things to do in ______” and work from there. I also search for outdoorsy activities and adventurous activities because that’s what interests me. If you like churches, search for that. If you like music, search for that. You get it!
My google search typically leads me to a ton of blogs where I dive in head first for ideas! I also use social media to ask friends for tips and fellow travelers along the way. And finally, once I’ve picked a place, I purchase the Lonely Planet guide book and use it as my bible.
Why do you travel alone? Wouldn’t it be more fun with friends?
Traveling alone, traveling with a significant other, and traveling with friends are 3 totally different experiences. While I love spending time with family and friends, traveling alone is such an exciting experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Not only can I do whatever I want whenever I want, but it forces me to get out of my comfort zone, meet people and try new things. It’s not obvious, but I’m overwhelmingly introverted and it takes a while for me to warm up to people so this experience has really pushed me to stop being so shy. This is a change I welcome with open arms. The skills I’ve learned from traveling solo are priceless!
Parent-convincing Tip: Traveling solo is the ultimate interview preparation course. Small talk, engaging conversation, talking to strangers, etc. are all fabulous skills to learn and practice. Not only will you excel in verbal skills, but your knowledge of international news instantly grows when you’re meeting people from all over the world. And finally, solo-traveling is a huge resume booster. You can add skills such as budgeting, planning/logistics, problem solving, etc. to your resume. Just be prepared to answer those questions in your interview. “What’s an example of your leadership skills?”, “When were you in a tough situation and how did you handle it?”, “How would you handle conflict with a peer/superior?” ← Sound familiar? You can find all these answers on the road! Use this experience to boost your resume if you are planning on going back into the job market.
Do you get bored? Is it hard to make friends?
Its hard to get bored or feel alone when there are so many people to meet at hostels. Usually everyone is in a similar position and wants to make friends so it’s super easy. I’ve made my best friends in some really random places: border crossings, buses, random bars, community dining tables, etc. Its also easy to make friends with girls in your dorm, people in the hostel lobby, and on free walking tours or other events your hostel offers. And by the way, what’s considered “normal” in the backpacking world is so different compared to everyday life at home. People are open and inviting and outgoing– it’s fun!
Are you scared to travel alone? Is it safe?
I’d be lying if I said I’m not scared sometimes, but I’m also scared to walk around my neighborhood at home at night. I’m not a fan of the dark. But scared isn’t really the right word. Yes, I feel like females are an easier target, but why do we immediately assume we’re being targeted? With white skin and blonde hair, I stand out everywhere I go. Cat calls happen all the time and I’ve learned to ignore them. I also dress appropriately, walk confidently, and constantly stay aware of my surroundings.
If its nighttime and I don’t feel safe in a city, I don’t head out alone. If I’m already out and I’ve had a few drinks, I never go home by myself. The same rules would apply if I was home in America.
Do you feel “behind” in life compared to your friends?
No way! Am I back at square one with dating? Definitely. Is it hard to see my friends getting married and having babies? Sometimes. Am I worried? No. I’ve learned to trust the timing of my life. As cliché as it sounds, everything happens for a reason. All my friends thought I’d be the first person married and with a kid but it looks like I might be the last. There’s a reason for this and I’ll learn it one day.
Am I further behind in the “real job” world? Yes, but do I want that life/job? Is my savings account significantly smaller than my peers? Maybe/maybe not. I’m a great saver. Did I spend the money I saved for a down payment on a house? Kinda. Am I worried? Nope! There is always more money to be made. I made it once and I can make it again. When I look back, I’ll be so grateful for this opportunity and to have these experiences.
Do you feel like you’re too old or that you’re wasting your potential?
Another big fat no! At first I thought I might be too old for a “backpackers life” but as I met more and more people (many older than me), I realized that I was right where I needed to be. I do not feel like I am wasting my potential, actually the opposite. I feel like chaining me to a desk for the next 40 years would be a significant waste of my potential (and life). Again, this may work for some people and that is great for them, but for me (right now), its not what makes me thrive. And isn’t that what we’re all after?
→ One Last Tip ←
Just know that I threw my life into chaos to get here. I quit my job, called off a wedding, and dismantled a business I created myself. If you want to talk about bravery, its not traveling alone, its doing all that and knowing the consequences. That’s scary!
The opportunity to travel isn’t going to present itself on a silver platter, you have to go out and make it happen. You have to be fearless in the pursuit of your happiness.
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