The top 10 ways travel has changed my life

Travel will change you. It will change you in subtle ways, and it will change you in dramatic ways. Sometimes it will change you in ways that you don’t fully recognize or even comprehend in the moment, but after some time on the road, you will start to notice these things that seem to magically appear into your reality. After reflecting on over three years of backpacking solo through over 33 countries, I realized that travel has indeed changed my life in so many ways, and for this article, I have compiled a list of the Top 10 ways in which travel has challenged and therefore changed my life.

no to consumerism, backpacking, RTW, wanderlust, travel, checklist

1- Losing my consumer “must have” things attitude. Before I started backpacking around the world, I owned many things. I had a lovely flat in Los Angeles California that was filled with art, furniture, clothes, electronics, and many useless knick knacks. After donating all of these “things”, and living a life with just the bare minimum needed to survive, my perspective on consumerism changed and I began to see what really mattered in life, and no surprise here- it was never those “things”.

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2- Learned to communicate in new ways. I have always enjoyed language as it is through this that we, as humans, are able to communicate and share with each other. When I left for my travels, I only spoke English fluently and un poco Espanol. After spending some time in Europe I can now speak conversationally in 3 other languages and have learned the art of playing charades (which I always loved) and sign language which can be quite useful when you meet someone that does not share the same language. This has been a fun and often humorous way to meet more of our fellow humans on this planet and I have learned to enjoy every moment of it.

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3- ‘Scary’ places no longer scare me. Coming from a military family where my father fought in many foreign wars, and with all of the news about terrorists, during my travels I decided to visit some of these places to form my own opinion. What I discovered is that yes, many cultures and traditions are much different than my own, but they are in no way like what I have been conditioned to believe they were. My experience was quite the opposite actually. I lived with several culturally diverse families and even though many of their traditions did not mesh with my own, I learned to appreciate the differences and gain a new perspective of the culture and these places and the people no longer frighten me.

catamaran, sailing, backpacking, RTW, wanderlust, onenomadwoman

4- Learning to sail a boat. I have always wanted to experience the freedom of sailing and letting the wind take you in the direction that it pleases, and during my travels I had the opportunity to do just that. On a 52 foot catamaran, I learned how to tack and jibe, tie various knots, read GPS and wind charts, and to be comfortable being in silence for extended periods of time. Sailing taught me patience, it taught me calmness, and it taught me to quite literally “go with the flow” which are lessons that automatically bring peace to my soul and I am grateful for.

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5- The Vegetarian Diet. Before I started traveling I would eat just about anything which for me was a good thing because when you are venturing into new territory, you are also venturing into new foods. However, it was during my travels through North Africa where I witnessed the mis-treatment of animals used for food first hand. It was this direct experience that led me to change my mind, and my diet. I started a vegetarian diet and am enjoying all the lovely fruits and vegetables without the guilt of supporting the mis treatment of animals that can surly be found in most flesh factories and on some farms.

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6- Growing my own food. When I was in Bavaria (southern Germany), I volunteered on a farm for some time with an amazing family who taught me all about permaculture. It was hard work, but when it came time to enjoy the fruits of my labor, I really enjoyed the food much more and have found a deeper appreciation for it and the earth which sustained it. Not only that, but I have found a sense of freedom in knowing that I can provide nutrients for myself and know for sure that they are organic, and chemical/genetic modification free.

yurt building, backpacking, RTW, wanderlust, alternative structures, building, DIY

7- Building alternative living and sustainable shelters. Learning how to build yurts in Germany, tree houses in France and earth ships in Guatemala have been incredible experiences for me. Building shelters that are in harmony with the planet and creating them from the ground up has opened up my imagination to so many possibilities for the future of how we might one day live with the earth, instead of destroying it every chance we get. Using natural, found materials as well as recycling old tires, bottles and cans, plastic containers and more, I learned how to create amazing structures that made me feel more connected with the earth and shelters that I actually enjoyed being in for extended periods of time. These new structures gave me the sense of living with the environment instead of being separately contained from it and packaged neatly in a box.

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8- Free from media influence. I imagine that anyone who has traveled extensively knows this one all too well. Being free from the influence of television and creating your own experience of life daily is absolutely the best way to live in my opinion. I am no longer controlled by advertising and agenda driven news that is created to keep me separate from myself, but rather I am in tune with what moves my heart and soul, and to me, this is true freedom. Being present in the moment and free to decide what experience I would like to have next is more exciting to me than what the latest fashion is, what Miley Cyrus is up to, or what America thinks about whose voice is the best (or the worst).

wanderlust, i love everyone, backpacking, RTW, onenomadwoman, travel, love

9- Learned to appreciate all people. Before traveling I had many opinions about what people were like in the world – mostly from stories I had heard, or from programs on television. Sadly, I must admit that not all of my opinions were even close to correct. I have learned that there all kinds of people from all kinds of places, and that there are people with good and bad intentions everywhere. I have learned to appreciate all people in the world based on their actions, and not on a stereotype that usually is not true to begin with.

guru, spirituality, backpacking, RTW, wanderlust, travel, growth, love, self realization

10- Met a spiritual guru who showed me the matrix. This is quite possibly the one thing that changed my life more than all of the others during my travels thus far. I met a guru who I ended up spending roughly a year with traveling between Europe and the North Africa Sahara; a man who showed me a path to see the matrix that we live in. I saw how experiences can either paralyze or propel people. I learned how to break through my own unique limitations and integrate past experiences into my system to create limitless possibilities. I began to see patterns and behaviors in myself and others that were both destructive and creative, and learned how to elevate myself to a higher state of consciousness and thought which in itself is priceless.

It is through travel that I was able to have a better understanding of myself, this planet, and other people and beings. I was able to create my own reality and see what moved me, what inspired me, and what kept me going. Traveling is the best education that you can invest in, and I hope that this list has inspired you to go out and find what it is that you love. I’ll leave you with this disclaimer though- it may not at all be what you thought it might have been before. So go out and enjoy this ride we call life!

Super Easy Flight Booking Hacks You Can Use Today

Whether your plans for your next holiday are to go swimming with sharks or to have the world’s most relaxing massage from a blind Chinese man, we all have one thing in common: We want to find the absolute best deal available and flight hacks are one way to get you there faster and cheaper.

Have you ever been looking at a flight that you’re not quite ready to book, and every time you go back to check the price it gets higher and higher?

You’re trying your best to be a savvy money saver. But it seems to be working against you!

People that succeed with travelling on a budget do two things very well:

(And you don’t have to have thousands of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Fans like Melissa to do it)

First, they identify booking techniques that get them results.

Second, they put 100% of their resources into executing those techniques. But you’re probably wondering: “How do I find booking strategies that actually work?”. Today I’m going to make it easy for you. All you need to do is carve out a few minutes of your day and tackle these 2 flight booking methods below.

If you want to know the best days to book on and fly on, how far in advance to book, you’re in the right place.

Flight Hacks are the way in…

Ready? Let’s do this.

split ticketing flights

Use Split Ticketing to Pay a Fraction of the regular price

It’s easy to search for flights from A to B but don’t assume it’s the cheapest way.

By being a little creative about the route and splitting the ticket, you can slash the cost.

Typically associated with train fares. You can do the same with air travel.

  • Let’s say you’re flying from San Francisco to London, chances are there’s at least one stop on the way.
  • So run through kayak the start and end destinations and see what the stops are.
  • Write these down.
  • Then try with each leg as a separate flight.

The best way to utilise this is to combine with Airline Error Fares.

  • Grab a bargain airfare
  • Even when it’s not ideally from or to where you want to go.
  • Get cheap connecting flights.

Or try “open-jaw tickets”

Where you fly into one airport but return to or from another.

Breaking a journey down into multiple tickets can cut costs without altering the route you wanted.
The django technique for cheap flights

The Django Technique


Stories are great, as children they can be used to teach us, and can still do so throughout life.

If you’re a fan of Quentin Tarantino. You’ll have seen the movie Django Unchained.

It almost personifies supply and demand:

In the movie, Django is separated from his wife and enslaved. He cannot simply try to buy her back, if the owner of his wife knew the exact situation, that she is so “valuable” to him, the price would be extortionate.

Django and his bounty hunter friend devise a plan to minimise attention by trying to purchase a common commodity, a mere Mandingo fighter from a collection of 20+, not the irreplaceable love of his life.

So, don your cowboy hat and pick up your pistol. Master misdirection to save more.

Learn The Django Technique:

This sounds strange at first, but airfare prices are not based on logic.

Instead, prices are based on supply and demand, and a route with less demand may be cheaper, even if it’s longer. Likewise, a route that has high supply, like many popular tourist destinations can be cheap.

The Django Technique, is not only frowned upon by the airlines, but they can penalize passengers who do it:

  • Per ticketing rules, the second half of a roundtrip ticket can be canceled if a passenger does not complete all legs of the first part of the trip.
  • And airlines can also retaliate by voiding rewards, if any, are earned by the passenger.
  • But if you follow our rules, you can avoid that.

You want to fly from A to B. Guess what:

Booking A:B:C can cost less than A:B

The Django Technique



  • If there is a popular destination, lots of customers want to fly it. (Think New York, LA, Las Vegas)
  • If lots of customers want to fly it, all the airlines want to get in on the action.
  • The airlines compete and the price drops.

With me so far?

Many of these flights will have a stopover somewhere, it allows them to service more passengers, sell more tickets, and connect to more destinations, much like your local bus.

The cost of running a flight are fairly fixed; plane, crew, and fuel.


It makes more sense to have a stop in Dallas on the way to LA from Des Moines, rather than putting on a single flight to shuttle 4 passengers from Des Moines to Dallas.

This straightforward economics sometimes lead to a bizarre consequence:

In certain circumstances, airlines charge less for a longer, multi-legged flight than they do for the first leg of the same route by itself. To illustrate with an example, let’s stick with Dallas.

You may be thinking:

So what if the price is low for one destination? I want to go somewhere else!

This is not a trick question:

Would you rather pay $375 to fly to Dallas or $186?

Very few airlines fly direct from Des Moines to Dallas, in fact, only 4 do. With 2 being $100+ more than the best price.

There is very little competition, so airlines put their prices up.

If you book to fly to somewhere past your desired destination things get a little more interesting.

Take a look:

hidden city booking hack
How can I take advantage?

  • The Django Technique comes in when a passenger disembarks an indirect flight at the connection airport.
  • Flight fares are subject to market forces (Supply and demand)
  • They do not necessarily correlate to the distance flown.

As a result, a flight from airport A to airport C, with a connection at airport B, might be cheaper than a flight between airport A and airport B. It is then possible to purchase a flight ticket from airport A to airport C, disembark at the connection airport B and discard the remaining segment (B to C).

Walkthrough –Simple method to finding your own Django Technique deals:

  • Click the “one-way” tab. (The Django technique does NOT work for round trip tickets. You can book 2 one way tickets to maximise savings)
  • Click the “Advance Routing Codes” link (below the “Departing From” and “Destination” windows). As seen below:


how to do the inception method

  • You now need to complete: Departing From, Enter your departing city in the first box,
  • Enter your desired destination airport code in the Outbound Routing box. THIS MUST BE THE 3 LETTER AIRPORT CODE, not the actual city name. To find your airport code, simply Google: “airport code for (city or airport name)”.
  • Here’s the secret part: In the destination box enter a centrally located airport.


If you’re flying domestic within the US try:

(STL) Saint Louis Lambert International.


If you’re flying in Europe try:

(FCO) Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, Rome, Italy.


If flying in Asia try at least one of the following as Asia is much bigger:

-(ICN) Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea

-(HKT) Phuket International Airport, Thailand

-(MNL) Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila, Philippines.

  • Click “Nearby” to the right.
  • A yellow box should appear, first select “within 2000 miles” from the top drop-down menu.
  • Then tick “select all”. It should look something like this:


the inception method walk through


  • Enter your departure date
  • Click “search”

What happens: The search engine will search all available flights to all those cities in the long list (that are within 2000 miles of the central US, central EU or central Asia airport you selected). It will return the results of all the flights that CONNECT in your desired destination.

Look at the “From/To” column, and you’ll see your departure city and the desired destination location in the next column “STOPS”. To get the flight details, either click on the price at the left of the page; or hover your mouse on the right side of the display, which will reveal a “details” link.


Head straight to the airlines own website (very important) and book the flight as per the details provided in the ITA matrix.

If you don’t fancy doing the work involved in this travel hack, you can always head over to Skiplagged, and see what flights they have managed to find, whilst it’s a slight time saver I would always check manually for best results.

Buyer beware:


  • One way at a time. (For a round trip you must book two one way tickets)
  • No checked bags. You can only bring carry on luggage


  • The risk of route changing. Airlines only guarantee travel from A:C, not the routing to get there.
  • The risk of hostile airline action. Like the removal of frequent flyer program.

Is it legal?

There’s nothing like a pair of big corporations suing a 22-year-old kid who turns an obscure loophole into a money saving website. On November 17th United Airlines, one of the three giant American carriers, and Orbitz, an online travel agency, filed a federal lawsuit demanding damages “in excess of $75,000” against Aktarer Zaman, a recent college graduate and the creator and owner of the website Skiplagged. The service enabled users to discover cheap airfares that did not appear on competing engines’ searches by utilising a tactic known as “hidden-city ticketing”, which takes advantage of occasional anomalies in airlines’ pricing algorithms.

The case was thrown out of court.

Moreover, even if Skiplagged vanished from the internet tomorrow, the automated hidden-city lookup tool Mr. Zaman sought to offer already exists, thanks to none other than Google’s ITA Matrix we have used. With just a little know-how, it is easy to find flights on Matrix, and employ the Django Technique.

Stick to these rules to minimize any potential issues

Rule 1:

You may NOT check any luggage.

This is the airline’s mainline of defense because they will not under any circumstances check your luggage only to the connection airport.

Therefore: Pack light with only carry-on luggage.

If for any reason airport staff try to separate you from your hand luggage and put it in the hold, politely give them one of these replies:

“I have medication in my bag which I must have with me at all times.” (By the way, aspirin is a medication…and you should always carry it to deal with the headaches that today’s airlines can give you.)

“I’m carrying some documents with me and am going to needing them in (name of your connecting city).” These documents might be a novel you are intending to read in your connecting city, but they don’t have to know that.

Or the simplest: “I’m sorry, but I need to keep the contents of my luggage with me at all times.” (If they want to know why just tell them “it’s rather personal” and leave it at that.)

Make it a habit of packing medication, or a book so you can be prepared, and you are telling the truth.

Rule 2:

Only book your Django Technique ticket through the airline website.

If you book your ticket through a travel agency and only use the first part, the airline will possibly bill the agency for the amount of money you saved. If they don’t pay it, the airline will prohibit the agency from further ticketing on that airline. Which really, just isn’t fair on them.

Rule 3:

Never submit your frequent flyer number.

Closing your account and revoking your miles is a tactic the airlines have, at times, tried to use to retaliate against frequent exploits. While it’s never been legally successful for the airlines when a customer has the time, money, and legal guts to challenge, considering the money you’re saving and the paltry value of those miles anyway, it’s best just to not give the airline a way to track you, especially if you use them frequently.

Rule 4:

Be prepared for flight irregularities.

If the first leg of a flight is cancelled due to weather or any other reason. From the departure airport to the connection airport (Your desired airport).

Before even asking you, they may have re-booked you on a flight to the end destination via another hub in any other city, or even re-booked you on another airline. When this occurs, you must inform an agent that you booked this flight specifically because of the change of planes in the desired airport so you could meet somebody (which is true, assuming you are not going there to be completely alone and never see anybody). Politely insist that your new flight take you through the desired airport on your way to the end destination.

Rule 5:

Only book your Django technique tickets as one-way tickets.

This is because as soon as you “miss” your first connecting flight, the airline will automatically cancel the rest of your ticket’s reservations. In most cases, you would need to do this anyway, as when you return home, you’ll be departing from a different city than the one you were originally ticketed for.

If you found these flight booking hacks useful, make sure you check out my full list of 15 flight booking hacks you can use today.

Guest Post Author Bio:

Joe Ryan –

“Slowly dragging my girlfriend around the world, place by place.”

grand canyon, flight hacks, cheap flights, flight hack

The adventure and misadventure of getting a massage in Beijing, China

I love massage almost as much as I love traveling. Perhaps it’s because I carry a monster backpack that at times can leave my body feeling like a stiff corpse. Perhaps it’s because after so much time alone, being touched and caressed is welcoming. Or perhaps it’s just simply my curiosity about how different cultures approach touch in different ways. Whatever it is that lures me into small shanty shacks, open beach cabanas, or dimly lit, and sometimes scented rooms, I always end up having a massage in every new place I visit as part of my journey.

China was no different, and yet, completely different. Arriving in Beijing to meet a friend for a week long birthday trip, a massage for us both was on the list. As we hopped around the various districts trying the local cuisine, strolling through the surprisingly large parks, and dancing in the late night discos, I imagined when we would find the time to get that Chinese massage.

beijing china, china street food,

Best street food found in Beijing, China

I had heard about cupping, and was curious about that, but not enough apparently to seek it out. Instead I experienced a different kind of cupping in the first “massage parlor” that we found. Located about a block from the Hotel New Otani Chang Fu Gong that we stayed at (which was stunning and highly recommended by the way) was a plain looking building sandwiched between what appeared to be smaller shops on the ground floor and office buildings and apartments above. (Sorry, I didn’t have my camera to snap a photo of this massage place for you! But it can be found literally right around the corner from the hotel)

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The Garden at Hotel New Otani Chang Fu Gong

Entering this space, we were greeted by a woman in a short skirt and high heels. This should have been the first red flag, but the price was right (about $27 an hour) for what we were told would be an hour long, full body massage including a head massage, and she was just the receptionist right?

Wanting a room that we could share, we were told this was not possible. Smiling at each other and excited for the rub down, we parted ways into our own separate rooms. The room I was led to was tiny, with the massage table pushed up against one wall. I wondered how that was going to work out, but not for long as I scanned the walls to find the sign hanging which my friend was yelling from the other room for me to look at. It said in Chinese and in English, No Prostitution, No Drugs, No Gambling. I guess this should have been the second red flag?

Undressing and putting the towel over my backside I laid face down on the table and waited. I heard someone enter the room with the deep click of heavy heels. Possibly the third red flag? It didn’t matter to me at the moment because I was ready and eager for this to begin as my body ached from the long plane ride from Europe and all the miles walked through the city after arriving. I was not however prepared for what came next.

The woman started rubbing my back with what felt like sandpaper gloves, but I soon realized were actually her extremely rough man hands. The massage was quite possibly the worst I had experienced yet (minus the one had in Tunisia at a Hammam where they literally beat me down and actually used a steel glove on my skin) in that it became obvious fairly quickly that this was one of those “happy ending” massage parlors you only hear about. What I didn’t know was apparently the “happy ending” was also available for women.

After rubbing the flesh off my backside, this woman removed the towel that was covering my derrière, and let out a small laugh. For the next ten or so minutes she literally played with my butt cheeks and kept giggling. I personally did not know what she found so amusing and quite honestly was hoping she would soon get to my feet which needed the most help. Yea, that didn’t happen. After she finished playing, she signaled for me to turn over and this is where things went from bad to worse.

She started by massaging my arms and kept letting my hand fall up her skirt repeatedly if you can imagine what that’s like. I kept pulling my hand away hoping that she would understand that I was not in the mood for whatever she might have thought I was, and I just wanted my feet rubbed- honestly!

It didn’t stop there. She then started to drop her breasts into my hands and again, I removed my hands as an attempt to discourage her. Was this the cupping part? I thought that involved glass bottles and fire, not breasts and hands. After that, she sat on my thighs and I could feel her lady bits as she chose to arrive pantyless to this affair. Geez. Really, all I want was a foot massage. After 40 minutes of this, she stood up and walked out. I looked at the clock and was like- wait! I didn’t even get that head rub that we were up sold on, and what about my feet?

Walking out of the room to meet my friend, we both were wondering what the heck happened and why we were not given the head and foot massage which is why we were there to begin with. I asked about his massage and he said nothing out of the ordinary happened (really?!) and that the woman did a great pressure massage mostly on his back right where he wanted it. He could tell by my expression that the experience I had just had was way different, but before we could talk about it, we wanted to know why we didn’t get what we had paid for.

After speaking to the woman at the desk in hand gestures and deciphering her broken English, we were led back to our rooms for the last 15 minutes of what we were promised. I honestly didn’t want to go back in, but the woman told us we would get that head massage after all, and that at this place, there would be no foot massage. Yep. No foot massage. Bummer. Hesitantly I returned to the room where a different woman came in and gave me that head treatment. I would have to say that these last 15 minutes were the closest I got to getting what I was expecting when I first entered this place.

When it was all over, we had a good laugh as we walked back to our hotel still a bit stiff and creaky. Unsatisfied, we made plans to seek out a blind massage parlor. I remembered earlier in the year when I was in Thailand that I had my first ever blind massage. I learned that those who are blind have a natural intuitive ability to really listen to what your body needs and give a great massage. We did find that on our last day in Beijing and stayed for two hours getting the best massage ever. This place was found about 1km away from the Olympic Park and sadly I don’t have any more information about it other than the photo below – which has the phone number on the sign. 😉

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Best blind massage in Beijing

blind massage, beijing china massage, beijing massage

After the best massage ever 🙂






I guess the contrast was interesting, and I learned a few things from the experiences – especially to pay closer attention to what I am walking into when seeking a massage, to not just accept something because the price is right, and to not ignore red flags when they are hanging right in my face. I don’t have any regrets, but think I could do without the attempted happy ending massage again.

Have you ever had an unusual massage experience? We would love to hear your story and invite you to share it with us here!

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