Posted by: Nicole Marie Stewart | February 19, 2009

Eating Out & How to Avoid the Tourist Trap

One of the best things about exploring another culture is getting to sample its cuisine. Regardless of where you are, you’re bound to find a dish that you’ve never tried before.

My best advice for finding the perfect restaurant and avoiding the tourist trap? Ask around! Books, Google and tourist pamphlets will guide you to popular (and often delicious) restaurants, and they are definitely worth checking out. But sometimes the best meals can be found at the local, mom-and-pop restaurants (or stands, or shacks, or holes-in-the-wall, depending on where you are!). Your hostel manager or taxi driver might have a favorite spot that hasn’t been discovered by the masses.

Even if you’re not up to going all Anthony Bourdain on your trip, it’s still worth it to try the local cuisine. Check out ceviche in Peru, bratwurst in Germany, or that weird fishy-smelling dish in a faraway land you never thought you’d try. Regardless, just make sure you’re up to sampling new things, as that is what traveling is all about!

While I’m the subject of things to remember while you’re abroad, check out Lori Hein’s list of the 10 Commandments for travelers. If there were 11 allowed, I’d definitely add on “Thou shall try one dish that thou hast never consumed before.”

Bon apetit!


Posted by: Nicole Marie Stewart | February 12, 2009

Sleeping around…

…your host country, that is!

For some people, simply finding a flat surface to crash on is enough to ensure a good night’s sleep. But for those who are a little more picky about their sleeping accomodations, the Web has plenty of resources.

When I was traveling, I relied heavily on two resources: my Moon books and HostelWorld, both of which have ratings for hostels. I’d often compare what the two resources said when deciding where to stay.

Different things are important for different people when it comes to staying in a hostel. For me, it was safety, single-sex rooms, and hot showers. I preferred quiet locations to rowdy ones, but there are definitely options for travelers looking to party. HostelWorld and travel books have pretty good descriptions, and most web sites offer the option of choosing your ammenities, so if you’re set on having a pool to cool off in, you can narrow your search by selecting that preference.

 One trick I picked up while traveling in Chile and Peru was to ask hostel workers at the place where I was staying if they had any recommendations for the next city I was going to visit. Sometimes, you’ll find out the hostel has another branch in that city. Others, you’ll just walk away with someone’s word that the next place won’t have leaky ceilings or stinky beds.

A last option is checking out a site that links travelers with hostel jobs, like Hostel Jobs, which links hostels looking for workers with people looking for hostel jobs (makes sense, right?).  And you can always check out other blogs, like Hostel Blog, a spin-off of HostelWorld, for more advice on specific travel options!

Until next time –



Posted by: Nicole Marie Stewart | February 5, 2009

Getting started

Hi again!


Before you even begin your big trip, you need a place to start. 


It helps to know the layout of the country or continent you’re visiting; for instance, if you know you want to visit Argentina, Chile, Peru and Brazil, you need to make sure you’ll have enough time to get to all of those countries on your trip.


You might want to get a travel map for your country or continent. Travel maps usually include important information about your destination, including major transportation routes, listings of national parks, a brief history, locations of tourist attractions and time zone information. They’re a good look at the layout of your destination as well as what do to when you’re there.


Next, you’ll want to book your flight. Check out traditional Web sites like Travelocity and Orbitz, but also check out  STA Travel’s site if you’re a student or under the age of 26. When you’re ready, STA also offers discounts on rail passes and hostels throughout the world.


One traveling secret I picked up along the way in South America: Web sites like Travelocity and Orbitz are a great place to check for flights, but smaller, localized airlines often aren’t listed on those big-name sites. Often, travel books like Moon and Lonely Planet list local airlines in the backs of their books. You can also google airlines by country; enter the name of your country plus the word “airlines.” Smaller airlines might have less frequent flights, but they can often save you a bunch of money.


Those are two essential starting-off points for planning your trip. Next time, I’ll get in to finding the best place to stay and eat in the country you’re visiting.




Posted by: Nicole Marie Stewart | January 28, 2009


Hi! My name is Nicole Stewart and I am 22 years old. I’m a senior at Arizona State University, and in my fall semester I had the opportunity of my lifetime: to study abroad in South America. During my five months there, I did a lot more sightseeing than I did actually studying.

In my travels, it always helped to have someone or something to turn to when I needed advice on the cities to visit, the places to eat and the things I should avoid. I hope this site helps you plan out some of the elements of your Big Trip so that you, too, can eventually fulfill a dream.

Whether you’ve been waiting your whole life to embark on a world adventure or you spontaneously decided to take a trip, planning a few aspects of your journey is essential. Yes, leaving some (or most) of the trip unplanned leaves room for mishaps or extra days in a place you discover you love, but in order to make the most of your time, it’s important to have a loose itinerary. Hopefully, this site will be a good starting point.

Until next time, check out some of the blogs on Travelblog. You can choose which country you want to read blogs from, and they’re ordered by newest entries first. There’s some good daydream material in there!



On a side note: The photo in the header was taken in northern Chile while hangliding over a city called Iquique. Amazing! For more info on Iquique, check out this tourism site on the city.