This is a list of my favorite go-to travel resources. Notice that Lonely Planet guidebook is not one of them. In the internet age, I don’t see any reason to lug around a heavy guidebook – unless you are in a country like Cuba where there is no internet (or it is very limited), in which case, you should be enjoying every second of such a unique situation in which you are completely forced to disconnect. Even in Cuba, I wasn’t regretting the fact that I didn’t have a physical book with me, because there are always other travelers to talk to about where to go and what to do as well as the local people you meet along the way. In fact, I can say adamantly that this is absolutely the best way to travel if you can be okay with the fact you don’t have every step of your trip planned out and set in stone before you leave. This is the way I travel nowadays because I’ve learned over the years the best way to do it is to JUST GO. Make loose plans about where you want to be and when, and then just go with it. Talk to people and see what you find out about what is not to miss and what is. Be open to what comes up. It’s part of the adventure.
Especially when you are traveling by yourself, it’s good to have some resources to go to when you have questions about what you’re doing or need support, or need help making travel possible. Here are my favorites:
1) Join the Facebook group of Wherever You are Going
I list this as my #1 resource on purpose: it is the one I find most helpful and use the most, especially with this last trip that I did. When I started planning my trip to South America, I got tipped off by someone in another travel group to join the “Backpacking South America” group on Facebook. Soon after, I stopped using the other travel groups entirely because this one was so perfect I didn’t need anything else. Here’s how it works: You ask a question to the group about any aspect of your trip, and about 10 people will respond who have just been there and done it and can enlighten you on the subject. At this point, it seems like almost everything has been asked already, so before I ask the group I type the subject of what I’m going to ask about in the search bar to look at past posts that have been made about that topic, and usually I will find my question has been answered there already.
Also, just following the discussion of the group, you can see if any important topics or information comes up that you need to know about for your upcoming travels. For example, right before I left to start my trip in Colombia, someone had posted in the group that Tayrona National Park was going to be closing for a month at the end of January so that the native people could celebrate their religious festivals. So I rushed right up to Santa Marta as soon as I got into the country to make sure I could get into Tayrona before it closed. Afterwards I met so many disappointed travelers who didn’t know and weren’t able to go to the park- one of the biggest tourist draws of Colombia- because they didn’t know it was going to be closed. That was the first helpful “head’s up”of many; I can’t stress how many times this resource saved my butt while I was traveling down there.
2) Girl’s Love Travel
This was formerly my #1 resource for travel and I talked about it in my piece about traveling as a woman. It’s another group on Facebook that connects women all over the world who share a passion for travel. It goes beyond just asking and answering travel related or location-specific questions to providing support, encouragement, and empowerment to women who travel. For a lot of women and people, that is what’s standing between them and getting out there: self-doubt or a lack of support, so this resource is very important on a lot of different levels.
3) Trip Advisor
In my Guidelines for South America article, I wrote about the importance of checking Trip Advisor reviews before you book any tour so you know what you are getting into. This also applies for hotels, hostels and restaurants. Check first before you book anything to avoid being disappointed later. I think this is one of the coolest things the internet has given us: the possibility of being able to connect with other people who are doing and interested in the same things that you are and to inform yourself about things which a few decades ago we would have had no other choice but to go into completely blindly. It’s certainly added a new dimension to traveling when you can go into a foreign situation prepared, informed and knowing to a certain extent what to expect.
Websites like Woofing, Workaway, and Helpx are all designed to link travelers with hosts that will offer them room and board in exchange for help with a particular service or job. I like Workaway the most because it has the most diverse offers for help- anything from helping the host learn english to yard and housework to volunteering at hostels. Usually the hosts require a minimum 2 week stay so this is for travelers who have more time on their hands, but it’s an awesome opportunity not only to save money on accommodation, but to get to know local people, other travels and experience living and working in another country. It’s a great jumping off point when you first get to a country to have a place arranged to go to, as well as a place to stop for a while when you’ve been on the move for a long time.
This website has an international job board with english teaching opportunities around the world. If you are lucky enough to be a native english speaker with a college degree (and probably even without it depending on the position) you can find a job working abroad easily. The pay is usually well or at least enough to live comfortably in that country. And it’s an opportunity to not only travel but live abroad and work there, which is a completely different experience then just traveling through a place.