How to eat (well) on a tight travel budget

Last week, as I jetted to Denver, I solicited my social media fam for recommendations for cheap eats.

Along with some genuinely solid ideas and many not-so-solid fast food solicitations, I heard one comment over and over.

“I don’t think anything is cheap here,” was a variation I heard from several people.

Though I’d never been to Denver, that assumption surprised me. In just about every U.S. city, particularly the big ones, there are top-notch budget eats and drinks to be found — if you only know where and how to look. The problem is, a lot of people seem to find the logistics of just that confusing, leading to limp wallets, defeated drive-through runs and sad, store-bought sandwiches.

So since I don’t want you to be that person, since my life mission is making sure everyone  achieves culinary exhilaration without draining their savings account, I wrote this mini guide with tips to find super tasty deals for super tasty prices. (Don’t forget to look into public transportation so you don’t blow all your savings on Ubers):

What I think about before I take a photo

Behind every snap, cultural, social and historical context needs to be considered.

•••

I think about photography — and now videography — all the time.

I think about it when women in colorful skirts walk past colorful buildings. I think about it when old men in cowboy hats lean up against a building while devouring ice cream cones. I think about it every time I go into a market and the worn, leathery hands of the vendors contrast with the youthful ripeness of the produce.

Sometimes beautiful angles just occur, when the world so naturally aligns and a portrait emerges, so defined. Sometimes beautiful moments just happen, girls in flowing dresses dancing around a cotton tree, the sun’s golden light igniting pieces of their hair.

I think about taking these photos all the time.

But often, I don’t.

Why I refrain has nothing to do with the laws of whatever place I’m in, as someone on Instagram suggested to me recently, and everything to do with the complex cultural, social and historical considerations surrounding every snap.

My very serious guide to the nomadic beauty routine

Since some people have commented on this glorious bronze glow I’ve obtained while traveling through Central America, I thought I’d share my beauty secrets for achieving radiance and staying glamorous while on the move.

Repeat at your own risk.

SECTION 1: BODY CARE

Shower (but not too much). One pervasive theory suggests that regularly bathing yourself with water and soap is a good way to, you know, remove sweat and dirt. But that theory doesn’t know sh*t about ice cold water lines, and cockroach-lined walls. So resort to this option only when you start to wonder who in the room smells so bad and then realize you’re the only person in the room. When the time comes, here is the proper protocol:

  1. Do some jumping jacks. Maybe some pushups. You’re going to want to be sweating going in to this. Bonus: this will help keep you #lean and #fit.
  2. Scream as you walk into the shower. This is akin to breathing out while lifting weights or biting down on something while digging out a splinter. You’re acknowledging that this is going to suck and you’re proactively dealing with it.
  3. Find some 3-in-1 action. This is no place for multiple steps. This is a war zone. Forget the conditioner; forget the loofah full of body wash. You’ve got time for one substance — it doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be 3-in-1, it just is now. Slap it on, wash most of it off and get out.

Discomfort, an integral part of the journey

On Sunday, I had brunch on a perfect, white sand beach, hammocks swinging near by, then ordered a drink, dipped in the pool and selected a lawn chair, book in hand.

Cool breezes floated in from the ocean. The sun beamed down through palm trees.

And under my sunglasses, tears were falling down my face.

I was exhausted. And suddenly, it was all pouring out.

After a bit of a rough week, I had made what is an unusual decision for me: I was giving myself a vacation day, free from work and discomfort. I cabbed to a beautiful resort 30 minutes away, and feeling far from my typical reality of sweaty, sleepless nights, constellations of mosquito bites and street food, I plopped down and immediately started crying.

Now, I realize many of you reading this are doing so with mounds of snow outside or maybe from under the fluorescent lights of a cubicle. Sympathy for someone gallivanting around the coast of Belize and writing paragraphs like the one I just did is a hard sell, so I won’t try it.

I’m thrilled to be traveling through lesser tread parts of the world and sharing their underrated beauty. I experience incredible highs, deep fulfillment and satisfaction in an internal, if not always superficial sense. I wouldn’t change a thing about my decision to do this; at this point, I really can’t even imagine going back.

But beyond the veneer of “a glamorous life abroad,” this is also the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I am still very much adjusting to a world flipped upside down.

Learning to be my own (sane) boss

Last week, after flying to North Carolina, last minute, to vote, I was at home with my family.

For a full work week. In the middle of several projects. With self-imposed deadlines creeping around the corner.

Normally this would have stressed me out far too much — Would I be able to spend time with my family and also Get Things Done In a Timely and Efficient Manner? — but in the last couple of weeks, I’ve started to feel some of my anxiety and need to maintain a relentless pace melt away.

I am trying to turn off my “work brain” more often and allow time for activities that won’t later be spun into an article, video or photo gallery. Finally, I’m starting to feel some semblance of balance when it comes to my work life and the time previously reserved for teeth brushing and sleeping.

Getting there has been a journey.

You see, everyone dreams about leaving their jobs and working for themselves because they want to be their own boss.

But not many people take time to think about just what kind of boss they would be.

And as it turns out, I’m a nightmare.

What I hear when you tell me to “be careful.”

An unintended conversation began on my Facebook page earlier this week when in response to a post I put up, an older male follower of mine told me to be careful.

He stated it, first, in the context of my complaints that men were using my social media presence to sexually harass me, but soon, the conversation turned to my travels.

I wasn’t surprised, as this is something strangers say to me quite often. But as usual, it frustrated me. And this time, I decided not to let it go.

stuff your life

How to stuff your life into four boxes

Step 1: Have some things, maybe a lot of things, and a place to live, maybe you even really like that place, and a vibrant, complex life stationed somewhere, maybe it’s kind of great.

Step 2: Remove 98 percent of step one.

Welcome to my insane life! I’m currently in the process of removing 98 percent of it and stuffing the rest into four oversized plastic bins.