Like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love . . . I bought 3 tickets.

Definition of in-between (adjective or noun): 

a person or thing that is between two extremes, two contrasting conditions

The travel writing in this blog will focus on what I have coined “in-between travel.”

When researching the idea of traveling around the world, I found a ton of information from “budget travel” bloggers. I’d describe these writers as mostly in their twenties and planning trips on budgets of roughly $50 dollars per day. I found these blogs very informative; they gave me a baseline and amazing ideas to moderate my current standard of travel to a more sustainable level.  And yet, I am a woman in her thirties who enjoys good wine, great food and a little indulgence. I didn’t want to forego comfort or style to extend my travels.

True “budget” traveling did not suit me, in the same way luxury travel did not fit my bank account. I was in-between traveling.

Though your definition could be a bit different, in-between travel for me currently excludes the following: couch surfing, hitchhiking, the Mandarin Oriental (sad face), business class flights (unless upgraded for free) and five star restaurants on the regular. I did not want to sell all my possessions nor stretch my budget down to nickels and dimes, or spend my last penny for that matter. I knew making the most out of my trip meant prioritizing quality over quantity. I was also factoring in traveling alone and asking where would I be comfortable, safe and around other people who share my interests? On this note, the idea of hostels and overnight trains seemed completely overwhelming. But taking advantage of the complimentary hotel breakfasts, finding free walks offered around cities and “getting local” to avoid the tourist price-tag sounded perfect.

So I started researching and booking things that fit, ultimately locking-in 45 days of flights and hotels. Booking 45 days of travel somewhat limits my flexibility, but I am a planner by nature (cough, understatement) and since this is my first solo trip around the world, I was more comfortable with an established game plan. On the positive side, I took advantage of early bird discounts; in my experience, booking hotels in-advance got me 15% to 25% off.

In retrospect, I am sure my 45 day budget overlooks a ton of loopholes that would have allowed me to travel longer and farther. But I gladly embrace naiveté. Though experience and perspective are wonderful, I only have one “first trip around the world”. I am trying to savor every moment of the process as it evolves.

Like Elizabeth Gilbert, I bought three tickets. My starting point is Los Angeles and from home, I am off to New Zealand, Bali and Europe (Specifically, Portugal and Spain . . .so far).

My budget for the first 45 days is averaging $200 per day and this is what I did:

Step 1: Settled on a savings plan and life accommodations that made traveling around the world possible.                                              

I could not travel the world and also carry the overhead of an apartment, so I moved back in with my parents to save money for three months. I added a two-hour commute to work (each way), but saved $2,500k a month in fixed costs (rent/bills/etc). My current overhead is a monthly storage unit costing $110 a month. And actually, my massive commute has been a positive thing; I am insanely up-to-date on local and world news and have A LOT of time to think.

I also started making boarding arrangements for Zoe, my favorite girl ever. Zoe is a 13-year old Shih Tzu and the main reason I would have not booked my ticket.

Step 2: Began the art of travel hacking.

Importantly, I began the art of travel hacking a la Nomadic Matt to turn my everyday spending and travel costs into airline and hotel points.

Before I booked anything, I specifically remeber riding my Linus bike furiously to Barnes and Noble booksin Santa Monica one foggy Sunday morning. I stocked up on Lonely Planet books, maps, etc . . . I needed something physical. First small regret, I would not have purchased the books. They are great, but super heavy. I CANNOT carry these books around the world. First lesson learned, I will only download travel books from now on. 

Although, if you are interested in budget or “in-between” travel I suggest you purchase (the one exception) or download How to Travel the World on $50 A Day immediately. I am implementing his banking tips for my trip (multiple easy options for avoiding fees), have already seen the huge benefits of getting the right credit cards, will be purchasing travel discount cards, and use his easy every day tips, such as taking advantages of lunch specials. This book is essential.

I just started implementing the “travel hacking” credit card techniques 3 months ago and have already seen the benefits:

  • 4 nights at the Valverde Hotel a 5 star hotel in Lisbon, Portugal (#1 out of 235 hotels on Trip Advisor) and transportation from airport to hotel for $87.04. I used my Chase Sapphire points earned (points 63,036 = value $787.96)

 Step 3: Stopped thinking. Started booking.

It is never a “good time” or “smart idea” to quit your job and spend money on travel, especially in your thirties. I have heard these well-intentioned concerns many times over the last few months.

But I kept coming back to regret. I’ve never had regret about taking vacation, about traveling to experience the world. I’ve never felt my time or money was better spent in another way. Have you?

Truth be told, I wish I was paying for diapers and adorable baby clothing (cue every mom, eyes rolling and heads spinning). But I am not there yet. I could be saving for the potential cost of freezing my eggs or padding my 401k. But coming off a surreal year, that feels like investing in a reality that is fuzzy and distant. Plus, I’ve let my biological clock dictate for too long.

Aha moment: What I have TODAY is time, independence and savings from hard work over the last fifteen years. Think I’ll go with it.

Like the Rolling Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want – but if you try sometimes well you might find – you get what you need.”

Step 5: Didn’t second guess my plan

After I booked New Zealand and Bali, I saw so many interesting articles on Australia. Actually as luck has it, I rented my apartment to an adorable Australian gal who gave me amazing recommendations. The email highlighted Top Long Lunch and Dinner options in Sydney to Byron Bay Musts (um . . .reroute!). But thinking “would a, should a, could a” would have driven me crazy. I came up with a well-thought plan, so I am sticking with it and learning from it.


  1. So great! Good for you Rissa! Hope you have an amazing trip and I look forward to reading your adventures along the way 🙂

    1. Thanks Nicki. So good to hear from you. Looks like this is going to be a exciting year for you too . . .congratulations on your engagement! That’s wonderful!!!

  2. Your blog was passed along to me by Elizabeth, I’m so glad I found it… You write beautifully, and I’m looking forward to following your adventures over the next few months! Best of luck on your journey

    1. Meghan! So wonderful to hear from you . . .thank you so much. I got a little update on you this Summer from Candice. Hope all is well with you and your family.

  3. Rissa,

    This is the first time in hearing about the updates going on in your life. I’m so sorry to hear about your whirlwind year (been there), but I’m so excited for your trip! Let me know if I can help- I love traveling too and have been to Europe (Spain and Portugal included) several times!

    Best of luck to you, girl!

    1. Thanks Laila . . .Yes it has been a whirlwind, but the bad times make the good times so much better. Um, yes, I ALWAYS love any recommendations. So far I have Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona booked (would love any suggestions of highlights for those spots). From Barcelona the path is undetermined (and would love your favorite places nearby to go). It is really good to hear from you!

      1. You articulated your feelings so well to the point that I really felt like you were speaking about what I went through too. This next step towards self-discovery is so therapeutic and so important, and honestly, we are lucky to be faced with this challenge because at the end you discover all those things about yourself you thought you knew but you didn’t. I’m stoked for you, and I’m here if you ever want to talk.

        As far as recs, in Lisbon, make a trip to Sintra Castle. You can get there by metro and it’s about 30 minutes away. It’s breathtaking. Porto is really fun, but one thing I learned about the Portuguese is that they’re not very good at giving directions!!! So, if I were you, I would ask the hotel concierge the best way to get to the best beaches. Don’t rely on the average joe in the street!

        Barcelona is a beautiful city- it’s full of Gaudi’s architecture and the Sagrada Familia cathedral is there. There is also a tiny Juan Miro museum and a tiny Picasso museum full of his illustrations. Check those out. In Spain you can get good bottles of Spanish wine for 2 euros and drink on the beach. That’s the best part.

        Other places in Spain I would recommend: I loved Madrid- they have the oldest restaurant in the world where you can eat some bomb Paella. There’s also a 4 story nightclub called Capital that’s super fun- but the clubs in Spain actually don’t start getting full til about 2am and don’t close til 6am! What the Spanish do is take naps after lunch (everything closes down from about 1pm-3pm) and then eat a late dinner like at 11pm then hit the club around 2.
        From Madrid you can take a day trip to Toledo, which is an ancient fort city (and the site of one of the Twilight movies!) and it’s beautiful. Their claim to fame is scissors(!) so buy some from there.
        Grenada is in the south and it’s very nice too- lots of Arab and Moorish influence and has the most beautiful mosque you can walk around in and take pics called the Alhambra. You can also catch a Flamenco show there since that’s where it originated.
        There’s also Ibiza, which you take a ferry from Benidorm and it’s pretty quick. I also went by myself and felt very safe, so you will be fine if you want to go!
        That’s about all I can think of now, but if you have any questions or if I think of anything else I’ll message you. HAVE A BLAST!

    1. Isn’t it crazy to think you bought Gigi on impulse while working in Dallas and how that has changed your life? Zoe’s personality is getting so cute as she gets senior:) Thanks for the encouragement . . .Hope all is well!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *