A Traveler’s Manifesto: 30 Travel Rules to Live By

A Traveler’s Manifesto: 30 Travel Rules to Live By

As travelers of the world, we have a unique opportunity to break down barriers, foster cultural exchange, and create a positive impact on communities around the world. We can banish stereotypes of our own cultures, stimulate the local economy, and bring fresh ideas and perspectives.

Travel can be a life-changing experience — not only for the destination you are visiting but also for yourself. It helps us walk away a better version of ourselves and with a better understanding of the world.

Yet too often, travelers become the worst versions of themselves — throwing up on streets, being obnoxious to locals, demanding that places conform to their needs, contributing to waste and overtourism, and ignoring local customs.

Too many travelers treat destinations as their personal hedonistic plaything.

Therefore, in order to foster positive social exchange, get the most out of travel, and be awesome, I say, as we begin this new year, we take the following pledge so we can be the kind of people other travelers want to know and locals don’t hate, as well as better for it:

1. I will read about where I’m going before I get there.

2. I will be respectful of local cultures and customs.

3. I will learn some phrases in the local language.

4. I will try one thing I’m afraid of.

5. I will not turn cheapness into a competition, since travel is not a race to the bottom.

6. I will eat the local food.

7. I will not haggle over less than a dollar.

8. I will not be a loud, obnoxious traveler that demands that locals conform to my values.

9. I will have patience.

10. I will be humble.

11. I will have no regrets about partying until dawn, but I will be respectful of my hostel dorm mates and their sleep.

12. I will learn to hold my liquor. If not, I will limit my intake.

13. I will understand that traveling is not an excuse to give up on personal hygiene.

14. I will not ask fellow travelers the same questions over and over again; instead, will get to know them beyond where they are going, where they’ve been, and how long they are traveling for.

15. I will not turn travel into a competition, since it is a personal experience.

16. I will not tell people how many places I’ve been, because no one cares except me.

17. I will not whine about how a destination was so much better ten years ago, nor will I listen to those who do.

18. I will not judge people on how often they return to a destination.

19. I will not be a smugly superior backpacker and judge others for how they travel.

20. I will not judge people for not packing light or eating comfort food when they feel homesick.

21. I will remember to get off Facebook, put my camera down, and enjoy the moment.

22. I will travel slow.

23. I will have no regrets about changing plans at the last minute.

24. I will go in any direction my heart desires and follow my wanderlust.

25. I will remember that this is a privilege.

26. I will not decide if I love or hate an entire country within a few hours of being there and interacting with a handful of people.

27. I will not drink and drive. Even on a motorbike. Even in Southeast Asia. Even if everyone else is doing it. Because I value my life and the lives of others

28. I will be respectful of the environment and limit my plastic consumption.

29. I will not ride animals nor visit an animal experience that involves petting or touching that exists solely for tourist purposes.

30. I will be grateful for every stupid, amazing, unexpected, breathtaking moment on the road and all the wonderful people who enrich my life.

How to find a Teaching Job in Spain

How to find a Teaching Job in Spain

Teaching overseas is one of a great way to earn money while you travel, stay in one place longer, and get to deeply experience another culture. I spent years teaching in Thailand and Taiwan and they were some of the most impactful experiences of my traveling. Living in a foreign culture, trying to get by day to day, and learning to create a life for yourself is a surefire way to become a more confident you and give you a deeper understanding of yourself.

I get a lot of emails from people about teaching overseas and one of the most asked about destinations is Spain! While we’ve written about the destination before, I wanted to add in another perspective from someone who just did it last year.

Natasha is a local Austinite who graduated from school and moved to Spain for a year. Here she is explaining how she did it and how you can too!

Tell us about yourself!
Natasha: I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but my family moved to India when I was two months old. After a year, we moved to Australia, where I grew up until I was 9. Then we moved to Vancouver where I stayed until I was 15.

I consider myself to be from Australia, Canada, and the US in almost equal parts, and ethnically I am Indian and Pakistani. I double-majored in international relations and Latin American studies at UT-Austin.

In my free time, I make YouTube videos about travel and I am devoted to health and fitness. I also cook and practice yoga.

You recently spent some time teaching in Spain. Tell us how you got started doing that. Was it easy to figure out the process and find a job?
I studied abroad in Madrid in college. While I was there, I met some people who were English-language assistants and kept in touch with them after I returned home. I knew I wanted to take a gap year and travel after graduation, so I reached out to them and they told me about different programs I could apply for.

I looked into a few, but the government program “Auxiliares de Conversación” was free and had good reviews, so I chose to apply to that one. It allows foreigners to visit and work as teaching assistants. You’ll be paired with a teacher and help the students learn English.

The application is quite daunting. It required an essay, two letters of recommendation, a lot of legal paperwork, and other forms. The essay I wrote was about a page long, essentially a letter of intent explaining why I was interested in the program and the qualities that make me fit for the position.

The program also requires an official college transcript as well, but it accepts applicants from diverse educational backgrounds. so as long as you show keen interest, have good letters of recommendation, and have decent grades you should be fine!

I didn’t decide to join this program until the beginning of March, but I would suggest starting the process as soon as it is available in January. That will give you more time to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops. After receiving your acceptance, I suggest booking your visa appointment immediately, as these fill up fast!

Natasha, a solo female traveler and English teacher in Spain sitting on a bench
Did you have any prior teaching experience? Is experience necessary?
I didn’t have any teaching experience, and the Auxiliar de Conversación program doesn’t require you to. As long as you have (or are completing) your bachelor’s degree and are a native English speaker, you are eligible.

What was an average day like?
You are only required to work 12-16 hours a week with this program, so a workday is typically about four hours. Since we’re English-language assistants, we are paired with an English teacher and don’t have to create a curriculum for the whole class.

On an average day as an auxiliar, the teacher I worked with would mostly have me walk around and assist students with the activities she had assigned them to do. Since I was an assistant and not the main teacher, my job mostly consisted of providing help like that.

The teacher for the younger grades would have me work one-on-one with students that were falling behind or had special needs, to give them more attention, but we usually worked on the same activities as the other students. For about 10-15 minutes of the class, I would sometimes give a presentation or play vocabulary games, such as Bingo or Hangman.

I was never required to teach an entire lesson, but I would occasionally have to manage small groups of students. This allowed them to participate more since they would not be as shy to speak English (and it’s easier to control a few students than a whole class).

Regarding the actual teaching, it was the easiest and smoothest part of my time in Spain. As long as you can keep the students interested and engaged you won’t have any issues.

Did you have any unexpected challenges?
Many! I lived about an hour’s walk from my school, which was inconvenient and isolating. It took me a while to figure out the bus system, so adapting to my location was the first challenge.

However, the biggest challenge I faced was having to come back to the US for a month, because I didn’t have a visa. I was informed that I didn’t need a visa prior to entering Spain, but upon arrival, I would need to get my NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) and I would be set.

Well, when I arrived, I was the only applicant without a visa. I went to eight different foreign consulates, and no one knew if I had to leave Spain to get a visa. Ultimately I had to fly back to the US, score an almost-impossible-to-get appointment with the Spanish consulate, and get my visa. The bureaucratic system is slow and very tedious, so try to talk to former auxiliares if you can (there are lots of Facebook groups for this).

Natasha, a solo female traveler and English teacher posing at sunset
What is one thing you wish you knew before you started teaching?
I wish I knew that one person’s experience could be very different from the next. I had an amazing overall experience; however, parts of my life didn’t go as I expected.

I went in expecting to make great connections with my colleagues more than anyone else, but the environment at the school I worked at wasn’t very welcoming. A lot of teachers at my school didn’t live in the community (they commuted from pueblos as far as an hour away). This made it hard to form close friendships. Moreover, my school was comprised of teachers who were still completing their exams, so every year the teachers changed schools. That meant that the sense of community was not very strong.

Fortunately, I became friends with other auxiliares in my area and was welcomed warmly into their community. I became friends with teachers at other schools, took trips with them, and received lots of help with life in general in Spain.

What kind of salary can auxiliares expect?
Auxiliares earn a “scholarship” rather than a salary. I was paid 1,000 EUR/month ($1,100 USD) during my contract. I would say that one should expect around 700-1,000 EUR per month ($770-1,100 USD) (or about 15 EUR/hour ($16.50 USD). Auxiliares in Madrid received the same “scholarship” as I did, but the cost of living in that region is much higher.

If you are paid 700 EUR, you usually work 12 hours a week instead of 16, and you can definitely try and teach private English lessons to earn more.

Natasha, a solo female traveler and English teacher in Spain exploring
What are your top three tips for someone interested in teaching in Spain?
1. Arrive with at enough to live off of for at least three months. I was fortunate to live in a city with decent prices for accommodation. I had two roommates and spent around 250 EUR/month ($275 USD) on rent. Groceries, rent, and transportation were my main expenses, around 650 EUR ($715 USD) for all of those (plus some miscellaneous things). This left me with just a bit of money to use for travel.

In the Valencia region, the government was three months late to start paying us and always late by at least a few days to a week after the first paycheck. Since it’s not a lot of money, you’ll want to have a lot of savings. That way, if you’re paid late, you will have enough money to get by.

2. Research where you want to work. I chose Madrid as my first choice and Andalucía as my second. I would have also liked to live in Barcelona, but that wasn’t an option. I applied late to the program and existing auxiliares have priority for where they are stationed. As a new applicant (and a late one), I was sent to Valencia.

When choosing regions, be aware that a region does not necessarily mean you will end up in the city it’s named for. By that I mean, the “Madrid” region does not only mean the city of Madrid but rather the entire region around the city. Regions are like states, and so you could end up living two hours (or more) from the capital of the region.

You should also take into account the language spoken in the region. Where I lived, people spoke Valenciano just as much (if not more) than Spanish, and school was conducted in valenciano (a dialect of Catalan). Luckily, Valenciano has similarities to Spanish.

However, if you’re placed in the Basque Country (northern Spain), they speak Euskara, which has no similarities to Spanish. So if your goal is to practice or learn Spanish, make sure you choose to live in a region that speaks it.

Weather is another aspect to consider. While in the summer it is warm almost everywhere, winters can be quite cold (more so in the north). If you’re not a fan of cold weather, consider living closer to the south and the sea.

There are auxiliar Facebook groups and blogs that have plenty of information and anecdotes about different regions, which can help you make your decision.

3. Learn some Spanish. Understand that you could be placed in a pueblo very far from a big city, so brush up on your Spanish a little. It isn’t mandatory to teach English, but it will really come in handy if you’re in a smaller location and want to connect more with the locals (and your colleagues).

Want to Learn More About Teaching Abroad?
Here are some helpful posts about teaching English overseas to help you learn more:

The 9 Best Places to Teach English Overseas
Can You Teach English Without a TEFL?
How Emily Taught English to Fund her RTW Adventure
How Oneika Gets Teaching Jobs Around the World
For more teaching tips and advice you can follow Natasha on Instagram and YouTube.

P.S. – Want to meet other travelers in real life? This year we launched The Nomadic Network, a platform created to help travelers connect, learn, and get inspired in real life! Here are our upcoming events if you want to take part: Seattle (2/17), Austin (2/18), Fort Lauderdale (2/19), Portland (2/19), San Francisco (2/20), Los Angeles (2/23), Detroit (2/24), Boston (2/24), Dublin (2/24), San Diego (2/24), London (2/25), Chicago (2/25), and NYC (3/10).

The Promising Science of ‘Sound Healing’

The Promising Science of ‘Sound Healing’

Imagine you’re sitting in a quiet room with your eyes closed. Your breathing is slow and even. Your muscles are relaxed. Sunlight filters in through a nearby window, warming the air around you. All is serene. But then, without warning, the shriek of a nearby siren or the blast of a car horn shatters the silence. For decades, scientists (and horror-movie sound editors) have known that few things are as agitating as a loud and unexpected noise. Research on animals has shown that exposure to noise reliably activates the brain’s stress pathways and triggers the release of related hormones, such as cortisol. The World Health Organization has called noise pollution “one of the most important environmental risks to health” and a promoter of heart disease, mental health disorders, and other stress-associated conditions. But if certain sounds have the ability to unsettle and even sicken, it makes sense that other sounds would have the power to soothe. And there’s evidence that sound baths, better known as sound meditation, and other sound-based health practices may be uniquely therapeutic. “Sound — and in particular sound healing meditations using Tibetan singing bowls, gongs, and quartz crystal singing bowls — can be extremely calming,” says Tamara Goldsby, a research psychologist at the University of California, San Diego. For a 2017 study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Goldsby and colleagues asked 62 men and women to undertake a one-hour sound bath. This involved lying on a yoga mat and listening to sounds made by a combination of Tibetan and crystal singing bowls, gongs, didgeridoos, and other instruments. No formal meditation was required; the people in the study were allowed to let their minds wander and were told it was okay if they fell asleep. Before and after the sound meditation session, the study participants completed questionnaires designed to measure their levels of tension, anger, anxiety, depression, pain, and other aspects of physical and emotional well-being. Following the hour-long session, each of these measurables had improved significantly, but sound meditation was particularly effective at countering tension, pain, anger, and confusion. Goldsby says sound meditation seems to work in part by switching off the body’s fight-or-flight stress responses — the same ones that are activated by loud or unpredictable noises. “Sound healing counters this [stress] response by invoking the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and activates healing in the body,” she explains. On top of sound’s ability to induce relaxation and counter stress, Goldsby says there’s speculation that certain sounds — in particular, binaural beats created by playing two different sound frequencies at the same time — may actually shift brain activity into beneficial brain wave states. Just as sounds oscillate at different frequencies, which are measured in hertz, so too does the brain’s electrical activity. And there’s evidence that listening to specific binaural tones may adjust the brain’s electrical activity in ways that reduce anxiety and pain while promoting memory and attention improvements. ‘Sound healing counters this [stress] response by invoking the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and activates healing in the body.’ Goldsby’s study did not include a control group and therefore didn’t rule out other explanations for the effects she and her colleagues observed. (For example, it’s possible that simply lying on a mat for an hour may reduce tension, pain, etc.) But there’s more research to suggest that certain sounds and the vibrations they create may have calming or otherwise therapeutic properties. One 2015 study in the journal Pain Research and Management found that five weeks of low-frequency sound simulation — basically, a combination of precisely calibrated sounds and vibrations — significantly improved sleep and reduced pain in 19 people with fibromyalgia. “When you present the ears with a completely regular pulse, you will see an increase in the number of neurons firing at that rate,” says Lee Bartel, co-author of that study and a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music and Rehabilitation Sciences Institute. Put another way, exposing the brain to certain sounds or vibratory frequencies seems to coax it toward similar states of activity. Bartel says different brain wave states are associated with different patterns of cognition or wakefulness. For example, delta activity in the range of one to four hertz is associated with sleep, theta activity in the range of four to seven hertz is associated with relaxation and creative thinking, and beta activity in the range of 12 to 20 hertz is associated with complex problem-solving and concentration. By driving the brain toward these different states, Bartel says it’s possible that certain sound-based therapies can improve sleep, combat anxiety, sharpen focus, or produce other benefits. There’s also evidence that sound- or vibration-based treatments may change the activity of specialized cells in ways that improve blood flow or bone health. All of this is promising, but Bartel says the research to date is lacking — and that’s especially true when it comes to singing bowls and other “exotic” forms of sound therapy. “When you look through the many claims and theories advanced on the internet under ‘sound healing,’ many get into the zone of New Age quackery with no real scientific basis,” he says. While he and other researchers are working to firm up the science of vibroacoustic therapy, the studies to date on sound meditation and other forms of sound healing suggest that popular practices — including the sound baths that are now commonplace at yoga studios across the United States — are, at the very least, safe and may potentially hold real therapeutic value. “Sound is a very personal phenomena, and different individuals may resonate with particular types of sound healings,” UCSD’s Goldsby says. “Try out various types of sound healings and see what feels best.”