These are some common questions I get. Have a question that isn’t answered? Contact me to ask your question.
Why this website?
Several friends and family members asked me to start a blog to share my stories, experiences, and photos. I thought "why not" and created Keen Traveling.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Michigan, USA.
Is the "travel bug" real?
travel bug (idiom): strong desire to travel
Absolutely (if you enjoy traveling)! It’s hard to explain, but once you experience it you’ll know it. I warn all my friends that are beginning to travel that they won’t be able to stop. I caught the "travel bug" after my first international trip to Costa Rica and Panama. Once I returned home, which was hard to do, all I could think is "where to next?"
Why do you travel alone?
- Flexibility and Freedom: I can do what I want and on my own schedule. I don’t have to worry about anyone else.
- The Challenge: Sure a family vacation or group tour is fun but where’s the challenge? When you travel by yourself, new challenges and situations are thrown at you daily that you must work out yourself.
- Discovering Yourself: When you’re truly alone, by yourself, and away from “normal life” and your routine, it allows you to learn more about yourself and grow.
- Comfort Zone: You really don’t know what it’s like to get out of your comfort zone until you’re thousands of miles away in a foreign country by yourself. Some would say moving away from family or going to college out of state gets you out of your comfort zone and while this may be uncomfortable, are you really out of your comfort zone? When you go to a foreign country not only are you away from the comfort of your friends and family, you’re in a completely different country with different food, language, norms, laws, etc.
- Meeting People: We’ve all seen it…you go to a party, church, or family reunion and what happens? You find your friends or family that you’re close to because there’s that comfort level; you don’t meet and talk to the other people. When you travel alone you don’t know anyone or have a comfort level so it forces you to meet and interact with people.
Isn't traveling dangerous?
Can it be? Yes. Is it always? No. Despite what you see and hear on the news, the world isn’t as dangerous as it seems. Don’t get me wrong, there are indeed dangerous places and places you shouldn’t go but those are few and far between. It really comes down to using common sense and being aware of your surroundings. Thus far, even while traveling alone, I haven’t run into a single safety issue or a dangerous situation (knock on wood).
What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”
What about language barriers?
Communicating while traveling isn’t as difficult or challenging as you may think. English is so wide-spoken throughout the world, especially in tourist areas, that you shouldn’t have a problem. Of course, if you go to more remote areas (i.e. deep in the Amazon) then communicating in English is going to be more difficult. It’s always good to learn basic words and phrases not only so that you’re able to communicate but also to show respect to the locals. If all else fails and you find yourself in a situation where there’s a strong language barrier, you can communicate with body language which is pretty universal or you can use all the technology that’s available nowadays.
What language(s) do you speak?
- English (native)
- Portuguese (advanced-low)
- Spanish (intermediate)
- German (elementary)
What do you use to take pictures?
It all depends on the place, the activity, and how much equipment I can carry.
- iPhone 11 Pro: Cameras on smartphones today are great and take amazing photos. Since most people always have their phones with them, they’re extremely useful for photography.
- GoPro Hero 9 Black: GoPro’s are great for action/adventure or when you need a waterproof camera.
- Nikon D5600: Useful for more advanced photography and when space isn’t a problem.
Where do you stay when traveling?
I have stayed in hostels, Airbnb's, homestays, and with friends.
Pros of Airbnb
- Privacy: If you're looking for a bit more privacy than a hostel or homestay, Airbnb is for you. They offer private rooms, entire apartments, entire houses, etc.
- "Affordable": Depending on how many people are in your group and the length of your stay, Airbnb's can be really affordable. If you've never signed up for Airbnb before, use my link and you will receive $40 off your first booking!
Pros of Hostels
- Budget-friendly: Hostels are very budget-friendly and a great way to save money so you can extend your trip. Prices do vary by region but you can stay in a nice hostel in Costa Rica for $10/night or a nice hostel in Paris for $25/night.
- Community: Hostels are a great way to meet new people from all over the world! Most of my dearest friends today are people I met at hostels all over the world. Also, since most people staying in hostels are fellow travelers, you can learn from them, share tips with them, go on day trips with them, etc.
- Discounts and Tips: Hostels typically have great relationships with local businesses, tour groups, travel agencies, etc. which provide you with nice discounts as well as incredibly useful tips for things to do and see in the area.
Pros of Homestays
- Authentic experience: Typically if you stay with a local family, you're going to get a more authentic experience. Whether it's learning the local language, helping cook local food, or having a local to show you around, a homestay has many benefits.
- Affordable: Homestay experiences can vary and each one is different. However, oftentimes they're affordable or "free". Some are completely free, some require you to help with the cooking, some host families are looking for help in specific areas in exchange for accommodation and food, etc. If you're interested in a homestay, there are plenty of websites available.
The great thing about traveling and staying in hostels and homestays? You meet people from around the world who become friends and then later on in your travels when you’re in their country you have a familiar face to see and a place to stay. Thank you to all of my friends and friends’ families who have hosted me throughout my travels.
What backpack/luggage do you use?
For my main bag, I currently have the Osprey Waypoint 80. I have had it since I began traveling in 2015. I don't have any complaints and I especially like that it opens completely up (isn't top-loading). I also have a regular sized Osprey backpack and a SWISSGEAR backpack.
What got you interested in traveling?
I’ve always enjoyed change and adventure and get bored easily. Traveling throughout the USA while growing up created the desire to travel and experience new places and things. After my first international trip to Costa Rica and Panama is really when my interest peaked and I got the “travel bug.”
What was the first country you visited?
Technically Canada (about an hour away from my home), but the first country I truly traveled in was Costa Rica.
What are your three favorite countries?
This is one of the questions I hate because the competition is tough. If I have to throw names out there, I usually say Costa Rica, Germany, and Spain.
Isn't traveling expensive? How do you afford it?
It all depends. If you’re the type of person who wants first-class airfare and five-star hotels then yes, it’s going to be expensive. However, traveling doesn’t have to be expensive! There are many ways to travel inexpensively.
I get asked all the time “How do you afford it?” and the answer really comes down to it’s all about your priorities and choices. That $10 meal at McDonald’s equates to one night at a hostel in beautiful Costa Rica. Do you get Starbucks every workday? That’s about $1,300 a year or, a round-trip ticket to an exotic location.
What is it like to return home after an extended trip?
Challenging. What it feels like to return home after an extended trip is hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it and there are even names to describe the condition (Post-vacation blues or Post-Travel Depression). Depending on how long your trip was, when you return home you may realize that things have completely changed in your “normal life” and you must learn to reintegrate and adjust. However, more common is that you return home and nothing has changed as everyone else has been doing their normal routine but you feel like a completely new and changed person from your travels. What do you want to do when you’ve just returned from an amazing trip? You want to tell everyone about it and share details! It sounds good and all but you may soon realize that others don’t hold the same enthusiasm about it as you and really can’t relate.
How do you communicate and stay in contact when traveling?
Staying in contact while traveling nowadays is easier than ever! Depending on your needs there are three main options for staying in contact:
- International Plan: Almost all phone companies have international plans that allow you to stay in contact while abroad. Services and fees vary by company but some are included free!
- Local SIM Card: This is a very popular option for many travelers. When you get to your destination, you purchase a local SIM card and prepaid phone or if your phone supports it just insert the SIM card in your phone. Local SIM cards are readily available all over and often are a cheaper option. As always, there are considerations that each person has to take into account to see what the right option for them is (i.e. different phone number).
- WiFi Only: If you think you’ll be around WiFi most of the time or don’t need to be in constant contact, then there’s not much you need to do besides find somewhere with WiFi. Do take into consideration that many places only provide WiFi for guests, customers, or a limited amount of time. If you go with the WiFi option, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are must-have apps.
How did you become a volunteer at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro?
As my tweet from 2014 shows, attending the Olympics was always a goal and dream of mine. In late 2014 I stumbled across a link about applying to be a volunteer so I applied with the expectation of not having a chance to be selected. Throughout the next several months I went through online orientations, training, interviews, and Portuguese lessons. On November 30th, 2015 I received the long-awaited email that I was accepted as a volunteer! If you ever have the chance to volunteer at the Olympics or at least attend the Olympics I highly encourage it…the atmosphere and experience are absolutely amazing!