London On A Budget

There is no doubt that London is one of the most exciting, vibrant and culturally rich cities in the world. Travelers from all over the world visit London to experience England’s unique sense of living history firsthand. But don’t be mistaken by London’s historic palaces, horse-drawn carriages and well-preserved museums. London is also a bustling city comprised of prime shopping, happening nightclubs and royal parks that give you a run for your senses.

Although London is one of the most traveled cities in the world, there is just one downside to this destination – it’s expensive. And I am not talking sort-of pricey either. According to The Telegraph, a UK based newspaper, London is the most expensive city in the world as of 2014.

If you are now reconsidering your travel plans to London, have no fear. After studying abroad in this beautiful city, I have all of the insider tips and tricks to experiencing one of the world’s most traveled destinations, on a budget.

Where to stay in London: If you are looking to travel to London, one of the first things that you will consider is where to stay. While the average hotel in London could range from $150- $350 a night, there are many hostels in the city that are safe, moderately priced and located right in the heart of the city. Could you possibly ask for anything better? In order to find the hostel that suits you best, I suggest using the website “Hostel World,” where you can adjust the currency, price range and property type that best accommodates your travel plans. You can also see photos of the facility, read reviews about the accommodations and even choose your hostel based on its safety ratings. Lastly, you can get the most bang for your buck by choosing a hostel that includes breakfast during your stay.

National Gallery , London

Learn in London: You should expect nothing less then perfection from entering a museum in the capital of living history itself. London boasts some of the most beautiful, interactive and informative museums, and the good news is that most of them are completely free! The British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and the National Gallery are all free, just to name a few. If you want to explore the city in person then you can sign up for a free walking tour with a company such as Free Tours By Foot. Those impressed by the tours often tip their tour-guides, but this is not required.

Play in London: No one should underestimate London when it comes to having fun. Don’t be surprised if you see ice-rinks, amusement rides and street performers covering every crevice of the city. These activities are all either free or very moderately priced. If you are still craving some more excitement, do as the locals do and go to the theatre. Theatre culture is extremely prevalent in London. In fact, because of how many locals enjoy the theater scene, seeing a show in London is much more affordable than it is in New York City. You can pick up a ticket for an off-Broadway show for just £10, or about $15. However if you want the experience of seeing a show on West End, London’s version of Broadway, you can pick up discounted tickets the day of the show, sometimes for as little as £60. If it’s London’s legendary nightlife calling your name, head over to Piccadilly Circus. This area of town is full of diverse nightclubs that represent all different types of cultures and music. While most are free to enter, some charge between £10-20 for entry.

Regents Park Bridge

Relax in London: If you are looking for some rest and relaxation in London and do not want to pay for the Four Seasons Spa, I recommend spending time in London’s recreational parks. My personal favorite is Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regents Park. With its beautifully carved sculptures, vast arrangements of flowers and lakes covered with swans, you won’t believe that you are in the middle of a major city. Feel free to relax on a beach chair, bring out food for a picnic or even toss a ball with a friend to make the most of your afternoon. Once you have fallen in love with all that there is to do in Regent’s Park, including famous attractions such as the London Zoo, Open Air Theatre and taking a paddle boat through the pond, you should also check out Hyde Park, Richmond Park and St. James Park.

Shop in London: If you are looking to bring home some British goods from your vacation, look no further then Camden Market. Located in North London, Camden Market is comprised of endless shopping and food stands selling homemade goods. Crowded with locals and tourists alike, the streets of Camden Market are covered with individuals searching for the best bargains on clothing items and local foods. Since London is a major fashion capital, I loved going through the racks of clothing along the streets and searching for the best deals on upcoming fashions. However, if you prefer shopping indoors then Primark on Oxford Street is for you. In just one store you can find men, women and children’s clothing, in addition to shoes, purses and products for your home at competitive prices. Let’s just say you wont be leaving empty handed.

London is one of the best places to shop in the world. Photo by Flickr/James_London

Although spending time in London can be extremely pricey, having the right knowledge and tips will allow you to navigate this city like a local. Trust me, after having a run-in with the Royals, experiencing theatre at its best and boating amongst the swans in Regent’s Park, you’ll never forget your trip to London.

If You Go

Travel to London

If you are traveling from America, I recommend taking an overnight flight in order to help you adjust to the time difference. However, if you are traveling over from Europe, you can find great flight deals with the airline Ryanair. Here is the link to their website. http://www.ryanair.com

If you prefer to travel by train in Europe, you can also take the Eurostar, which tends to offer great discounts on selected routes. Here is the link. http://www.eurostar.com/us-en

Hotels/Hostels: For the best deals on both hotels and hostels visit http://www.hostelworld.com.

Discounted Theatre Tickets: Experiencing London’s famous theatre district is a must. You can find discounted tickets at the TKTS booth located in Leicester. For more information, visit http://www.tkts.co.uk .

For easy travel while staying in London: Tube (or subway) stations are the most popular and the most direct form of travel. To find out more about how to use the Tube and about the Oyster card that you can purchase for both discounted and speedy travel, visit http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modes/tube/.

For those who are new to London, visit http://www.visitlondon.com/traveller-information in order to familiarize yourself with the endless possibilities for your trip.

5 Dr. Seuss Approved Reasons to Travel the World

Fellow travel-addicts, please support me on this one: There is nothing more exhilarating in life than traveling the world.

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~Photo taken in Bermuda

Whether you are deciding to study abroad, or finally crossing a country off of your bucket list, you are committing to yourself to discovering the unknown.

You are saying,

“I am ready to put my traditions, values and life outlook on hold, so I can see the world through someone else’s eyes and gain a different perspective.”

Anyone who has the courage to travel understands the feeling of stepping off of a plane and feeling completely out of your element.

You have to put your full trust in the cab driver to take you to your hotel; you have to point at a random dish on a menu (because you can’t pronounce it) and pray that it tastes palatable.

And, in more cases than not, you stick out like a sore thumb because you have your camera in one hand and life-sized map of the city in your other.

Traveling on your own or in a small group is the definition of gaining self-trust and independence.

It says,

“I can put myself in this completely foreign situation and navigate all of the obstacles that come my way in order to come out at as a stronger person.”

If you have not yet had the courage to travel, I strongly urge you to find your inner-explorer.

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~Photo taken in France

But, if you don’t feel ready to dine in the Eiffel Tower, explore the Buddhist Temples in India or zip-line through the tropical rain forests in Costa Rica, I plan to convince you through the wise-yet-simple words of Dr. Seuss.

In celebration of the legendary author’s birthday (or what is otherwise known as Read Across America Day), let’s talk about why you must travel.

Right now, you may be thinking, “Isn’t Dr. Seuss for first graders?” No. I mean, the guy was pretty rebellious.

He wrote under several different names, never got his doctorate (he added Dr. in front of his name to seem more credible and to make it seem like the received a degree his father told him he could never get) and wrote the famous “Green Eggs and Ham” on a dare.

I know, scandalous.

But, in all seriousness, Dr. Seuss mastered using the simple ideas in which we all believe as children to remind adults of what is important in life (trust me, we do forget).

As we enter our 20s and 30s, we often forget it is important to travel and grow, and life is not just about making money, getting married and popping out children.

The “white-picket fence” lie we tell ourselves seems to outweigh the joy we used to find in our daily lives as children.

So, in honor of the wanderer and the dreamer himself, here are five truly thought-provoking quotes that will induce your travel craving and remind you Dr. Seuss’s work is not just for children:

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~ Photos taken in Germany

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1. “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”

While we all understand hard work leads to success, this reality does also possess a downfall.

Because of technology, we suffer from feeling like we are constantly working. In past generations, people worked from 9 am to 5 pm, and then they clocked out and went on with their lives.

Now, with technology, you could be laying in bed, watching Netflix and all of a sudden, get an email from your boss about a project due next week. And, BAM, your mind starts racing.

This 24/7 work mentality leads us to forget about the importance of being creative and exploring. For some reason, we feel guilty for having this urge and consider it to be childlike.

We feel like having fantasies about our actual dream-jobs, or the fact that we desire to explore the coliseum in Rome, is some sort of sin.

Whether you are in college pulling an all-nighter in the library for a final, or you’re just frustrated your professional life seems to be outweighing the time you get to spend with yourself, this is where traveling comes in to encourage a healthy mind.

When you are overseas, your boss can send all of the emails he or she wants, but if you’re not in an area with WiFi, you won’t see it.

Believe it or not, other countries put creativity first. Adults openly practice painting, theatre and hiking, and they don’t feel guilty if they have 25 unanswered emails.

In fact, in France, employees in technology are discouraged from checking work emails outside of the office. CNBC reports, “About a million French workers in the digital and consulting industries will be required to switch off work phones and avoid email before 9 am and after 6 pm.

Embracing new ways of life will open up your mind to new possibilities, which will transfer over to the way you live life back home.

Long story short, when you travel to a completely unfamiliar country, you have no choice but to live in the moment, fantasize about where you are and the adventure on which you hope to embark throughout your journey.

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~Photo taken in Germany

2. “It is better to know how to learn than to know.”

When you are in school, you are taught to know. You have a list of 25 vocabulary words to memorize.

You remember them for your test, but right after you complete the last question, all of the information escapes your mind; you can no longer recall the words, even if your life depended on it.

Sound familiar?

In school we are taught to know, but how many times in life do you get the opportunity to learn? Travel teaches you to learn, not to memorize information and to spit it back out.

You learn how to use a map when your life depends on it. You learn a foreign language when it’s your only ticket home.

And, you learn the meaning of happiness when you finally get the chance to sit still without being harassed to hand in your final paper for chemistry class, or to race all around New York City to get your boss a venti half-soy latte.


3. “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

As most of our generation is now experiencing, the transition into real adulthood is challenging.

Most of our parents guided us up to this point and set us up for success. But, what happens when that is all taken away?

If you are going to study abroad or work abroad, you will quickly learn the definition of independence.

Imagine having to use GPS just to get to the grocery store and struggling to find the basic ingredients you need in order to make your dinner.

Imagine being the only individual of your faith in your neighborhood and knowing all eyes are on you as you walk down the street.

When we live somewhere that’s comfortable, we judge others who are “different,” but this time, it’s you who is different.

This gives you a wake-up call and makes you a more sensitive and understanding person because you know what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes.

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~Photo taken in Austria

4. “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Believe it or not, there will come a time in life when the option to travel will not be open to you. When you grow to have a family of your own, the cost of a trip can triple or even quadruple.

Suddenly, your dream to sit front row on an African safari becomes nothing more than a far-fetched pipe dream.

Never allow your significant other or your family to make you feel guilty for having the courage to live your best life. Remember not to take your work so seriously that it doesn’t allow you to make lasting memories.

When you constantly see a popular image on television, like Buckingham Palace in London, and you finally have the opportunity to see it in person, it truly feels like you are living a dream.

But, when you look at your surroundings, you notice everyone around you is looking at the sight through a camera lens, not eyes, because they know these types of moments only happen once in a lifetime (if you’re lucky).

If you get the chance to travel, make an effort to see the sights with your own eyes for at least a few moments.

It’s rare you get a chance to be fully in the moment without feeling the need to check your Instagram or see what your ex did last night via Twitter.

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~Photo taken in London

5. “If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too.”

Traveling teaches you to roll with the punches.

If you are new to traveling, I promise your trip will not go as you planned. When you travel, you are basically telling the world you are accepting relinquishing control.

You may have spent thousands of dollars on your trip to Greece to explore Santorini, and as soon as you get there, it starts pouring rain and you have to reconsider your plans.

Or, maybe, you get to what was supposed to be your luxurious hotel only to find out your travel agent was just a pro at Photoshop.

Travel teaches you to embrace flexibility and to expect the unexpected.

If you have ever dreamt to travel and discover new places, but have never had the courage to go on your own, I challenge you to take a risk. I can’t promise what you will encounter on your journey, but I do know you will never forget it.
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~Photo taken in Prague

If you live by the words of Dr. Seuss, your decision to travel will lead to countless memories and lessons you will treasure throughout your life.

16 Signs That You Have a Serious Travel Addiction

IF YOU HAVE EVER STUDIED ABROAD OR ARE A JET-SETTER BY NATURE, YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT.

A travel addiction is pretty serious. It causes you to daydream about being anywhere besides where you actually are and it also takes a huge hit to your bank account. But if you have ever had the courage to leave everything that you know behind and travel, then you know that the side-effects of this addiction are so worth it.

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– Photo taken in Haiti
 I GUESS YOU COULD SAY THAT I FIRST SELF-DIAGNOSED MYSELF WITH A TRAVEL ADDICTION AFTER MY STUDY ABROAD TO LONDON. TO BE HONEST, I HAD NO IDEA THAT THIS ONE TRIP WOULD RESULT IN A LIFETIME OF WANDERLUST. BUT WHEN I GOT OFF THE PLANE I SAW THIS HUGE CITY THAT WAS FULL OF PLACES THAT I WANTED TO EXPLORE. FROM THE FOOD, THE HUSTLE AND BUSTLE OF THE CITY, AND FROM CATCHING A GLIMPSE OF THE ROYALS I WAS INSTANTLY HOOKED. IMMEDIATELY AFTER THIS TRIP, I DECIDED THAT I WAS GOING TO LIVE BY THE WORDS OF THE DALAI LAMA THAT SAY, 

“ONCE A YEAR, GO SOMEPLACE THAT YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN BEFORE”.

This explains why I have been to twenty-two countries at twenty-two years old.

If you’re still not sure if you have a travel addiction, here are 16 tell-tale signs that you have a serious case of the travel bug:

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– Royal Caribbean Cruise

1.) Being at home is just about the worst thing ever-

If you have a serious travel addiction, being trapped in your house is just about the worst thing ever. Your friends will call and text you asking you to go to the mall or to the movies, but to be honest, you would rather be zip-lining in Costa Rica or walking the great wall of China.

2.) If you aren’t traveling, you feel like your life is being wasted-

You are constantly looking at your calendar to see when you have time off to travel. You worry that you are going to get married and have kids before you get a chance to see the world. Not to mention, your spouse must also be an avid traveler or things just aren’t going to work out.

3.) You studied abroad-

Studying abroad is like a gate-way drug to being diagnosed with travel addiction. You have no idea what you are about to get yourself into. You spend four months living freer than you have ever lived before and are learning about a country’s history by actually going to see the monuments yourself instead of reading about them in a textbook. Needless to say, when you come home and unpack your suitcase, the post-travel depression is real.

4.) All you talk about is traveling-

After your trip all you want to do is talk about your travels because it gives you a similar feeling to actually being at that destination. When you are with your friends you will start to notice yourself comparing your travel experiences to simple conversations that have absolutely nothing to do with traveling.

5.) You have a separate bank account to set aside money for your travels-

Each year you put aside a certain amount of money to ensure that you can feed your travel addiction. This same credit card that is connected to your account comes with frequent flyer miles and resort points.

6.) You dream about jobs that include traveling-

While you may be a teacher, a journalist, or a nurse, in your spare time you look up jobs that require travel just to see if it would be realistic. You have most likely researched how to be a Contiki tour guide and how to teach English in Thailand.

7.) You still get e-mails that offer travel deals in places that you no longer live-

For example, I have never discontinued my subscription for the electronic deals that are sent out by the European train system called Eurostar. I continually receive great deals on train rides from London to Paris, the only problem is that I currently live in New Jersey.

8.) Please don’t get me birthday presents-

Whenever my birthday rolls around I never ask for materialistic gifts. The best gift would be a donation to my travel fund that was discussed in travel addiction sign number 5.

9.) You are your best self when you are traveling-

Even the most uptight people have no choice but to be carefree when they travel. In most cases you are taking a break from work, have no cell-phone reception, and have no choice but to take in scenery and explore.

10.) You try to mimic what you did in other countries at home-

When your travel addiction becomes severe, you tend to take your favorite memories and relive them while you are home. I still drink out of the tea cup that I purchased at Buckingham palace and also still try to recreate the European lifestyle at home by laying out a blanket in my backyard while reading a good book, except I am the only one in my backyard and in London Queen Mary’s rose garden is filled with locals relaxing outside.

11.) Your social media is comprised of old travel photos and inspirational travel quotes-

Let’s be honest, most of your #TBT’s are old travel pictures and the caption is usually talking about how you wish you could go back to whatever location the picture was of. You occasionally squeeze in a few inspiring travel quotes such as the classic, “We travel not to escape, but for life not to escape us” by anonymous.

12.) You return from your travels because you feel guilty-

If it was up to you, you would travel for the rest of your life but the “I miss you” texts from your family and your significant-other check you back into reality and make you feel like you should probably come home.

13.) You thrive on the unknown-

What most people would call terrifying, you call exhilarating. People that like to travel thrive on the unknown. When you go to a foreign country you are unfamiliar with the spoken language and the culture as a whole. You put your complete trust in the cab drivers that are taking you to your destination. A travel addict can distinctly remember sitting down at a restaurant and pointing to an item on the menu (because you have no idea how to pronounce the dish) and praying that the meal comes out in an edible fashion. When a travel addict travels, they leave all of their current beliefs at home and completely immerse themselves in the destination’s culture, even if it means trying out a new religion or conquering a stubborn fear.

14.) Desire to learn-

All travelers have an inner desire to learn. Even if you never liked history in school, there is something about learning another’s culture on a first hand basis that is magical. When you travel to a place that is less fortunate than your local town, it offers you a completely new perspective on life. You begin to realize that your problems are much smaller than you think they are and it allows you to see the world in a new light.

15.) Being called “wordly”-

There is no greater compliment to a travel-goer than being called wordly or cultured. It shows that all of the traveling that we have done and all of the lessons that we have learned have truly helped to form us into our best selves.

16.) To you, the airport represents possibilities-

Most people find the airport to be stressful to say the least. Between finding out where you are supposed to go and trying to search for your bag in luggage claim, airports tend to bring out the worst in people. However, this is not true for a travel addict. A true travel addict gets the airport and actually feels relaxed. They know that they are about to experience the unknown, which arises feelings of pure bliss. Travel addicts have memorized the airport rules and know exactly how to make it through security without a bump in the road.

 If you are able to self-diagnose yourself with a travel addiction after reading these 16 symptoms, then congratulations! You have developed the greatest habit that will offer you a lifetime full of memories. Through being so accepting of other cultures, you will develop a greater sense of yourself and be able to recognize all of the good that happens in this world each and every day. Good luck on your next adventure (because I know if you are a travel addict that you probably already have it planned).

“CERTAINLY TRAVEL IS MORE THAN THE SEEING OF SIGHTS; IT IS A CHANGE THAT GOES ON, DEEP AND PERMANENT, IN THE IDEAS OF THE LIVING.” 

– Mary Ritter Beard

-Taken in Haiti
-Taken in Haiti

Four Lessons That Travel Teaches

Most of us get caught up in this routine called life. We wake up with the sunrise, push ourselves through our workday, race through our all of our errands, and jump into bed when the first free second presents itself.

Although hard work is quintessential for success, is this really how we are meant to live our lives?

When we get caught up in this routine called life, we lose ourselves. We lose our sense of importance for recognizing the beauty around us, and our inner lust for adventure that lies somewhere deep within us all.

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If you happen to be stuck in this routine called life, which we all experience from time to time, my suggestion for you would be to stand up for yourself and break this cycle. Search for the life that you have always dreamed of.

“If not now, when?”- Hillel The Elder

Whether it’s for two days, two weeks, or if you’re lucky, two months, you should buy that plane ticket for the destination that has always been on your bucket list and put this routine called life on hold.

I truly believe that travel is the cure for the weary and the recipe for reinvention. However, if you still need some extra convincing, here are four of the greatest lessons that travel teaches us. They all ultimately bring us back to ourselves in the most honest and pure way possible.

1. To become a child again.

“Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder”- Unknown

When we drop ourselves off in a new country, we have no choice but to instantly become a child again. Everything you see is new and this brings out your inner explorer. You will find yourself pointing at iconic structures that you thought you would only come across in magazines. You may stumble across an old beaten-path that leads to the most breathtaking waterfall. Your senses will come alive. Whether it’s touring the

perfume gardens in France or taking your first bite of an Italian pizza, these new experiences will capture your heart in a way that you forgot existed.

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2. Confidence

“The traveler’s rush’ that hits you upon arrival to a
new place is like a drug. And like a drug, the more you expose yourself to the more you want it”. – Clayton B. Cornell

When we travel to a new place, we are unfamiliar with our surroundings to say the least. From the second you step off that plane you may experience situations that you make you feel uncomfortable or nervous. You will experience everything from language barriers to your cab driver taking you to your hotel on the “wrong” side of the road. Although being unfamiliar with your surrounds may seem daunting, when you are able to grasp the values of a particular culture it is extremely rewarding. You have another place to call home.

3. To get a new perspective

“Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind” – Marty Rubin

When we travel we quickly move from being the majority to the minority. Therefore, to function in this new society, we need to place our values on the backburner in order to truly gain a new perspective on life. Whether it’s an unfamiliar religion or a new way of dress, each culture’s history has uniquely shaped their current belief system. Traveling is not about replacing our current belief system with theirs, but it is instead about collecting new perspectives on life that make our own more universal and whole.

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4. To be appreciative of what we had all along

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving” – Lao Tzu

When we travel we come across people who are much less fortunate than ourselves. Maybe you meet someone who did not have a fair chance at success due to his or her country’s education system. Or it is very possible that you will come across individuals struggling to bike to and from work each day because they cannot afford a motor vehicle, or even a place to call home.

When we arrive home from our trip, our journey comes full circle. We realize that maybe our troubles weren’t so bad all along.

If we come home from our trip with a greater knowledge of how to actually live life each day, instead of watching it pass by, then travel has done its job. It has performed its lesson that no other teacher can teach.

“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.” Elizabeth Gilbert

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*all photos were taken by the author