A Homestay in Lembeni

While in Tanzania, I decide to spend four nights with a family in a local village. I am already in Moshi and walk to the local bus station to catch a bus to Lembeni. The Moshi bus station is insane. Actually insane. There are dozens of men with boxes on their heads, shouting into the windows of the buses. In these boxes are snacks, drinks, cell phone accessories, and more. They are all fighting each other to make a sale to anyone on the bus. I see this and brace myself as I try to push my way through to talk to the bus driver. Umm excuse me, does this bus go to Lembeni? He looks at me with a confused face. Lembeni? Yes, Lembeni. Ummm, yes it does but why do you want to go there? I am staying with a family. He stares at me blankly but says okay and hands me a ticket.

I take a seat on the bus and about 4 hours later, the bus driver looks at me and yells, Lembeni! I make my way to the front of the crowded bus and step off alone. The bus, still full of people, pulls away into the distance. My guide is waiting for me there on the side of the road. He introduces himself and I follow him down the red clay road. The village is small but it is hard to tell how many people actually live here because there is only one road and it curves up ahead behind the houses.

We arrive to a large red gate and enter to meet my hosts, two sisters who live in the house together. I am greeted with a warm “Karibu!” (Which means welcome, and a word I will come to hear often over the next week.) Their house is one story with three bedrooms. Pretty spacious, I even get a bedroom all to myself. I drop off my things and the guide brings in an itinerary with a list of activities that we will be doing over the next few days. Plant trees in a local forest. Visit a Masaai village. Cook with my host family. Eat meals together.

Before my trip, every single person that heard I was coming to Tanzania warned me about the food. They told me. “There are not the most sanitary conditions. You will definitely get sick at some point, it is expected. When I went to Tanzania, I got really sick for a few days.” Even when I went to get my yellow fever shot, the doctor went over all of the other diseases I could get there and advised me to be careful about the food I eat while I am there. It can make me really sick. Well luckily I brought probiotics and anti-diarrhea medicine to pop before every meal. 


I am tired from the long trip and tell my host family that I am going to go to sleep for the night. The next morning, I wake up early and head to the bathroom to take a shower. I see a toilet, but no shower.

I walk in the living room. Good morning! Excuse me, where is the shower? Oh, I will prepare it for you! Would you like cold water or hot water? Wow they are really taking care of me here. Talk about hospitality. Cold water is fine. Whatever is easier. After about three minutes, she returns and leads me to the bathroom. There is one large bucket of water and a small bucket floating on top. Here you go. Okay, perfect. I quickly learn that they have no running water at all in this village. Before meals, we pass around a pitcher filled with water and one person holds the pitcher and pours out water over our hands while we wash them over a bucket.

It is the first time I have stayed somewhere without any running water. Which is actually a great experience. Each time I wash myself from that bucket, I think of the evolution of running water and wonder at what point showering became a luxury instead of a necessity. And how many times I have stood there in the shower at home, letting the hot water massage my back, not even appreciating the entire experience or that I am able to even do that at all. Anyways, more on that another day.


After breakfast, my guide picks me up and we spend the entire day planting trees together. He doesn’t say much, just watches me. In the car he asks, how old are you? I answer, thirty-five. Where is your husband? I tell him that I have been asking myself the same question! I laugh. He does not. Well do you at least have children? No. No, I do not. “Why not?” He asks. Hmmm many reasons. Well why didn’t you have children with any of your previous boyfriends? Oh wow. I guess because it just didn’t feel right. Well why don’t you go out and find someone to have children with? I mean, I am not in a rush to have children. I am fine, thanks.

But who will take care of you when you are old and can no longer take care of yourself? A question I will be asked multiple times every single day I am in Africa. So much that at the end of my trip, I left wondering, who WILL take care of me when I am older?

I respond, I don’t know. He turns to me and places his hand on my arm. Looks me in the eyes and says, what if I told you I will have children with you? Hmm well I would say that is inappropriate because you are married. I don’t know this man and the entire energy in the car has changed. I am alone. In a far away land with no cell service. A little scared of if he will try to take me up on his offer without my consent. I sit tense next to him the rest of the way home. Please just let me get back to the village and out of his car safely.


We pull up and I get out of the car, mumble goodbye, and walk into the house as quickly as possible. Welcome home! How was it? My anxiety still present but I tell them it was fine. She says, let’s go next door and meet the neighbors who are helping to prepare dinner. Okay. We walk through the gate to the house next to us. There is a woman sitting on the ground, husking corn. A pile of cow shit inches from where she is sitting. Two sickly looking cows, the size of dogs, lying on the ground next to her. Flies jumping from the cow shit to the corn and back again.

I start to feel dizzy. Nice to meet you, I say. Then turn to ask my host, “Can we go for a walk?” Sure. We say goodbye and walk around to get some fresh air. My stomach hurts already just thinking about this dinner we are about to eat. No running water. Corn with cow shit all over it. We may even be eating these sick looking cows for dinner. We head back to the house just as her sister is finishing up cooking dinner. We sit down. 

She puts some corn on my plate along with some mystery meat. My plate is completely full. Overflowing. More food than I can possibly eat. And I can usually eat a lot. We sit there and I take a couple bites. I immediately feel sick. Most likely because of my anxiety and also knowing where this food came from. I don’t feel well, can I lay down for a moment? They look at me. You don’t feel well? We will take you to the hospital. No, no. I don’t need to go to the hospital, I just need to lay down. No, no if you can’t even eat, we will take you to the hospital. We will call your guide to come back and get you. No, please don’t.

There is a language barrier. They only speak a few words of English. I try to explain to them I don’t need to go to the hospital. Well, then eat. I don’t know much about African culture but I do know it is rude to not finish your food when eating as a guest in someone’s home. I am not sure what to do because I don’t want to go to the hospital, I don’t think I can eat this food, and I definitely do not want to spend time alone with my guide again.

They continue to sit there and stare at me, pleading that I need to go to the hospital. I try to explain to them that I am just tired but they don’t understand. They end up calling my guide to come back over and get me. He comes over and says he will take me to the hospital. I don’t need to go to the hospital. I am super frustrated at this point and his presence is not helping. I start to break down and cry. I feel overwhelmed. He asks, are you crying because you don’t have a boyfriend? No, I am crying because I can’t eat this food and I just want to lay down.

Eat your food and you will feel better. I can’t. Then you should go to the hospital. I eat a few more spoonfuls of food and tell them I am sorry but I am finished. I head to my room. As I close my eyes, I can’t help but be thankful I only have two more days left here.


The next morning, one of the women comes in and asks how I am doing. I tell her, thank you, I feel better. She comes up to me, looks me in the eyes, and tells me that she just wants me to feel happy. If I don’t want to eat something, that is okay. Just speak up and tell them. She smiles and hugs me. I can’t help but let out a big smile and feel so much better inside. Breakfast is ready, she says.

I walk out of my room and can tell they must have talked about the situation from the night before because they are extra sweet to me. We share breakfast with only a few words but many smiles. They tell me they are going to church and I say I would like to join. It is always interesting to see the traditions of different religions and cultures. It turns out it is a very special day at church. After an hour long ceremony, we parade around the village singing songs, stopping to light candles. It is really amazing to see how much everyone enjoys this. And I love even more how no one looks at me strange for joining them.

After church, we head to a nearby market and I stand there while my host talks and laughs with her friends. I always enjoy seeing how people live. It makes me really think about how this is what their everyday life is like. So different than mine. Yet the feelings are the same.

The rest of the day we spend at their home. People from the village stop by at various times throughout the day and sit down on the couch with us. All talking to each other and just smiling at me. She tells me they heard I was in town and wanted to come and meet me. Such a good feeling and I love seeing how much they welcome everyone who stops by their home, with a loud “Karibu,” offering them drinks and cookies.


The day has come for me to leave and I am genuinely sad. I feel like misunderstandings in the beginning somehow brought us closer. While this homestay was initially hard for me, it was good in that it really brought me out of my comfort zone. Once I became aware of the cultural differences, I was able to embrace them more fully. This is what traveling (and life in general) is all about. You go in thinking one thing and then if you have an open mind, you realize things were completely different than you expected. It is both eye opening and humbling.

Many people in this part of Africa, and in many other cultures as well, do have children so that they have someone to look after them when they are older. When my guide offered, I now honestly believe that he was genuinely trying to help me. I also realized that in a village as small as this, when someone gets sick, it can get pretty bad. My hosts were only trying to help me as well. And I think the warnings about food before the trip had tainted my perspective a bit. Because the food I did eat, was absolutely delicious. And I never actually did get sick while traveling in Tanzania. And as usual, I ate everything.

What I thought was a bad situation was really just love, all around me. I learned a lot about myself during those four days. While we didn’t actually do all that much, I experienced more than I ever imagined that I would. If you ever have the chance to spend time in someone else’s home in a different country, I highly recommend it. I am so thankful that these two women were willing to open up their home and share a part of their lives with me.

I still don’t want any older man that I don’t know, to get me pregnant, but now that I know more about the culture, I can strangely say that I really do appreciate the offer.

Follow That Bus

It is 7:45am on December 25, 2018. I wake up to the sound of a man’s voice shouting something. I open one eye and hear the same man talking but there is a curtain separating us. I look toward the bottom of the curtain and can only see his legs as he continues walking to the next person. Where am I? How did I get here. As I look around, my brain becomes less foggy and I start to remember. I am on a bus somewhere in India. I sit up and pull back the curtain that is hanging in between me and the rest of the bus.

About 8 hours ago, I hopped on an overnight bus to get from Hampi to Bangalore and must have fallen asleep. I usually can’t sleep on public transportation but these sleeper buses are so comfortable. They are like a hostel on wheels. I look around. It is daylight outside. Shit, hopefully I didn’t miss my stop. I pull up Google Maps on my phone to see where we are. Yup, totally missed my stop.

Right then, the bus pulls to a screeching stop and I hear the front doors open. Guess I will get off here. I gather my things, walk off the bus, grab my luggage from underneath, and sit down on the curb to figure out where I am and where I need to go. I have a flight later that evening but am not exactly sure what time it takes off. Probably a good thing to check. I reach for my cell phone. Fuckkk. I left it on the bus. I look up just in time to see the bus pull away into the crowded streets of Bangalore.

I am not so much worried about the actual phone (even though it sadly is the most valuable thing I own). I am more worried about all that is saved on my phone. We don’t realize how connected we have become to our cell phones until we don’t have access to them. Our lives have become so entangled into our apps that we can barely function without them. No Spotify. No Uber. No email. No camera. No photos. Without our phones, we are forced to deal with the world the old fashioned way. Although I am a huge believer in disconnecting, it doesn’t change the fact that the info for the rest of my trip is stored on there. All my flights. All my hotel bookings. My entire itinerary for the next 5 months. And Google Maps. My best friend when traveling alone in a foreign land.


The only other people who got off the bus with me at that stop are a nice couple who I had spoken with briefly the evening before. They look over at me and I am sure they can see the despair in my eyes as I sit there on the concrete. They walk over to me and ask if everything is okay. Yes. I left my phone on the bus and don’t know where I am or how I am supposed to call an Uber. I also don’t know what time my flight is. Or how to get to the airport. The length of my answer shows how I immediately jumped into the frustrated, feel sorry for myself mode. This isn’t their problem. I look up at them. Thanks for asking. I appreciate you. I will figure it out.

I sit on the curb and like I do sometimes when I am overwhelmed and lost in a foreign country, I start to cry. Just to let the frustration out of my system. A car pulls up next to us and I see the back passenger door open as the couple starts to get into their Uber. Standing and holding the back passenger door of the car open, they are still looking over at me. I see them whisper to each other as the guy continues to get in the car. The girl walks over to me. She says to me. Come. Get in. We will chase that bus and try to help you find your phone. Wow, okay. Thank you.


I take a seat in the front next to the driver and they sit in the back. They are locals and explain to the driver where we are going and what to do. As the Uber starts to move in the direction of where the bus headed, they repeatedly try to call the bus company to ask where the next stops are and see if they are able to somehow get in contact with the driver. No luck. But this sure is exciting. Kind of like we are in an action movie, chasing a bus that has my cell phone on it. Which has a bomb planted inside. And if we don’t get to it to answer the call when the bad guy calls it. Well, you can imagine the rest. Boom.

We continue to drive for about twenty minutes but it is pretty much just stop and go the entire time. There is so much traffic. I look around. So many buses. Dozens. Seriously they are all over the place. Goats walking the city streets on the sides of the road. A typical scene in India. I turn back to them. Do you guys even remember what color our bus was or what it looks like at all? She smiles and shakes her head no. Me either. Inside I give up. This seems like a hopeless task. I don’t think we are going to find it. If you guys want to just let me out here…Just as I am saying this I hear the back car door open and see the guy get out of the car.

The door slams shut and I see him running ahead of us, in between the hundreds of cars stuck in traffic. I ask her. What is he doing?! Where is he going?! He is going to try to find the bus. Oh my gosh. Wow. Okay. I am unsure what to say. I watch him zigzag through the traffic ahead along side all of the motorbikes, all of them just trying to make their way through all of the stopped cars. I lose sight of him and we both sit there in silence for a few minutes. I am thinking, this dude is crazy. And he is doing this all for me. My heart is melting.

Her cell phone rings. When she hangs up, she tells me. He found the bus but he does not see any cell phone there. He says he will wait on the bus for you. They are pulled on the side of the road a little ways up ahead. Go meet him so that you can look for yourself to make sure.

I open the door of the Uber and step into the now moving traffic. I start running in the middle of two lanes, cars and buses honking on both sides of me as they swerve around me, trying not to hit me. This may seem crazy anywhere else but this is India so I feel like maybe they are used to these kinds of things.

Finally, up ahead, I see a bus pulled over on the side of the road and the guy is standing there waving to me. I head to my seat to see if I can find my phone. Look under the blanket, behind the seat, everywhere. No phone. Well shit. I give the driver my name and email address and ask him to let me know if it turns up. I am now over the loss of my phone, more amazed that we actually found the bus.

We see that the Uber has caught up to us and is making it’s way over through the lanes to the side of the road. It pulls up behind the bus and we both get back in. Hey guys, I appreciate your help and for going out of your way to help me find my phone. That means a lot to me but you can just let me out here and get to where you need to be. I’ll flag down a cab and just head to the airport. No, we will take you to a Starbucks. You will need wifi so that you can use your laptop. Ask someone there for help connecting to the internet. If that doesn’t work, there are two more coffee shops on the corner with wifi. I thank them and hand them money to pay for the Uber. No, no, we won’t take it. We just wanted to help you.


I get to the Starbucks and the girls working there are so sweet helping me get connected and making sure I have everything I need. I spend a few hours there checking my flight times and figuring out where I am going to go once I land. Time to head to the airport. Reach for my phone to order an Uber. Habits. Well this is frustrating. Hmmm, how exactly am I going to get there. I haven’t seen any taxis around here. Ugh.

I promise you that the same second that I am thinking this, a guy at the table in front of me randomly turns around and looks at me. Is there something I can help you with?  Wow can this dude read my mind or what. Hmm actually, I am trying to get to the airport but don’t have a cell phone to order an Uber. He says he can order one for me. Thank you so much, that is so kind of you. I sit down to pack up my laptop and at that exact moment see a new message pop up on Facebook. Hello, Jill. We have your phone and have been trying to get ahold of you. What?! I sit down to reply. Hello! Where are you? They send me their location. Only twenty minutes away. Okay, on my way. The nice guy at Starbucks orders an Uber for me and off I go.


Twenty minutes later, we pull up to the address they gave me. I see two guys standing outside waiting for me. They ask me what my phone looks like to confirm that it is indeed mine and then hand it over. Ahhh! How did you guys find it? They tell me. Our friends did. They said you left it on the bus so they grabbed it for you. Since they had to go to work, we felt like it was our responsibility to track you down. We didn’t want you to look back on your trip to India and remember it as the country where you lost your phone. We want you to remember your time here as enjoyable.

But how did you know who I was or how to contact me if my phone was locked? We noticed the Gelato for Breakfast sticker on the back of your case so we looked it up and found your blog. We then were able to find you through a link to your Facebook page. Wow, I actually had only put that sticker on the night before, when I was on that same bus ride. Talk about synchronicity. 

That is so sweet of you. Thank you. They ask me if I want to come in for some coffee. No, actually I need to get to the airport. Okay, here we will take you to the shuttle. They flag down a tuk-tuk, ride with me to make sure I get on the right shuttle, and even pay for the tuk-tuk ride. I really hope these two guys get everything they want in life and more. By the way, don’t you guys need to be at work or something? No, it is a holiday. It is? Ummm, Christmas. Oh. I didn’t even realize that. Well Merry Christmas! And thanks again.

So here I am, sitting on a bus on my way to the airport. Feeling so loved. India, you are chaotic, crazy, unpredictable, overwhelming, vibrant, and the absolute sweetest. Today I fell into your arms and trusted you and you led the way. You took care of me in a way that warmed my heart and forever left a mark on it. Today, I was reminded how many times when you need help, people seem to randomly appear in your life out of nowhere. Even if only for a moment. To help lead you in the right direction. By saying something you needed to hear. Or helping you in some way, to move forward so that you don’t stay stuck.

For me, these lovely strangers seemed to fall into my life that day at exactly the right moment. One after the other. All in order. As if the Universe was planting them there for me to guide me. In the direction of not only finding my cell phone, but also toward remembering that sometimes not being ‘connected’ on your phone can lead you down a path of real, deeper connection. By forcing you to live in the moment and interact with all that is around you. The love I felt today was a way greater gift than getting my phone back. I may be far away from all of my friends and family this year, but this was a day I will never forget. On Christmas, you reminded me that the greatest gift of all is the gift of love and connection.

French Kissing French Men

Traveling solo and being single at the age of thirty-five has taught me a lot. Mostly about myself, but also about how conditioned we are as humans to believe we need to follow a certain path in life. The Path. Grow up. Go to school. Get a job. Move out. Get married. Have children. Retire. It blows my mind how most humans on this planet accept this to be the way with no real reason as to why. We don’t really question why we are even following it. We subconsciously have become conditioned to follow it and hit all of the checkpoints so that we can gauge how close we are to ‘achieving happiness’. So we play the game. It is just what we are supposed to do. It is the only way we know how.

There is nothing wrong with The Path, except we for some reason believe it is the only path. And no one teaches us what to do if any of these things don’t happen. If we aren’t on track to hit the next checkpoint, we start to freak out. We get depressed, wonder what is wrong with us. We feel inadequate compared to all of the other humans walking along side of us who have gone to school, graduated, have a good job, and are now in a relationship or engaged and on track to get married. One day we are right next to them, strolling along toward the next checkpoint, and then all of the sudden we get dumped, our relationship ends, or we get fired from our job. And we are forced to start all over. Like the board game, Sorry! You must move your piece back to ‘Start’ and begin all over again. Sit on the sidelines as you watch others moving their pieces up the final stretch toward ‘Home.’


I would eventually like a long term relationship. And because I don’t have one, there are times when I unconsciously find myself start to compare where I am to what others are doing. I start to feel inadequate because I am single. Because I am not where I am ‘supposed to be.’ Even though inside, I am generally happy. But still, from time to time I start to have these thoughts like what is wrong with me? Will I ever meet someone I actually like? What do others think of me? Are my parents worried? What if I do end up alone? Who will take care of me when I can no longer take care of myself?

And then I think, okay. Alone, that is an interesting concept. It is true that I don’t have one person, the same person, to share all of my experiences with. But that still doesn’t mean I am actually experiencing any of this alone. I even feel more loved being single than I ever have when in a serious relationship. So why do I feel this way? Who says I have to be with one person the rest of my life by the age of 30? Why is there a certain time frame where I am supposed to meet one person and then stay with them forever?

I am single yes, but I still experience passion. Intimacy. Connection. Even more so than some people who are in long term relationships. I am not alone at all. If the Universe came to me and said, hey Jill, here is the person you will spend most of your life with. Do you want to be with him now or later. I would honestly choose a date later in my life for that to happen so that I could still do what I am doing now. I want to learn more about myself, meet different types of people, fall in love with myself even more so that I can be a better lover to him one day. So that I can enjoy that chapter in life as much as I am enjoying this one.

And feeling this way shows me that it is not where you are on The Path that causes unhappiness. It is the uncertainty of where your path is leading. Where you will end up.


I have met so many amazing men on this journey. Most as friends. A few as lovers. All of them from different parts of the world. All of them who taught me different things. About life and about myself. 

While in The Philippines, I met this beautiful French man in passing. I thought of him the rest of the day. Tall, dark, and handsome, his hair was beautiful and his accent sexy.  That night, I was standing outside of a bar by myself waiting for my friends to meet me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the French guy walking toward me. He walks right up to me, places his hands on both sides of my head, and kisses me passionately. We look at each other in the eyes for a moment in silence. My heart fluttering. I smile and walk away to meet my friends and never see him again.

There are also the deeper connections. There are a handful of men I have been fortunate enough to spend days or weeks with while traveling who have all stolen a piece of my heart. They are genuinely good people who are intelligent, deep, creative, and passionate, all which makes them extremely alluring. And if I put them in a line up, you would see how they are all so completely different from one another. Not only where they are from, but where they are on their journey in life, what they are currently struggling with, what makes them happy, even their personalities. And I love this. It is great that I can have such a deep connection with such a diverse group of men. They help me experience life through multiple perspectives, bring out different sides of my personality, and show me areas where I still have room to grow as a person. And I can honestly say that I would be interested in dating any one of them long term.

Had I met them at ‘home’, maybe that is something I would try to pursue. But traveling has also taught me how to let go. How to simply enjoy the moment. Letting go of all outcomes. How to fall in love and then say goodbye. And these are such good skills to have. Not only with love, but with anything we want. We often try to hold on to things too tightly. We try to control the outcome. And most often, the best things happen not when they are forced, but when they are free.

I also think about the type of person I eventually do want to attract and spend most of my life with. Someone who is free. Spontaneous. Self aware. Honest with themselves and others. Hungry. Intelligent. Passionate about life. And if I want to attract these things, I realize that I first, need to become them. Traveling has helped me do this. And also isn’t it so cool about the French guy? 😉


There are indeed many individuals who have followed The Path and have genuinely found happiness. But I strongly believe it is not The Path itself that produced this. Because there are also others who reach out to me and express their envy of the way I am living my life and the types of experiences I am having. They wish they could experience the same things but feel stuck. But why? They have followed the instructions. Hit all the checkpoints. Yet they still don’t feel happy or fulfilled.

I think this is because ultimately, there is not one single route to follow that leads to happiness. In order to feel truly happy, one should strive to feel at peace regardless of outside circumstances. It doesn’t matter where you are in life or what road you took to get there. It is about being able to stop right now, no matter where you are, and feel content. Not wishing you had taken a different road to get here and being okay with not knowing where you are headed.

So from now on, I want to suggest a new path. One that is not set in stone and that is unique for every individual. With twists and turns and unexpected road closures. Where there is no checkpoint that will reassure you that you are where you are ‘supposed to be’ in life. The only way to tell that you are on the right track is to decide to believe you are. Accept and love this moment. Enjoy it. All you have experienced. Where you need to grow. The struggles you continue to face. How you will overcome them or more importantly how you can embrace them. And feeling at peace in the midst of all of it.

My path looks more like this.  Grow up but continue to play. Educate myself. Learn new things. Get my dream job. Quit my dream job. Learn more. Explore the world. Fall in love with myself. Live in a bungalow on a remote island. Learn how to surf. Learn how to play harmonica. Fall in love. Have my heart broken. Make out with more French men. Become stronger. Fall in love again. Travel. Eat gelato for breakfast. Learn about different cultures. How different people think. And no matter what. Enjoy life. Every single day.

You Sneaky Little


On my way out of the US, I had a layover in China. My flight ended up being cancelled so the airline put me up in a nearby hotel for the night. As I am waiting in line to check in, I hear a girl screaming and crying hysterically. I mean it sounds like she is being tortured. I look over and see her limping from the elevator towards the lobby with a hotel clerk on her right arm. A friend or boyfriend on her left. They are holding her up, helping her walk. Did she just get stabbed? Shot? 

She is wearing shorts. I look down at her legs. Bites everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. So many bites you can barely see the color of her skin. Bed Bugs. This is the worst case I have ever seen. I mean the girl can’t even walk. It is only 7:00pm. Did she just get in bed to watch TV or has she been sleeping all day? Either way, this place must be crawling. I watch her get escorted out the sliding glass front door to the lobby and make her way towards a car. The door slides closed and her screams become nothing but a muffled memory as I turn back around to the front desk. I realize I have been holding my breath.

Hello, Jill! Welcome! I hear as I turn around and come face to face with a smiling receptionist. Here is your room key. Let us know if we can help you with anything while you are here. Uhh thank you I whisper. Still flashes of the girl screaming with her red, bumpy legs.

I take the key and turn to slowly make my way to my room. I open the door. The room looks nice and clean but my ears are still ringing from girl’s wailing cries in the lobby. I am standing in the doorway. On my right. The bathroom is big, white, and fancy. I am definitely not getting in the bed. I haven’t slept in 48 hours. Bathroom floor it is. I cover the floor with clean towels, grab my backpack as a pillow, and curl up in a little ball in the middle of the floor as I drift off to dreamland.


As I travel today, that memory still haunts me. Plus I met another girl who had really bad bed bug bites as well and believe me, it looks miserable. And no where is completely safe. Anywhere can have them. It doesn’t matter how expensive or how clean. Say you stay somewhere with one once and it crawls into your bag. Those little fuckers stay with you and even create a nice happy family to live in your stuff. With cousins and second cousins who all keep having babies as well. 

If you travel often, chances are you will come across bed bugs eventually. Especially in SE Asia. I have been traveling for four months and twice I have arrived at my hostel late at night. Too dark and tired to check my bed for them. Only to feel something crawling on my leg. I grab my cell phone, turn on the flashlight, and pull back that cover as fast as possible. Only to see that sneaky little thing trying to run away. Well, guess I can’t sleep here tonight. So I end up staying awake and sitting or standing in the lobby with all of my bags next to me, googling bed bugs. I learn everything I can about them until it is early enough to make a booking somewhere else. Not fun.

Because of these sleepless nights, and all of the research I have done, I thought I might as well use it to help others. Because why else do I know every stage in the lifecycle of a bed bug? Or how often they eat? Or what the names are of all other bugs that look like beg bugs but aren’t actually them. Because of these things, I am here to help you.


Here is some info about these creatures,  some ways to avoid them, and what to do if you do happen to cross paths. 

1. Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood. They do not live in your skin. They suck your blood and then go off and hide when they are full. They live close to where they can find human blood because they do not like to travel long distances. (Unless they can hitch a ride.) That is why they often choose to hide around your mattress, or any other place next to your bed. 

2. Bed bugs usually feed at night but can sometimes be opportunistic feeders. Especially if they are really hungry. They can survive for long periods without eating blood.

3. You can actually see bed bugs. Adults are 4-6mm in length, oval shape and a dark reddish brown in color. Babies start out the size of a grain of rice and quite often look like one. Maybe a little smaller. They are cream or clear until they suck your blood and start to live this way making them become red as they get older.

4. Adult females can lay 3 eggs per day, which hatch in around 10 days. Eggs are a white, cream color and about 1mm long.

5. Bed bugs like to hide in bed frames, or along the edging that runs along the top and bottom around all sides of your mattress. They also hide in any cracks and crevices around your bed, in picture frames, and pretty much anywhere else they can fit.

6. Before staying somewhere, I usually google the hotel or hostel name followed by bed bugs and see if any reviews come up. I have learned that some booking sites do remove reviews mentioning bed bugs after the owner confirms they have taken care of the problem. I don’t always trust this so that is why I google it.

7. When entering your accommodation, it is best to not place your bags directly on the bed until you have checked for bed bugs. Otherwise, they will easily jump in and come with you to your next destination. Total freeloaders.

8. To check for bed bugs. First, shine a flashlight along the top and bottom of your mattress looking for them. Here is what they look like. Also look for shells of their skin or eggs. Check the ridges that run along the top and bottom of the sides of the mattress. This is a prime hiding spot. Also look for dark spots or blood on the sheets and or mattress.

9. If you do find them, make sure to take a photo. (Of the bugs and the bites if you have any) This is the best way to get your money back or for the owner of your accommodation to let you out of your booking and move to a new spot. Once you leave, wash everything including your bag and make sure to put everything in a hot dryer. This is the only way to kill them.

There you have it. Bed bugs. My number two enemy after centipedes. I hope this helps you avoid them. And don’t be scared. I even know all about them and sometimes arrive to tired to care. And I am fine. Also don’t forget. Forgiveness is key. If you do get bit, don’t let them keep ruining your vacation by staying miserable. Happy travels. 🙂

An Introverted Traveler’s Survival Guide


I always knew I was introverted but had no idea to what extent until I started my long solo journey of traveling solo at the age of 35. I first noticed it when I went from hostel to hostel for the first 3 weeks of my trip. Hi Jill! Want to hang? Sure. You want to come see the waterfalls with us today? Okay. I mean part of the reason I travel is to force myself to be more outgoing and get out of my shell. This is good for me, right?

I am not one for small talk and never have been. Therefore, I prepared myself with a few staples that can easily be used on the road. Where are you from? How long have you been traveling? When did you get here? How long are you staying? Where else have you been? Where to next? These usually get me by enough to find a tangent we are both interested in going on for a bit about. (ie. You went to Sri Lanka?! Did you stay in the mountains? Eat the food? I can’t stop thinking about it!)  People you meet traveling are so friendly, it is almost like they travel just to meet other people and talk to them, without taking a break. I get it but can’t relate.

So one night, I am sitting at dinner with some new friends for the third night in a row. Me just sitting there, listening to them all talk to each other. I am tired. Exhausted actually. Drained. I need alone time, badly. It is the only place I can recharge to handle these type of situations.

A guy next to me asks me where I am going next. I tell him. India. As this exchange takes place, it is all of the sudden like I am having an out of body experience watching myself, hearing myself have the same conversation I have had hundreds of times before. I no longer feel I am having real or meaningful conversations. Am I am a robot! What is happening? I get extremely dizzy and feel like I am going to faint. Anxiety rises up in my chest. Is this real? Have I really become a robot? I feel like I have been drugged. Ahh get me out of here, pronto. Hey guys, I am exhausted, you can go on without me tonight. I head back to the hostel to hide.

It is early, only 8pm. Maybe no one will be there. I arrive. Ahh, this hostel has pregame festivities? Beer pong and a bunch of drunk frat bros in the common area fill the scene before me. Excuse me. Pardon me. Can I please get through? Squeezing my way through the shouting cheers and high fives, just trying to get to my dorm room. Yes, finally. I made it. I open the door. It is quiet except for one person asleep who just arrived. PEACE. I made it. I can relax. Until they get home. Hurry up and sleep.


I used to go on vacations to meet as many people as possible, fit as many experiences as I possibly can into my itinerary before I have to return home. The difference now, I don’t have a home. At this point, the whole world is my home. I quickly realize I have become a different type of traveler. This is not just a week long holiday for me this time, this is my life. I am not just traveling, I am a traveler.

When you are living on the road, you meet so many people, always asking you to come explore with them. This is a wonderful thing about traveling. It is easy to get caught up in thinking you should experience all of these things. Your mind gets lost in vacation mode and it can easily burn you out if you are in it for the long haul. On this trip, I still want to experience things, just experience them more deeply. Instead of small talk with one thousand strangers, I want to have deeper conversations and really connect with a smaller number of people. I still want to party, but I want to experience life in the culture I am in as well. I am not looking for a week long getaway, I am craving experiences that enrich my life.


If you are introverted but still want to enjoy the company of others while traveling, you have to learn balance. Ahhh, balance. I was initially intimidated that I was too reserved to meet anyone. I quickly realized that even if I try to hide, someone will find me, peak around the corner, and try to befriend me. Which is a great thing about traveling. This did however, force me to make sure I have balance in my life so that I don’t get burnt out. Here are some things I have learned that hopefully will help you if you are as introverted as I am.

Look at me, I have friends! 🙂

1) Pod Hostels. Yes, a box to hide in! The best. Obviously it is best if you have your own room, but it isn’t always budget friendly depending on which country you are in. If you want to meet people but also have the sanctuary of your own space, pod hostels are the greatest. Pod hostels still have a shared living space, but offer you more privacy because your bed is enclosed by either walls, or curtains. You can literally shut out the outside world. I have found that many boutique pod hostel accommodations are popping up which are usually cleaner and house more of an older crowd. 

2) Coworking Hostels. Many “startup” hostels are popping up around the world geared toward the digital nomad. This means you can get work done but still network and socialize at the same time. I have found that these are often full of travelers who work remotely, spending their days working hard but still socializing in the evenings. It is a great place to get the balance you are looking for if you are traveling long term.

3) Learn how to say no. If you are traveling alone, you are bound to have people ask you to come out with them. Every single day even. You might feel like you need to make new friends so you should say yes. It is okay to tell them no and that you will hang with them later. The reason you are traveling is likely to enrich your own personal experience. If you don’t want to go see a waterfall, tell them no, you will catch them later because you have things you need to do. Or if you don’t feel like going out drinking that night, you don’t have to say yes just because you are on “holiday.” You aren’t on holiday, this is your life! Do whatever you want. (The whole meaning behind Gelato for Breakfast, remember?!)

4) Pace yourself. When you are only in a place for a limited amount of time, you can sometimes put pressure on yourself like you should be out doing things. You don’t have to explore like a tourist. Just because you are visiting a place for the first time, doesn’t mean you have to see all of the tourist sites. Or even feel pressured to see anything at all. There is also something amazing about experiencing a place like you live there. Working and then going out for lunch. Hitting the beach and then coming back to your place to relax is a great way to also experience a new place. 

5) Forget the small talk. I honestly don’t even know how to answer the question, “Where are you from?” (Am I from Missouri or California? Where do I live if I don’t have a home? The world is my home. Help.). Try forcing yourself to ask deeper questions to actually get to know the person. “Where have you traveled that most feels like home for you?” “What type of experiences do you feel enrich your life the most?” Or try doing more things where you meet like minded people and deeper conversation comes more naturally. Go to a yoga class. Learn how to surf. Do something that puts you out of your comfort zone that you can experience for the first time, together with others.

These are a few things I have learned on the road to help me stay at peace. I can now can embrace the influx of amazing people who seem to throw themselves at me. (This happens no matter how cool you are, believe me.) Now that I know how to keep balance in my life and stay sane, comes the next step. Learning how to open myself up and let people in so that I can have more connection in my life. A work in progress, but don’t worry. Blog coming soon. 🙂