Traveling on a Shoestring—and Flip-Flops


            If you are anything like me, you probably like a good adventure every now and again. Heck, you are probably even a thrill-seeking adventurer like me, or you are looking to add more adventure into your life. My latest and greatest adventure came in the form of a 21-day bike-journey up the West coast. I started in California’s Bay Area, went through Oregon, got to Washington and eventually made my way into Vancouver, Canada and I did all of this in flip-flops. Yes, flip-flops.

            This isn’t exactly climbing Mount Everest, I realize, and many people successfully make this coastal trek (called the “Pacific Crest Trail”) on their bikes every year. But for a broke 21-year old girl who hasn’t quite done anything like this before and traveling solo, I’d say it was quite an accomplishment. More than anything, it was a journey and a learning experience.

            For anyone interested in any kind of adventure and is traveling on a shoe-string, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:


            Before you begin your journey you obviously want to know what kind of experience you are looking for. Are you backpacking, cycling, leisurely exploring, or are you looking to kick-butt and go the distance and put the petal to the metal in an all-intensive challenge, sort of adventure? Then plan accordingly, especially in terms of TIME. (Never Pacifica, CAunderestimate how much time an adventure can take because one adventure usually leads you to more).

            I personally do not like to plan much at all since I feel like that spontaneity is part of the whole adventure, but this does not work for everyone. For example, I knew I was prepared to sleep outside wherever that might be (I slept in campgrounds, parks, under bridges, the home of a kind stranger, etc.) so I brought a sleeping back and small tent. If you are okay with this make sure you are comfortable and safe about it and also that you are prepared. I had a small jet-boiler that I had with me for meals and it was basically like I was urban-backpacking.

            If  you are not comfortable with this then make sure you have enough money saved up for hotels, motels, are hostels. You may even want to plan ahead and look into prices and locations. I probably would not book them in advance, even if it means getting good deals, just because unless you are certain you can be in a certain place at a certain time, you might not be able to meet your accommodation reservations.


            Although it is impossible to know exactly what is going to happen and plan according, it is possible to at least be somewhat prepared. You can’t be prepared for everything but make an effort to see the possibilities. For example, on my bike journey, I brought along tools for my bike like spare inner tubes and a hand-held pump. Luckily I didn’t get any flat tires, but still I was prepared.

            Know that your plans won’t go accordingly and you will have to adCrescent City, CACredit: Unknownjust, go with the flow and even just make things up as you go. I ended up not happy riding my bike up huge mountains so much so I felt better hitch-hiking when I could (play it safe, be prepared to wait, practice patience and receive rejection) or ride-share when I could afford it, but this can get expensive especially if you did not plan for it financially.

            Most importantly, however, just “expect the unexpected” emotionally and psychologically. Know that that is part of the experience and things are going to happen that you wish wouldn’t and things wont happen that you wish would, and that’s okay. Just be ready to accept things and move on. This can be challenging but this is why adventures provide valuable opportunities for real inner-growth and change and can help you become a stronger and more confident person. It’s okay to cry. I know I did.


            No matter what kind of adventure you are going on realize that it is ALWAYS about the process NOT the product. Although reaching the peak of a mountain feels great, what makes the experience so wonderful is the long, hard, beautiful and challenging journey to get there. Know that everything happens for a reason and you ALWAYS were you are supposed to be.

            For me, I personally felt disappointed with myself and my process and journey at times, especially as the biking became more challenging. I also came across a gentleman from the Bay who was making the same trip as I was but in reverse (from Canada back home to San Francisco) but he was make a lot of headway and was riding about 50 miles a day. He looked so professional compared to me with all Bike TourismCredit: bike gear, and there I was in flip-flops. In addition, because I had to be back home at a certain time I felt there was a “deadline” and was pressured and anxious about just getting to wear I needed to be and this brought me down emotionally and psychologically.

            Eventually I became more flexible and managed to get where I wanted to go in time, even if it was not exactly the way I had planned ( I ended up ridesharing, and taking public transportation more than I had planned) but I was still open, flexible and able to adapt. I realized that the adventure was less about the fact that I got there (although it was nice to attain my goal) and more about the journey of getting there).

            All in all, prepare to be strong and flexible and learn and grow. Realize that challenge is the best teacher and always remember that the true spirit of the adventure is the spirit of the adventurer. I hope this inspires you to explore the unknown and have some adventures!