A Cambodia Bound Wendy

Many of our volunteers want to continue to travel whilst doing their volunteering work. The best and easiest way to do this is to visit the beautiful and historical country of Cambodia. Most of our volunteers will spend the weekend in this amazing country, giving themselves just enough time to see, arguably, the most famous city, Siem Reap. A few days really doesn’t do this magical country justice though so I really do try to encourage volunteers to spend at least a week in Cambodia if they have time available at the end of their trip.

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Tonle Sap Lake which drains into the Mekong River that runs through Phnom Penh.

A lot of people don’t really know much about Cambodia and what there is to do apart from see temples so I have put together a week long travel plan that will let you experience Siem Reap to the fullest. I have also made one for the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh and then a combined week long plan that encompasses the very best of both of these places.

There are obviously several other places to go in Cambodia that are beautiful, but if you only have a short time then I think that these two locations will offer you beauty, history and also some of the most famous sights of natural and historical significance that the country has to offer.

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Ta Prohm Temple, home to the famous Banyan tree seen in the Lara Croft movie

If you are thinking of volunteering with Starfish Volunteers and you would like to have some time in Cambodia then mention this when you book your trip and our wonderful staff in Bangkok will arrange for you to have the travel week of your choice added onto the end of your trip. This not only ensures that you will be able to see the very best of what is on offer but will also take the hassle and worry out of you organising it yourself 😀

Win, Win, Situation!

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Independence Monument in the capital, Phnom Penh

Visit the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to take a look at the different projects we have on offer, don’t forget to mention the Cambodia Extension when you book as well 😀

Once you have done that take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see what else I am up to on a day to day basis as well as what you can expect on each of our incredible projects!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Fact Filled Wendy

After having so many ‘How To’ posts over the last few days I decided to do something different.

Thailand is a very beautiful country, parts of it are never seen by tourists or travelers and even now secrets are still discovered in abandoned temples. There is so much of this country that people just don’t know about so I thought that I would share a few of my favourite ‘little known’ titbits about Thailand.

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1. Thailand means ‘Land of the Free’ and is the only country in South East Asia that hasn’t been colonized by a European nation

2.It is considered uncultured to place your bag on the ground. This is because both the floor and your feet are considered filthy

3. It is illegal to leave your home if you’re not wearing any pants

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4. Thailand is one of the largest producers of pineapples in the world – good thing as well, as I LOVE me some pineapple!

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5. The Miss Universe pageant has been won twice by Thai contestants; once in 1965 and once in 1988

กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตรโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

6. Bangkok is the Western name for the country’s capital. It is in fact the longest country capital name in the world… Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amornphiman Awa-tarnsatthit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. The name itself is a story about Thailand, when translated into English can be read as;

The Capital City of Angels, The Residence of The Emerald Buddha, The Great City of Impregnable, The Gracefulness of the city is steadfast and thriving, The Grand Capital which is abundant with The Nine Noble Gems, it is a Pleasant Capital, The City is abounding with the enormous Royal Palaces that resembles as the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated God, Home of the Gods Incarnate, which was Erected by Vishnu at Indra’s Behest.

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7. Thailand has around 35,000 temples! Better get yourself some good walking shoes to see that all

8. One tenth of all animal species can be found in Thailand

That’t about 870,000 species!!!!!

9. It is forbidden to touch a Monk if you are a woman

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10. The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio was filmed on Phi Phi Island

If you fancy discovering more of Thailand’s secrets then you should take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for projects that will allow you to experience this amazing country yourself.

Once you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see some of the unknown sides of Thailand that I discover everyday 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Girly Solo Wendy

I know that I already did a post about single travel but one thing that came to mind when I was writing, and is always a question I get asked, is about sole female travel. I know that there are some places in the world that are dangerous and are even more so for female travels so I know there is a concern when it comes to solo female travel. I decided to write this post to tackle the most regularly mentioned concerns by female travels and how best to deal with them and make your traveling experience the very best that it can be.

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Don’t Think About The Possible Dangers

There are a million things that can go wrong, no matter how you are travelling. In fact, there are a million things that can go wrong in your life just by stepping out the front door. But, that doesn’t stop you from getting on with your life right? So when you are travelling do the same thing!

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Be Aware

Keep your wits about you and an eye on your surroundings at all times. Spend time looking around you and taking note of what you see. Be present in every moment. This will help alert you to any potential dangers. Don’t make the mistake of suspecting danger or problems that aren’t there though. Simply walking down a dark street will not end up in you getting raped and kidnapped, trust me, I do it all the time and I have yet to be raped or kidnapped.

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Trust Your Intuition

It always knows best. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. There is a reason why you get that unsettled feeling in your stomach when you meet that strange person on the beach, in a club or restaurant. Don’t freak yourself out by imaginary monsters, but definitely pay attention to those little messages our animal instincts give us. They are your friend but don’t mix them up with nervousness, nervousness can be an amazing emotion that when beaten gives you the most incredible adrenaline rush.

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Walk Assertively And Confidently

You know when you walk down the street and you see people who just give off that vibe of ‘don’t screw with me’? You need to become one of those people, or at least fake being one of those people. If you walk with confidence and don’t make yourself look like a target then you won’t be.

Possible con men and attackers look to those who seem vulnerable. Walk with your head held high, and confidently greet people and look them in the eye. I have done this many times when I have felt that familiar pang of fear in a situation where you don’t have control, and it instantly made me feel very strong and brave.

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Keep People Informed

This is especially important for solo women travelers. When you are travelling with someone else, you always have someone watching your back and looking out for you, but when you are own you need to have someone who knows where they can find you if anything happens. Let people you know and trust know where you are going and when. With today’s social media this can involve something as quick as an email, Facebook message, twitter update or Skype call.

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Remember You’re A Girl

This might sound stupid but you have to remember that if you are a girl, guys are going to look at you. Whether it be a night out or a trip to a temple, guys will always be on the look out for girls. I know that I notice when cute boys walk past me, they might not be trying to get anyone’s attention but, your face is your face and there isn’t much you can do about that.

If you don’t want to be getting unwanted attention from guys or even girls then just remember how you may be being perceived. If you are wandering around wearing a small skirt and a low cut shirt then people will naturally assume you are looking for something you might not be. Don’t take this as you have to dress like a nun the whole time but just be aware that if you were tiny shorts when you go out then chances are you will be greeted with whistles and comments. So just be conscious of how other will see you.

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Don’t Be That Drunk Girl

No matter where you go in the world, there will always be ‘That Drunk Girl’. You know the one you just feel the biggest sense of pity for, she has lost one of her shoes, her hair is a mess, smells like sick and look, now she is getting hit on by someone she will definitely regret in the morning.

Remember which drink is yours, keep and eye on it and don’t ever let it out of your sight. These are standard rules in life but when we travel and begin to feel safe and comfortable we can all get a little careless. You don’t want to become that drunk girl now do you? So just watch how much you are drinking and stay aware of your surroundings, like where the exits or security are.

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He Isn’t The One

I know that some people do meet the loves of their lives whilst traveling but you do need to remember that in countries where white skin is coveted, like Thailand, Cambodia or the Philippines, that guys find it an achievement if they get a white girl into bed.

Yes he might be charming, handsome and speak a little English but you have to wonder how many other girls he has been like that with. If someone is trying to get you back to theirs, kiss you in public or get you to leave with them, they probably aren’t the best person for you. Having lived in the same place in Thailand for a while now, I know the sleezy guys that just want to bang a white girl, so when I see them on a night out where volunteers come with me, I make sure to let the girls know; as well as the sleezy guys!!

Also just remember the view you leave of white girls with the actions you do. If you go home with some guy the night you meet him, him and all the people who see, are going to think that that is what white girls are like. I know from being friends with Thai guys that the general opinion is that white girls are easy. For the girl it is just a fling on holiday but for the guys and the other people who see, she is fueling the idea that white girls are easy. So just be conscious of the things that will be said about you.

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Listen To People In The Know

If I was in a situation or country that I hadn’t experienced before then I would always make sure to trust and believe what the people who have been there before, live or work there say to me. I find so often that female volunteers will say ‘Him putting his arm around me in a photo is fine’ or ‘Its just a kiss on the cheek in a photo’. Yes this might be what it is to you but when it comes to local customs and displays of public affection you REALLY should listen to the people in the know.

In Thailand you DO NOT show public displays of affection. You just don’t. This is Thailand, not your home country. Things are different here. When a guy puts his arm around you in a photo it means MUCH more to him than it does to you. He will use that photo to show his friends, and when you look that close to him, he can make up anything he wants to his friends. So on a night out, or any situation in fact, if someone in the know tells you not to do something, you should listen to them.

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Just Trust This Face ^^

I think what I am basically getting at with this whole post, is just to be aware of what you are doing and don’t make yourself a target. It really isn’t scary to travel as a single female traveler, I know, I have done it several times, but you do have to have a heightened awareness that guys don’t have to, purely because you are female.

To see how I cope as a female in Thailand with the situations that I get into then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Solo Wendy

I realised after my post last week that all of our volunteers face different issues when they travel depending on whether they are single travelers, couples or even just weary females. So for the rest of the week I will be posting helpful advice for everyone else!! Hopefully they will be of some use to you and will make you less scared and more excited about traveling!!!

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Thinking lots about the places I want to travel when I get older haha

When I was younger I had dreams of travelling the world and visiting all the places in my history books, my fairy tale stories, and my fathers stories. As I grew up my body ached for travel. Coming from a military family, I never stayed in one place for very long and traveling gave me the remedy to the pain I felt from staying stuck in one place.

Many others feel this exact same thing but the thing is, they either don’t have anyone to travel with or they are terrified of travelling alone. Seeing nothing but monsters hiding down alleyways and long evenings staring into space with only your thoughts and perhaps a good book for company. These fears overpower dreams and comatose you into remaining stuck in the life that you don’t enjoy or feel fulfilled with.

These are valid fears.

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No one wants to be alone when they travel. No one wants to experience the time of their life without somebody to share it with. But just because you start out your journey alone doesn’t mean you will spend it or even finish it in the same way. You will meet people. You will be able to share your experience with others, even more amazing is that you will be able to experience them with people who have the same sort of attitude and ideals to you.

But, those who allow fears to prevent them from travelling, don’t understand this truth.

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In fact, I think solo travel is one of the friendliest and easiest way to make friends – friendships that have a lasting and meaningful impact upon your life. Friendships on the travel road will broaden your horizons in so many way. Even as I write this I am waiting for a call from a girl I met a few weeks ago in Cambodia who has come over to Surin to hang out for a few days. If I hadn’t traveled alone, I never would have met her and forged the great friendship we now have.

Just remember when you meet someone new that they are feeling the same way you are, they are nervous, weary, scared even so be the one to reach out a hand and a smile to make them feel more at ease and to know friends can be made anywhere.

It’s tough at first, but as with everything it gets easier and soon you’ll find yourself stopping to share your life story with every new person you meet and asking them to do the same. This is one of my favourite ways to discover the undiscovered. My own wandering had led me to find some amazing places that aren’t always in the guide books, so if I share my experiences, and have others do the same with me, then everyone’s lives are more enriched.

Another wonderful thing about traveling is that no one knows or really cares about who you are, where you are from, what you do for a living, how many cats you have. They really just want to know who are you right now. It’s easy to not have defensive walls in place because you can be whoever you choose, you can be the better person you want to be.

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Another friend I made during my last Cambodia trip 🙂

So if you are worried about meeting new people whilst travelling then just follow these simple tips.

Take small steps every day to meet new people. Start with small conversations with strangers, it doesn’t have to be anything deep or meaningful, ask if they know a good restaurant or something, you might learn some insider local knowledge.

Attend any parties or get togethers that your accommodation is offering or that you get offered an invitation to. It’s a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the atmosphere of fun and freedom to meet new people

Go out on your own to restaurants and bars. Obviously be careful and keep your wits about you but you will end up finding other who are on their own and you just go from there.

If you have already made friends then don’t forget to be open to welcoming new people in. What you give out will always return to you. Remember the times when you were alone and others invited you in.

My last piece of advice is for anyone travelling or not, Don’t be a douche! Be nice, use your manners, show respect, be open and friendly to hearing other people’s stories and memories as well as sharing your own. Also remember that others have a voice and their own stories as well!

Finally remember the most powerful words on the planet

Thank you!

Thank you for asking me to sit with you and chat.
Thank you for inviting me out to dinner with y’all.
Thank you for helping me when I was lost.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for listening to mine.

I have never been a shy person, I have been on stages from when I could walk so I was never able to be shy but I understand those that are. I have met so many people through my life who are shy, not because they want to be but because they just aren’t sure how to NOT be. I will always try to involve those who are a little quieter as I know the damage that can be done by being ignored by others, just because I am confident and loud doesn’t mean I haven’t had my fair share of being ignored and shunned for the way I am.

Just give it a go, meet new people and forge new friendships, plus if it all goes balls up then you don’t have to worry about ever seeing them again anyway!!!

Take a second to look at the  Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for the most amazing volunteer opportunities in Thailand.

Then check out my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages for more of my silly face!!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A First Time Wandering Wendy

I have had a few emails and Facebook and Instagram messages recently from volunteers who will be arriving in the next few weeks who have been asking for some quick advice about traveling for the first time. I can’t quite remember what it felt like the first time I was preparing to travel, only what it was like when I finally got to my destination, so this post has meant I have really had to sit down and think about what advice I would give to first time travelers.

So here goes;

Planning and Packing

If you’re not sure if you need it, you don’t.

If you’re pretty sure you need it, you don’t.

If you’re absolutely certain you need it, you probably still don’t.

Take more money.

Take more pairs of underwear.

Take fewer pairs of shoes; trainers and flip flops are fine.

If it can’t be worn for three days then washed and dried in a hostel laundry room, don’t bring it.

Your airline’s baggage allowance is a limit, not a challenge.

Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel. Pick one.

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If you can’t carry your luggage up a flight of stairs easily by yourself, it’s too heavy. See hints 1,2 & 3

Make sure your passport has enough pages and validity (> 6 months) to last your entire trip.

The best experiences are often spontaneous – detailed itineraries don’t allow that.

Aspirin, Band-Aids and Imodium. The traveler trifecta.

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Contraceptives are not the stupidest idea in the world either.

Take another memory card for your camera. You’ll need it.

In transit

Arrive early. Airports suck, but missing your flight sucks a lot more.

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Jokes about security are hilarious. Spending time in jail is less so.

The only thing worse than the taste of airport food is the price. Eat beforehand.

Having a few drinks on the plane is fun. Being hungover on the plane is horrific. Your call.

Earplugs are your friend.

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So is an eye mask, even if it makes you look like a dork.

Mild sleeping pills complete the arsenal, for when the people beside you really just won’t shut up.

Learning to eat using plastic utensils, with your elbows tucked in and your knees bumping the table is an essential flying skill. Start practicing now by sitting in a cardboard box during your next meal.

Take something that can entertain you for several hours. A novel. Playing cards. An iPod. A ball of twine. Whatever. Just take something.

Set your watch to your destination timezone as soon as you get on the plane, and use that time when deciding when to sleep. It’ll help with the jetlag.

After 20 hours in planes and airports, toothpaste will change your life.

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Distinctive luggage is a good thing. Surprising as it might seem, yours will not be the only black suitcase on the conveyor belt.

Having a change of underwear in your carry-on will be the smartest move you’ve ever made when the airline loses your bags.

At Your Destination

Being polite goes a very long way.

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A smile goes even further.

If somebody doesn’t speak your language, that’s your problem, not theirs.

Manners are universal. Use them.

Just because it isn’t your culture doesn’t mean you don’t respect it.

Leave a positive view of your own culture.

Lack of a common language does not equate to deafness. Speaking more loudly will not help.

Be alert for scams and danger but don’t let that dictate your trip. Most people are not out to harm you.

Opening your heart and mind does not have to mean opening your wallet.

You can say no.

Get out of your comfort zone. Eat, drink and do things that you wouldn’t go near in your normal life.

Bum bags / fanny packs are the stupidest travel accessory ever, for more reasons than I can even list.

Money belts aren’t much better, but if you must use one, don’t keep diving into it every five minutes. Hiding your valuables isn’t much use if they don’t stay … y’know … hidden.

Things will be different to how they are at home. That’s kinda the point.

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Public transport can be awesome. It can also be the bane of your life. You will experience both.

Meet the locals. If you’d wanted to hang out with people just like yourself, it would have been much cheaper just to stay home and go to the pub.

Have an emergency source of funds hidden away somewhere, and treat your passport as if it were made of gold. It’s not quite the end of the world if you lose it, but it’ll feel like it at the time.

Don’t be afraid to screw up. It’s OK. We learn a lot more from our failures than we do our successes.

Don’t be the one who comes back to the volunteer house smashed after a big night out, turns on the light and wakes up the rest of the dorm. No really, don’t. Payback isn’t your friend in the morning.

When looking for somewhere to eat, find the one where there’s nobody that looks like you inside it. Bonus points if it’s not in the guidebook, and extra bonus points if the menu isn’t in your language (or there’s no menu at all). The food will be better and cheaper, and the experience more memorable. Trust me.

There will be times when it’s all too hard. Tough it out. You won’t remember the bad times in a couple of months, but the good times will stay with you forever.

You aren’t the only person to travel; don’t be that person who thinks they are super cool.

Do one thing that scares you everyday.

Learn how to toilet squat. You’ll need it.

I know this isn’t a huge list but being a first time traveler really isn’t as big of a deal as people think it is. You just need to have fun and experience everything you can. Make sure to take a couple of these tips to heart, I promise you that it will make your experience so much more rewarding!!

If you haven’t ever booked before and are unsure of where to start that take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, where you will find the perfect thing for you.

If you can’t decide which project you want to do then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages where you will see snippets of every project we do 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Non Comfortable Wendy

When people go to a new country, whether it be on their own or with people they know, it is very easy to stay with the things you know, like food, drinks and also experiences. I find it best to force yourself out of your comfort zone, you experience so much more and gain some hilarious stories from it as well.

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One that comes to mind for me is ‘Wolf Creek’,  when me and two ex volunteers decided to walk back from a resort to their hotel, not knowing where exactly we were or were going. Thankfully nothing happened but doing something like that is way out of most peoples comfort zones, hence why it felt a little like Wolf Creek. But silly adventures like that, or perhaps less silly ones will provide you with some hilarious memories.

So how can you step out of your own comfort zone?

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Go Out On Your Own

If you always travel with people or in an organised group, then the first thing you should do is go out on your own. It might be scary at first but you very quickly learn to adapt to change and enjoy everything around you. Plus you will end up meeting other people who are travelling alone and you make a connection from that, I love meeting new people and travelling alone forces you to meet new people.

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Ask Questions Like A Child

We love to celebrate children and their wonderfully refreshing, honest behavior. When we become adults we no longer act honestly as we have so much other stuff to think about. Travel provides an endless stream of unfamiliar things that strike the chord of curiosity. Unfortunately, we adults are often too inhibited to ask questions for fear of exposing what we don’t know. Nobody wants to look stupid after all; but sometimes asking a question will open up a whole world you weren’t aware of.

Kids don’t care if they look stupid, that’s why they eat mud and bugs and junk. It is also why they are always asking, “Why? What? How?”

So next time you come across something you’d like to know more about, resist the urge to bury it or Google it on your iPhone. Instead, ask someone on the street about it. Sure, it helps if you have some foreign language skills, but you may find that either the person you’re asking speaks some of your language or that they are able to decipher some of your charades regarding whether that pepper at the market will send your mouth to the emergency room or whether it’s mild enough for a newborn.

Despite being able to cope on my own in Thailand with my own language skills I sometimes like to completely forget them and try to communicate only with crazy hand movements and facial expressions; and my face makes some very odd facial expressions!!

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Walk. Feel The Country You Are In

Walking always brings you closer to the environment; activities, people and most of all smells will draw you in, or even turn you away in some cases!! When you drive past vendors, shops or groups of people you never notice them. I know from my own experience that I will drive a route that I have done hundreds of times before and not pay attention to my surroundings; but when you take a second to do so, you can find the most beautiful things.

Distances too far to walk? Take local transport. Tuk Tuks, SongTeaws or even moped taxis are a great way to explore as well as provide you the opportunity to talk to locals and discover new neighborhoods. Working out the SongTeaw system, how to buy a tickets and having to squeeze in between people just going around their daily business is something that many travelers find to difficult and often shy away from. I implore you don’t do the same though, embrace the difficult situations, learn from them and then teach others, not only will you gain new experiences but you will help someone else to do the same as well.

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Don’t Worry About Getting Lost

Travel is all about exploring a new place right? How can you hope to explore if you never stray from a designated or previously organised path?

When I talk about getting lost, I really don’t mean when you are drunk at 3AM, but rather about exploring side streets and taking a few unexpected or wrong turns. You may find that you never get reach your once desired destination, but maybe you’ll find something even more eye-opening along the way.

Thailand is all about being relaxed and enjoying life, as long as you get to your eventual destination, shouldn’t you have had the most exciting journey to get there?

I have gotten lost so many times in Surin, when me and my friends have just gone wandering around. I even found a street which has about 100 dogs living in it. Another that has the most beautiful gardens and waterfalls and even a hidden lake that I didn’t know was even there.

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Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

Not only is this a lesson in life, but it is also a lesson for expanding your own horizons. There are so many times where I have heard volunteers say how they don’t want to go somewhere as it doesn’t ‘look safe’. I obviously don’t recommend you to explore anywhere that is known to be unsafe but just because somewhere isn’t as clean or as beautiful as another doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s own hidden gems. These kinds of neighborhoods always have good food in my experience as well!

Not only will you experience a new environment but you will be able to observe the people that live in it, how they don’t care about not having the latest iPhone or watching the latest movies. They just care about being happy, being full on a night time and loving their family. I think everyone could learn from these people.

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Be Courageous In Foreign Language Environments

I must admit that I am guilty for often taking over communication for volunteers. I know that they don’t speak Thai, I can see that they are struggling in a situation where I won’t so I will more often than not, step in and help. What you as a volunteer and traveler should do, is to not let me do this hahaha

It’s easy to allow others who speak the language to do the heavy communication lifting for you. The more you place yourself in the foreign language frying pan, the more surprised you will be by your ability to deal with the heat. After all, how else are you going to learn if you don’t just get stuck in? When you do this, one of two things will happen: either you will improve your language skills or you will force yourself to become damn good at charades 😀

At the very least, you will have a story – and probably a funny one at that.

Restaurants are a great place to try out language skills, yes you might not get exactly what you thought you would but you will have tried and learnt something. Plus you never know, the meal you ended up getting might be nicer than the one you had been thinking about in the first place!!

Obviously if you are allergic, vegetarian or vegan, you do need to make sure you know the Thai or have the Thai written down so that you don’t end up in the hospital!

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Visit The Fresh Market

This is nothing to do with food. This is all about going into a situation where you have no control, people are hectic and getting on with their lives. Whilst you wander around, maybe try to buy something from a vendor, but don’t just use your fingers for numbers or let them use a calculator to show you the price, get stuck in and try to talk to them, even try haggling if you haven’t ever done it before!

None of the things I have suggested are things that are particularly crazy or challenging, they are just things that will ease you into exploring and experiencing things that you otherwise wouldn’t do. So go out there, get lost, take hundreds of pictures and experience the real country you are in, no matter how smelly, hot, humid or tiring it might become.

If you haven’t already booked your comfort zone free adventure then go over to the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page. There you will find LOTS of projects and adventures that will take you to places that you wouldn’t even know existed or would think you would ever go to.

And as always, please take a second to subscribe to Life On The Back Of An Elephant for more advice, stories and tales of my own life in Thailand, to see more, take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages where I regularly update with nonsense 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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How To Stay A Healthy Wendy

Having had a sudden increase in the numbers of sick volunteers, leading me back and forth to the hospital and hotels, I was thinking about what they must be doing to get so sick. Chances are that they aren’t doing anything and thinking that standards are the same as in the Western World. As much as I will go on and on about the safety of the places I eat and drink from everyday, I obviously haven’t been to every place in Surin so can’t vouch for them all.

I know that I am terribly neglectful when it comes to health and safety of myself not only with food but just in general life. I am well known as the strange rainbow who does stupid stuff hahaha This is, in all fairness, a very apt description of my life. If there is a 50% chance I will survive I will do it.

My famous line is:

‘I’ve had a good run, so you know………..

it’ll be alright’

I do understand that 99% of people aren’t like me and actually regards about their own safety so  after some thinking I came up with a couple of tips about how to stay healthy and not get sick when travelling Asia.

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Wash Your Hands Often

This is one of those things that I was always discouraged from doing as a child, my mum knew I was going to get dirty and realised that getting me to clean my hands after every situation I got into would probably cause a drought in our area. I am incredibly resilient though so for the normal population I would recommend that you do wash your hands often whilst in Thailand. It is also a great idea to carry around one of those small bottles of hand sanitizer if you aren’t sure whether or not you will be in the vicinity of a bathroom, which chances are, in Thailand, you won’t be.

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Keep An Eye On The Water

In Surin all of the restaurants use purified water in their cooking and as their drinking water, this is also true of the ice as well, so please don’t feel as if you can’t be drinking any of the water or ice here!! For places you haven’t visited before, just ask them if the water is purified or not, if they say no, then obviously don’t drink it and if it tastes weird, don’t drink it. Simples 🙂

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Cooked Is More Reliable Than Fresh

As with everywhere in the world, cooked food is more reliable than fresh produce. Don’ t let this fact deter you from eating fresh produce jut make sure you wash it before you eat it. When it comes to restaurants, again the ones I take people to regularly in Surin, are clean and you won’t get sick. Don’t let the initial Thai tummy convince you you are sick though. Everyone gets sick in their first few days but that won’t be from the quality of the food, it will be your body getting used to the sudden temperature, climate and dietary changes.

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When In Doubt, Take It Easy On The Meat

Meat does attract more bugs and flies than anything else you can buy, this means that it can turn quicker. If you aren’t sure of the restaurant then just stick to vegetarian dishes that obviously contain no meat. If you ever go to one of the incredible Thai BBQ places you do need to make sure that the meat that you pick up is cooked properly. This is where pretty much all of our currently ill volunteers got sick. They didn’t cook their food properly and obviously their bodies were not one bit happy with it! Just follow the same rules of cooking you would in your home country.

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A Little Bacteria Is A Good Thing

The only way you will ever be able to achieve my iron stomach is to constantly maintain a layer of good bacteria within your system. You can’t possibly hope to fight off any kind of infection or illness if your body has none of the antigens or intelligence about how to defeat it. It is kind of like going into a test without revising. You will definitely fail if you don’t try in the first place.

Obviously be careful with your creativity and food choices, you don’t want to end up in the hospital now!

So consider keeping things clean, but don’t sanitize everything you touch – living in an anti-bacterial world can put you at risk when you leave the bubble more than a little bit of exposure.

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Look For High Turnover And Low Fly-count

When you are looking for street restaurants to visit, this is a great rule of thumb to have. If you see a high turnover of food that means that the people cooking are always doing so, so ingredients won’t be left to get walked all over by flies or other beasties. This doesn’t mean however that quiet places aren’t clean or safe though, so if you see somewhere that is quiet and you fancy trying it, then take a look at the level of flies, if there are a lot then it probably means they have a lot to eat. If food is covered then flies won’t hang around, ain’t no fly got time for that!!

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Check Your Glass And Silverware

Don’t obsess, but give it the once-over. It may be better to drink your soda or beer directly out of the bottle than from a glass (or wipe the glass if you must). You can always ask for a straw to drink fruit juices or sodas, chances are you will be given one anyway when you are in Surin and other places in Thailand. Thinking about it, I never see Thais drinking direct from anything but a beer bottle haha Don’t be scared to ask for new cutlery if the ones you are presented with seem unclean. Many places in Thailand have their cutlery stored in small pencil case type boxes on the tables so they aren’t susceptible to flies.

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Peel Your Fruits And Vegetables

When everything you eat is cooked, you will crave fresh fruits and vegetables, I know I ADORE pineapple! Make sure you try it when you are in Thailand as it arguably has some of the best pineapple in the world. When you buy fruit, buy the kind you can peel – bananas, cucumbers, carrots, papayas, avocados, etc. Avoid lettuce or anything with a skin you eat (e.g., tomatoes), but if you really fancy one, don’t think that you can’t just because of the skin, just give it a wash and it will all be good 😀

A lot of the time though, no matter how clean a place looks, you may just be the unlucky one that gets something that your body doesn’t agree with. I know that I have eaten at restaurants I know are clean and safe but have managed to end up getting a little ill, not for any particular reason, just because I was unlucky that’s all 😀

One major tip I can give you to keeping your stomach and everywhere else in check it be consistent. If you are eating Thai food, stick to Thai food. I’m not saying you can’t have pizza or KFC if you fancy it, i’m just saying that your stomach gets comfortable digesting one kind of food, so if you mess around with that then you will pay for it.

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I know that if I eat western food that I do get a little ill, not because of the quality of the food, just because my system isn’t used to it anymore 😀

Just don’t worry too much about getting sick, it is very rare that people end up in the hospital, most people get a day or two and then they are perfectly fine.

If you still haven’t planned your trip to Thailand and want an idea of what you can do then take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, for some incredible volunteer projects from Medical Care to Elephant Conservation.

After that, pop on over to my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages for more of my sillyness 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Jet Lagged Wendy

So over the last few posts I have been talking about how you can save in order to travel and then how to save whilst you are traveling.; hopefully these were helpful for your planning, decision making and your wallet.

Now it is onto one of the most important and irritating issues that occurs with traveling;

Jet Lag

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What Is Jet Lag And How Do You Get It?

Jet lag is extreme tiredness and other physical effects, like memory lapses, felt by a person after a long flight across several time zones, which disrupts the bodies 24 hour rhythm. It is basically the spawn of Satan, nothing good ever comes from jet lag. It can take a few days to a few weeks for your body to adjust to a new time zone. This can make things difficult if you are bouncing from time zone to time zone in a short period of time.

You don’t even have to be flying in order to get jet lag, don’t let the name fool you 🙂

Travelling in general will have this same tiring effect, that can often have a HUGE effect on everything from your sleeping pattern to your health.

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When Is Jet Lag Worst?

For me I would say that travelling backwards in time screws me up the most. Traveling East disrupts your natural body clock as your body thinks it is much later than it actually is and it is very difficult to adjust. Traveling to the West is often not as bad but jat lag effects people in different ways for different directions.

My Secret Jet Lag Cure

I was looking up how to deal with jet lag a couple of years ago and found this article on the best ways to deal with it. A lot of the advice was preparing your body before you even left your home, not sleeping on the plane unless you were in the ‘sleeping time’ of the country you were visiting and lots of other stuff, that realistically, most of us don’t do.

Most people continue to work up until the day before they travel so adjusting your body clock, even if it is a good idea, is not something most can do.

One thing I did find worked though, which I NEVER thought it would, is something very simple, and to quote my sister ‘crunchy’. ‘Crunchy’ is a term my sister uses for natural things in life, like not letting her children play with plastic and encouraging them to get down and dirty in every situation.

So are you ready?

?

?

?

?

Get earthed

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Confused?

Yeah, I was as well when I read it. ‘Earthing’ yourself is something that connects your body with the earth and its natural magnetic field after traveling above it for such a long time.

Once you land in your destination and you have gotten to your hotel and checked in, you need to find somewhere with grass, dirt or sand, then kick off your shoes and immerse your feet in it. Have a sit down or a lie down, just make sure you are connected with the earth for about 30 minutes. Once those 30 mins are up just go about your daily business.

How does earthing work?

There is something about ‘being at one’ with the Earth that resets your body clock and allows you to beat jet lag 🙂

I try earthing every day which I generally achieve my sitting at my friends house and relaxing in his garden. I have noticed how I am not as tired after travelling or a busy day once I have ‘earthed’

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A very simple explanation of how it works is that the Earth holds tons of negative electrons and when we connect with our bare skin, most notably with your feet, they buzz on up inside of us and overpower all the positive electrons (the bad stuff) that is wreaking havoc on our body causing inflammation, imbalance and general all round wackiness; including jet lag.

You probably still have that specualtive look on your face right?

I figured as much haha

Just try it

You never know

What do you have to loose anyway?

If you want some less ‘crunchy’ ways to get over jet lag then maybe these tips will help you 🙂

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Sleep BEFORE you leave.

Sleep deficit will make jet lag worse.

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Drink Warm Water

Drinking warm water for the duration of your flight is an Ayurvedic technique. You know that ancient Indian philosophy that created meditation and yoga; it was their idea. I feel as if they know their stuff (They also did the whole bare foot ‘earthing’ thing too).

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Nap During the Flight

Take short little naps on the flight when you feel sleepy. It will help build those reserves. If you can sleep for longer make it so that you sleep during the sleep time of your arrival time zone.

Obviously don’t deprive yourself of the sleep your body needs, but if you can time it to your new country, you will feel the difference I promise

As soon as you board your plane set your phone to the new time zone and play to that if you are unsure of the time difference 😀

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Eat Small Meals Frequently

Make sure you are filling your body with lots of healthy food and avoid junk food as much as possible when flying or traveling. The sugar will make you crash, which is never a word that sits comfortably on a plane right? Having sugar highs and crashes will screw your body clock up, try to eat slow releasing energy foods like pasta or bananas if you can, but small plane meals are good as well.

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Go For A Wander

Walking and stretching will get that blood flowing. It’s great for so many reasons, plus you might even be able to talk your way into business class!

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Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Caffeine is the stimulant used by millions to keep them awake or to wake them up first thing in a morning. Don’t use it whilst travelling. Nothing could be worse. It is like having nothing but sugar but it ends worse than a sugar crash. Just trust me with this one.

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Find The Sun

Being in the sun fills your body with lots of healthy and happy vitamins that basically cheer you up, so as soon as you get to your destination, try to find some sun. This might be hard if you fly to somewhere that isn’t sunny or it is night time. but as soon as you can, go out into the sun and soak up the goodness

These are the things that I have found most useful from my own travels, if you have any tips or insider ideas then please feel free to leave a comment below. I am always on the look out for ways to not feel crap after travelling 😀

To see what you can do when you hit your destination, take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for some amazing volunteering opportunities that will change your life 😀

And as always take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, to see all the silly junk I get up to.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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How Would Wendy Save?

Many have this preconceived notion that travel is expensive and something only the rich can afford to do. I can assure you that that isn’t true.

Anyone can travel

Be on the ball, frugal and keep a track of your finances and you will be perfectly fine to last a week, a month or even a year travelling.

I know how easy it is to start spending and spending when things are crazy cheap, 100B here, 50B there is nothing in one transaction but when you start doing it several times a day it will add up and you will suddenly be left with very little or no money.

I have developed some tips over the last 9 months about how to save money whilst you are travelling, so here they are! These are for travelling in general but they do apply very much to travelling in Asia and volunteering with us 😀

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Travel Outside of North America and Europe

Travelling in North America or Europe is certainly expensive. Developed countries have a much higher cost of living and finding budget or value accommodation and activities is tricky and stressful. Travelling in Asia or Central America will be much cheaper and much more exotic than ‘Western’ countries.

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Travel With A Partner

I personally prefer to travel on my own, I think it makes situations more interesting and forces you to get involved with more people. But it has to be said that travelling with a partner can help you save money. Meals, food, drinks and long haul transportation will still cost the same;  accommodation and local transportation (such as taxis and tuk-tuks) can be split between however many of you there are.

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Slow Down

I know how exciting travelling is, seeing all the new places, experiencing things you wouldn’t be able to otherwise but to properly appreciate everything you see you need to slow down. Trying to cram in too much will mean you only see a very small, surface to the place you are visiting. So stop, slow down, not only will you experience local culture in a more enriching manner, but more importantly, you’ll save money by not having to buy transportation all the time.

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Eat Locally

Forget eating Western food, and at fancy restaurants. Every time I travel to a new place I always keep an eye out for the street restaurants that are chock full of locals. It wouldn’t be busy if it wasn’t tasty and decently priced right? Eating locally for 30B a meal will save you SO much money and provide you will a true country experience as well as super tasty food.

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Hostels

When people read the word hostel they often think of a really cheap and nasty place with more rodent and bug residents than human. As much as this may have been true years and years ago, it isn’t now a days. I ALWAYS stay in hostels, they are cheaper than a hotel, have all of the same key features like WiFi, AC, laundry services etc but they are normally run by locals or people living there who understand the concept of travelling and will go out of their way to help you. Hostelworld.com is my go to site to search for places to stay and you will always find cheap and cheerful places on there as well as the expensive hotels that occasionally I do crave as well 😀

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Stay More Than One Night

Best deals will be found by staying more than one night. Even booking or renting an apartment or house for a month or so can be SO much cheaper than a hotel or even a hostel, plus you don’t have to worry about being bothersome to other hotel guests with all your crazy parties 😀

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Call the Hotel Directly

A last minute phone call directly to a hotel, or hostel, asking about cheap rooms can prove fruitful. They don’t like having empty rooms so will discount any that they have left over. It might not work but you never know 😀

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Coupon Codes

This might sound really silly but there are lots of events, hotels, flights and activities that can be made cheaper by the use of coupon codes. They might be in the language of the country you are visiting but a quick search on Google will normally find you a list or site which has all the current working codes on them. I have used coupons to get discounted entry to cinemas, concerts and even free food, so definitely give it a try!

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Traveling Overland

I know we would all love to live a jet set lifestyle of first class flights, 5 star hotels and Michelin star restaurants but 99% of us don’t, so finding other, cheaper, ways to travel is pretty important when trying to cut costs whilst travelling.

Travelling overland, by train, bus, minivan, car or moped is MUCH, MUCH cheaper and often more of an experience than travelling by plane. I recently got back from a visa run in Phnom Penh and to travel back up to Siem Reap I used a local minivan service with a girl I met, and we got to watch a huge and amazing thunderstorm across the Tonle Sap Lake and Mekong River; something we wouldn’t have seen if we had been on a plane.

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Discount Airlines

If you do have to use an airline company whilst you travel, you should definitely look to book a flight with a discount airline, such as Air Asia; not only will you save time travelling but you now may save money as well! What’s not to like about that?

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Be Flexible with Your Flight Dates and Times

When you’re booking flights, try to as flexible as possible. Flying mid week will always be much cheaper than a weekend. Also look to fly at undesirable times, nobody really want’s to fly at 2am but if it is cheaper then I will take it.

A few booking engines you can use for checking out flights include:

Kayak – Compares hundreds of sites at once.
Vayama – specialises in cheap international flights.
Skyscanner – Provides instant comparison on flight prices for over 670,000 routes.
Air Treks – Around the world flight ticket experts.
Airfarewatchdog – Keeps track of deals and alerts you of price drops.
Air Asia – Great for short flights within Asia, but to read why we will never fly long-haul as a family with them again click here.

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Join a Frequent Flyer Program

Earn points towards cheaper fares, upgrades, and free companion tickets. It may take a while to accumulate points, but they CAN pay off big time. I recently had a volunteer who got his flight from Guatemala to Thailand purely from his points 😀

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Follow on Social Media

Go and “like” your favorite travel sites on Facebook and “follow” them on twitter, even see if they have an Instagram account. More and more companies are releasing deals for flights, accommodation and food on their social media sites so keep an eye on those sites 😀

Use Credit Card Reward Points

Check the program and benefits for your particular credit or debit card, you might be able to use your points for accommodation costs and frequent flyer points. It is a very easy way to cut the prices of accommodation and flights whilst you are travelling.

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Sleep While Traveling

When travelling by plane, train, or bus, try and time it so you are traveling at night. That way, you don’t have to pay for a night’s accommodation. I do this ALL the time and it really does make a huge different in the long run.

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Use Free Days

Many touristy places around the world will have ‘Free Days’ or ‘Discount Days’. Always have a look around on the internet or local papers and magazines for information about Free or Discount days.

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Talk to the Locals

I love getting insider tips from locals, whether it be about a place to stay, a cheap bar or even a good restaurant. Locals know what is good and where to go. A good ice-breaker is to ask for directions or advice like “Where’s a good restaurant?”. I have done this in my town and was then taken on the back of a guys moped to a truly wonderful restaurant where we sat for hours eating and drinking 😀

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Travel Like the Locals

Use public transport where possible. You get great knowledge and insight by hanging with the locals, it costs you less, and is a more authentic travelling experience. Tuk Tuks are inexpensive here, walking is free and it is so much fun getting lost in the place you are travelling!

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Haggle

Haggling is expected in most places in Thailand, obviously not 7-11 or a department store, but market vendors will normally bargain with you. Just remember that 100B you are trying to haggle over is nothing to you but can be a days food and water for a Thai, so be respectful when you haggle.

One thing to remember though!

You are travelling, and you came travelling in order to see and experience things you otherwise wouldn’t do so don’t limit yourself financially just so you can stay in a country for longer.

Go splurge on a famous restaurant, see a big concert, attend a mega sporting event, go on a safari, jump out of a plane, do something incredible. Even if you have to go under budget for a few days or a week to compensate for your splurge. It’s worth it.

Plus if you are constantly checking your funds and refusing invitations you will become so cranky about money and nobody wants that when they travel!!

Have fun, enjoy your experiences, save money where you can and then blow it on something even more amazing!!

Take a second to look at the  Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, volunteering is another great way to not only save money but to experience a new culture and make a difference in peoples lives.

After you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see all the fun and normally very cheap adventures I get up to 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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How To Be A Frugal Wendy

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Piggies love those pennies – make a penny jar!!

People constantly ask me about how I manage to have traveled as much as I have and how I manage to live in Thailand only being 22. There really are no special or fancy tricks to it, it’s all about common sense and desire that overcomes everything else.

As with anything in life, a lack of finances is what prevents people from beginning their travels in the first place. But if you really want it enough you can travel wherever you want for as long as you want. It may take time, but that moment when you realise that everything you have worked for is finally paying off is, for me, the most rewarding feeling in the world. Many people have often mistaken me for being very well off financially to have traveled the way I have. I wish!!! All I have done is make smart decisions with my spending and taken active steps to save up to do the things I so desperately want to in life.

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Sadly, most of us don’t have magic top hats full of money

Even though there aren’t any magical tricks, apart from winning the lottery, there are many tips I can give you that will help you save up for your incredible once in a lifetime trip to Thailand.

First of all you need to ask yourself the right financial questions

How can I create more money in my life?

and

How can I cut back in order to save more money?

(Remember a dollar saved is a dollar earned. Or Pound. Or Euro. Or Yen) How Can I Create More Money in Order to Travel?

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How do I save money for travel?

For me I look at what I want from life and what I want to be able to look back on in years to come.

Will I really care about that pair of shoes, that one night out or that iPhone 71234234 when I am 75?

No is the answer to that question, I will look back at the adventures I have had and whilst sat in my rocking chair with my knitting, that is what will bring a smile to my aged face.

So what do you want in life? That once in a life time opportunity to swim with elephants or a night out?

Is buying ______________ worth giving up your dreams?
Could this ____________ be worth more to me than watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, teaching a child it’s first words in English or protecting an endangered species?

When I was in England I was working two full times jobs as well as putting myself through University as well. I wasn’t living at a parents house either so I had to pay for all my expenses; needless to say I wasn’t getting any sleep, but I knew it was all worth is for when I would be able to travel and do all the things I had dreamed of doing.

A couple of things you can always look at doing also include

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Lodgers/Renters

If you have space in your house or your flat and you want some extra cash then getting yourself a lodger is a great idea that will not only get you extra cash but will also mean that you might be in a position to have someone you trust looking after your property whilst you travel.

Which brings me on to renters. If you are a home owner or you are on a long term contract, I know that your home is often one of the biggest things stopping you from travelling. You can remedy this by having someone rent your house from you whilst you travel, if you are on a long term contract and you aren’t able to rent out then maybe ask a friend if they need somewhere to stay for a bit, get them to pay for a percentage of the expenses and you’re set!

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Ebay

Ebay and Craigslist, if you are in the States, are on the way to being your new BBFs.

Look at all of the things in the room you are in right now.

How much of that stuff do you actually need, use or even want? I can guarantee you that if you found the value of a lot of your items and how much of a financial difference that would make to your trip you would sell everything!!

Trade your materialistic things for memories.

It doesn’t even just have to be possessions it can be clothes as well, I know how many clothes I have bought from Ebay over the years and someone out there is making money off that so what’s to say you can’t be that person!

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Make it a Working Holiday

For many this is a very practical solution to traveling and staying employed. There are so many companies that already have overseas offices, ask around your own workplace and see if there are any oppertunities for moving to another office abroad. If this isn’t possible then just look for a new job abroad. As long as you get the right visa you can work pretty much anywhere and do everything from teaching to bar tending; these are actually the two easiest and most requested jobs for people traveling 🙂

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Save Your Tax Returns and Bonuses

Tax Returns, bonuses even Birthday money is all money that you don’t count on in life. You can only ever really count on your salary, so these unexpected lump sums of money can often provide you with enough money to pay for flights, a few more weeks of travel or even the sometimes pricey working visas.

I know that I used the interest I had gained off a large sum of money so that I could pay for my flights to and from New York.

Birthday money has gone towards accommodation costs.

Bonuses have gone to pay for volunteering.

This extra money should only ever be used for your dreams or your debts, I would probably go with debt first as you really don’t need that coming back and biting you in the ass later haha

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What You Need vs What You Want

This is something I still fall for on occasion. Do I NEED that night out in town or do I want it? I normally think I need it when I don’t – well, except my Birthday 😀

But you don’t need a lot in life to be happy, as long as you have somewhere to sleep, clothes on your back, food and probably the internet, you are fine.

Get rid of all those labels, the expensive price tags, the brand new cars and other goods, the fancy restaurants, and top shelf drinks. Start living on a needs basis not a want.

It will be hard at first but being frugal will pay off very quickly. Give it one month of living very strictly and you will see the financial and personal difference.

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Public Transport

Do you need a car?

Really?

I am pretty sure there will be public transport to that place you are trying to justify in your head isn’t there?

Yeah, I thought so haha

Cars are expensive.

Buses are not.

Walking or cycling are even FREE!

So save your money, help the environment, and ditch the car for the other forms of transport in the world.

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Eat at Home

You don’t need to be going out to fancy restaurants, or even a McDonald’s every night or even at all. Think of how much that Big Mac meal will set you back if you have 2 a week, then add it all up and that might pay for a hostel for a week, a visa or even part of your flights.

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Who wouldn’t want to cook at home with Nigella!

Cook at Home

One thing I never used to think about was how much money I was spending when I went out for lunch everyday between jobs. I might spend up to 5GBP in one day, buying a sandwich, a drink and a packet of crisps.

This adds up to WAY more money than I even want to think about.

Now if you take that money and use it to buy ingredients for simple meals you can make at home, which you can then take to work for lunch is much, much cheaper.

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Live Off One Wage

If you are travelling as a couple this is a GREAT way of saving money, really budget yourself so you only need to use one of your wages in order to pay for what you have to in life and then use the other as a savings wage. You will be amazed at how quickly you can save by doing this.

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Work Out a Travel Plan

I am all for flexible traveling but you really should have a basic idea of where you are going, and how much it is going to cost you in order to get there/live there/leave there.

How do you plan on getting around when you travel?
What sort of places are you willing to stay, where will you eat?
In other words how low budget do you plan to go?

You can make travel as expensive as you like, if you just HAVE to stay in the Ritz then you are going to have a bad time, if you don’t mind staying in a dorm or a less desirable location, then not only will you meet more people and see more of a place but you will also save yourself an incredible amount of money.

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Airline Credit Cards

Now I personally don’t own a credit card, I don’t agree with spending money that you don’t have, even if you have it in genuine money on another card. It just freaks me out as I know that I would rack up a huge debt by never paying for anything.

But there are specialist credit cards that are travel related or even from airline companies. Cards like these allow you to rack up airmiles and often other bonuses as well, for example if the company your credit card is from is in association with a hotel chain, you might be in line for cheaper accommodation.

Also make sure you utilize the initial sign up bonuses and all the monthly or weekly prize draws and competitions they do as well. Not only will this give you an opportunity to win a lump sum, it might even offer you the opportunity to get you an entire free travel experience.

Some U.S. carriers offer a branded card that gives you 30,000-50,000 bonus miles when you sign up and make one purchase. That’s a free round-trip economy ticket right there. By adding multiple users, you can multiply the bonus. Additionally, by signing up for non-branded cards such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can earn points offered by those cards and then transfer them to your favorite airline.

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Be Flexible

If you are flexible with your destination dates you will be surprised how much money you can spend. Flying mid week for example is ALWAYS cheaper than flying on a Friday or weekend, I don’t know why but that is just how it is. I use Skyscanner for all of my flight needs and they have a great section that allows you to check an entire month for departure and return flights that will work out the cheapest, they are normally only ever a few days different from your initial dates anyway.

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Travel Off-Season

Understandably off season is usually cheaper as the weather isn’t the greatest or it has the least amount of festivals or events BUT, traveling off season not only saves you money but also means that you can see places that would normally be full of tourists in a more natural way. There is nothing like going to a beach and being the only person there, this WON”T EVER happen if you travel in high season.

Before you embark on your travels research the off or shoulder seasons for the places you want to travel and tailor your trip around those times.

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Think Outside The Box

Why are the most popular destinations so expensive? Because everyone goes there!

Want to see a Thai beach but you don’t want to pay the prices of Koh Samui or see all the drunken teenage idiots on Koh Pangyan? Try Phi Phi or Krabi, they are equally as beautiful and much cheaper, granted they are more expensive than Northern Thailand, but it is the beach after all.

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Don’t Stay In A Hotel

Hotels are expensive, you are only sleeping there so do you really need to be paying $100 a night when you could stay in a hostel for a tenth of the price. I genuinely can’t even think of a time I have ever stayed in a proper hotel, I have been in them and experienced the marvel that is heated swimming pools, massage and room service but is that honestly better than swimming in the ocean, local massage and street food?

I don’t think so.

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Stay With Family/Friends

Do you happen to have any friends or family that live abroad? This is always a great excuse to travel, not only will you get to see family and friends but they might be able to put you up for a while which always cuts down costs.

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Shop Around

Chances are the easiest flights, hotels, tours or cruises are sponsored so won’t actually be as cheap as they appear. Make sure you dig around and look at as many websites, articles and comparison companies as possible. There is always a deal out there, they are just sometimes hard to find.

Don’t give up though!!

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Quit The Gym

You don’t need a gym in order to work out, the last time I checked running, jogging and cycling were all free to do in any city in the world. The gym just gives you a place to run on the spot and be sweaty with lots of other people. Join a running club. Cycle instead of using your car. Use the stairs instead of the lift. You will be getting the same amount of exercise but it will be free!!

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Cheapskate Socializing

You don’t need to get drunk to hang out with your friends. Drinking is incredibly expensive when you add up how much you spend in a week, so much so that you could probably buy flights with a months drinking money. Think of interesting ways to socialize with your friends that doesn’t cost anything, BBQ in the park, game of football, video game nights even a dinner party or movie night. There are more ways than you think to socialize for very little money.

Make sure you do go out and enjoy yourself every now and again as otherwise you will become very bitter about saving, not to mention, your mates will think you are really boring.

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Saving money is sort of like a financial diet, cut back on all the things you don’t need and that are bad for you but have those cheat days that keep you happy 🙂

To see the kinds of things you can be doing with the money you save up take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for our amazing and life changing volunteer opportunities.

After you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see all the fun and normally very cheap adventures I get up to 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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