The Best Free Travel Apps in the Biz

Very often, when you take a peek at someone’s smart phone, it’s full of stupid stuff like Candy Crush, Emojis, and various other apps I can’t even think of because I’m not lame enough to use them. However, if you look at my phone, besides seeing every possible social media app anyone can have, you’ll find a hell of a lot of sick travel apps. So here you go, lucky people. A glimpse into my wonderful smart phone life, where no Angry Birds will ever be played and no one ever pays for apps, because who does that?

1. Around Me is one the simplest travel apps around which gives you the best sampling of information. Around Me has several categories, like Banks, Bars, Gas Stations, Hospitals, and Taxis in which you just click on it and if your location services are on (which they should be for most of these apps) you’ll be able to see how far away a place is in that category and how to get there using the Maps app. It also includes the website and phone number. I use it primarily to find food or gas stations or other must-haves nearby.

2. Trip Advisor is similar to Around Me, but instead of finding must-haves, it finds flights, restaurants, and attractions (real travel stuff here). I use it primarily for the Things To Do section, in which you can filter by closest by distance or what the location is ranked in the area by other users. Right off the bat, you can see how many stars a location has gotten and you can scroll through some reviews as well as seeing their phone number, website, etc. Easy way to keep yourself occupied if you get bored in a new place.

3. Convert is the easiest money converting app. From a ton of choices, choose which currency you’re starting with and which you’re converting to, and then type in the amount of money. Extremely handy when on the road internationally and you’re trying to figure out how much something would cost in your own money but you don’t want the vendor to think you’re an idiot.

4. Translate is the Google Translate who’s accuracy is not too shabby for when you need to know a word or two (but don’t use it for Italian class, because your prof will know). It will also remember all the words you asked about for when you forget them again and need them… again. You can speak into it too to translate but this can be temperamental, similar to Siri and other iPhone voice activated controls.

5. We Talk is my favorite way to call people overseas. For less than a cent a minute, you can call people over wifi and the signal is usually quite good for what you’re paying. Other apps will do this service for free, however you have to be calling a smart phone with the same app which is inconvenient. The other person doesn’t need We Talk to use this, so you can still call your grandpa who has a flip phone.

6. Whats App is like the AIM of today. The other person needs to have Whats App which is annoying, but it’s like a buck and works over Wifi, plus you can see the last time someone viewed your conversation, all the media they have ever sent you, and you can decorate the background. It’s also more instant than iMessage and tends to work better, especially over wifi. Trust me I’m super cheap and this app is totally work a dollar.

7. ISIC Benefits is for those who hold an International Student ID Card, which is worth getting because many museums and other attractions will give a discount for having it, and if anything, it’s another form of travel ID. The app itself looks up where you are and tells you what locations in the area have a discount for the card. The downfall? You need wifi to use it, so if you’re international you probably can’t use it outside of your place of residence.

8. Pack The Bag lets you choose categories like the beach, a baby, etc., and gives you a list of what items to pack for each category and then creates a complete list for you which is right on the mark. It is a little extensive, especially if you’re a seasoned traveler and you know what you need, but it’s nice for the peace of mind.

So there you have it friends! TRAVEL ON!

The Grind Life

There’s something about knowing how much time you have left that propels you venture.

And no, I don’t mean how much time you have left on this earth. Instead, I mean how much free time you have left; how much time you have left for yourself to run amok and see the world on your own free will.

In a few weeks, I will be starting my very first real person job, which is simultaneously the most exciting and scariest thing to happen to me in quite some time. As happy I am to be a member of the functioning world and get my career up and running (and pay my bills), it is also a very lonely and odd feeling to know that my constant, and often free, trips running amok have come to an end for quite some time.

Before I had a job secured, I was a frantic wreck, basically all throughout the second half of final semester and the weeks that started the summer off. Instead of really enjoying my days and taking advantage of the time off before I would eventually become gainfully employed, I fretted about my losery status and wondered what the hell I was going to do and how I was going to make ends meet. As usual, once everything is in place, I’m wondering how I could be so dumb. I wonder why no one told me to just enjoy it all, and then I remember that they did. Whoops.

So now that the days are numbered, I’m trying my best. I’m driving obscene amounts of miles on a moment’s notice, just to have a night on the town with my friends, which I took for granted when they were also my neighbors. Even though eating meals in my car and sitting in traffic and unpacking a bed from my backseat isn’t really convenient all of the time, it’s things like this that make me see how great that life is. Those days may be numbered for now, but you can’t keep a wanderer away from adventures, even if those adventures may only take place outside of Monday through Friday nine-to-five for some time.


Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Eventually.

Seeing as I am currently sitting in my childhood room painting my nails pink and watching the Sex and the City movie, I guess I can’t really proclaim that I am a part of the “real world” quite yet, although the “Graduate of the Honors School” medal and my golden, red, and blue cords hanging on my wall as a result of my Wednesday graduation would say otherwise. However, even though the actual reality of graduation hasn’t really hit me yet, there have been a select few parts of the whole debacle that have squirmed their way into my head.

During my sophomore and junior years of college, I actually wasn’t really sure if I wanted to study abroad. I was afraid to leave my friends and my family, and as silly as this sounds, I didn’t know if it would be worth it to miss out on all the shenanigans of one of my precious last few semesters at school with all the people I had grown to love. It definitely wasn’t one of my deciding factors, but one thing that people (okay, older people) would always stress was, This is the only time in your life you can do something like this. 


To me, this sounded so sad! So negative! I knew what I was doing– I knew that upon graduation I would be gainfully employed with a fantastic job, traveling the world and writing, basically living the dream– and why not? I was great!

Ha. Ha. Ha. How sweet. I’m actually glad that no one told me what an idiot I was being because it would have really just made me sad before I really needed to be sad. Now I am a graduate, and I’m slowly but surely realizing that yes, I have a nice resume, but so do eight million other people in the world competing for the exact same entry-level job. Not so sweet. I don’t mean to come off too negative here, because I’m sure things will work out eventually, I just don’t think that time will be when I’m 22 and living in a house with my mom in a town with one traffic light and a general store.


However, being back here, surrounded by lots of other hard-working people down on their luck because of the economy, does make me appreciate the small parts of the world that I have had the pleasure to venture to. I used to silently scoff to myself when people would tell me that they just couldn’t wait to go on their next trip to Point Pleasant or the Poconos. Now, I realize what they were doing. They were doing all they can. With a smile on their face, they’re doing all the traveling that their wallets and their work schedule will allow. Maybe they’re sad they’re not headed to Bali or Vegas this summer, but they’ll never tell you that. They take what they can get and they aren’t bitter about it one bit.

And you know what? I think that this is what a true traveler is. They aren’t someone who necessarily has a bottomless wallet or lives a glamourous life or has their father’s name on their credit card. They aren’t necessarily someone who can boast they have hit every continent.

Instead, they do what they can, and they do it with integrity and dignity. They may be crammed back in their boring hometown where the closest gas station is 15 miles away, and the only vacation they may be able to take will be a three day weekend on their old roommate’s couch. However, this isn’t the point. The point is they’re going somewhere, they’re doing something new, and they’ll be damned if they’re not trying their hardest.

Point Pleasant today, Bali tomorrow.


Live a Life Worth Telling.

I always thought I knew who the winners were.

The businessmen and the lawyers; they were the ones who had it right. Ever since I was little, they were the ones who had it all, with their big, happy families in their cozy mansions with a golden retriever who had a bandanna around their necks. In my head, they came home at 6:00 everyday to a beautiful homemade meal on the table and they spent their weekends on their yachts and drinking cocktails on the porch with their neighbors by moonlight.

Being a middle schooler who unlocked their own door everyday and begged for rides home from track practice, this was the dream. This is what I thought about when I was studying and figuring out how I was gonna pay for school one day; that one day, it would all be worth it.

However, now I’m 22. And I’m not going to med school and I’m not going to law school. Hell, my major is Communication and I spend most of my time palling around in this office and drinking free coffee and trying to figure out which break I can go run at. I may not have a full-time job yet. I may not have a family or a golden retriever and I may drive an ’02 Ford Focus. But I don’t think the businessmen and the lawyers are the winners anymore.

When I was abroad, I met some of the happiest people I have ever known who barely held what you would consider a full-time job. You know what they did? They picked potatos in Ireland. When the season was over, they would take the money they made and then they would go to England and they would bartend in Camden Lock. When it got too cold out, they would fly to Turkey and live in cheap hostels in Istanbul. They always had a backpack on and barely ever wore shoes. They told the most interesting, exciting, and wonderful stories I have ever heard. This is winning.


Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

Getting older, little by little, it is this quote that has much more merit, for me at least, than an endless doctor’s shift or 80 hours workweeks at a law office. One day, some of you will (if you have the time) go to parties and you will say, “I’m a doctor at the local hospital.” Or you will say, “I make $150,000 a year as a lawyer.” And you know what? This is great. But truth be told, for some of us, these figures will never bring happiness. Spending all our daylight hours in little rooms and being tired and hungry and overworked and missing our friends and our families will never, ever, be enough for that beautiful mansion or that red convertible. It’s just not.

Those people, those wealthy, suited, briefcased people are the ones who cheat on their wives, whose children go to therapy because they were always alone. Those are the ones who can count the number of vacations they have been on on one hand because there simply wasn’t time for anyone else.

For some, this will be worth it and they will leave a contented life and maybe make themselves feel like they did something of value for making someone else money. They will not mind that they spent 50 years selling insurance for a faceless corporation. But for me, and many others, we need more. We need substance. We need a life, a story, we need to see a sequence of adventures when the time comes for that white light, not just a series of numbers on a lit-up screen. We need to travel, to see the world, to meet people who are interesting and exciting and to do things that other dream about when they say One day, when I retire. And for this, I don’t mind sleeping late, wearing jeans, and wondering how the hell I will pay for lunch today.

It will always be worth living a life worth telling.


Sharing the Wealth

Travel is a funny thing. Like a dashing book or an eloquent play, it is rarely the entire story that gets you; the combination of the drama and the passion, or the comedy strewn in with the intricately woven characters. Instead, it’s often a single line that found its way inside you and has no plans of abandonment.

Sometimes (most of the time) I feel like kind of an idiot when people say, “How did you like Italy?” or “Where was your favorite place to go?” and I can only sputter as I try to string together an answer that can somehow sum up the endless amount of thoughts churning in my head. I feel like I talk so much that people just want me to shut up- which is a rare feat considering I’m talking about- subjectively- one of the most breathtaking countries in the world. 

However, once in a while some of my words actually hit a chord, undetected from me until I’m told. I can’t see it in their face and I can’t hear it in their voice, but sometimes, a person will say to me, I went there because of you. And, in turn, this hits a chord of mine more than seeing any photograph or reading any blog post ever would.

Today, my 50-or-so mousy and giddy mother called me to tell me that in November, she will be going to Italy. While there, she will visit the Amalfi Coast (and within it in particular, Sorrento and Capri), Naples (Pompeii), and Rome. Her old college is planning a trip for alumni for an unreasonably good price for a nine-day-trip.

Let me clarify here- my mother doesn’t have a passport. She doesn’t even drive at night. Living alone at her house in the forest, she locks her bedroom door at night, as well as exterior doors. But she told me that when she got the email offer for the trip, she could only think I have to. I have to see what Jenna saw. 

It is words like this that makes me believe that all of my ranting, my photographs, and my endless blog posts are all worth it. If one person out there listens, even it’s just my own mother, it becomes so unbelievably worth it that it feels like a steal.


How To Live

So right now I am in my NEW BED! Well, not really new. Actually it’s borrowed from our realtor but whatever it’s new to me. The point is that I have moved once again, but this time it’s back to school for my LAST SEMESTER! Great now I’m depressed.

Anyway, as I was moving in, I looked at the piles of junk that my mother and I deposited on my bed. Bags and bags of clothes, printers, fans, jewelry boxes, backpacks… and two lone suitcases. The two suitcases that I was allowed to bring for my semester in Italy. That’s it. Two suitcases.


And you know what’s funny? As I looked at this giant pile that was ever-growing on my bed, I wondered how much of that stuff I actually really neededI went to Italy with two suitcases, and never missed a thing. These new perfectly content suitcases that had the chance to see the world. I visited seven other countries during my semester abroad and 15 Italian cities and had plenty to prepare me for the cold, the heat, and the ugly. So did I really need all of this stuff? No. I didn’t.

Am I going to send it back? Uhh, no. As I explained to my mother I had already spent a semester wearing the same shirt basically every day and that was just fine but I like having my closet back. But looking at that pile and sorting through my junk, it became clear that although travel teaches you how to deal with new people, new cultures, and new habits, it also teaches you how to live.